Technology
Hadi Abou Reslan

Written by:Hadi Abou Reslan

PM/PO/SM

Monday, July 1, 2019

Content First Approach with Akeneo

When it comes to managing product information for hundreds of thousands of products across a set of tens of thousands of attributes and multiple locales, built-in product management tools in eCommerce solutions such as Magento and Shopify are no longer adequate for maintaining the catalog. Separate Product Information Management (PIM) solutions such as Akeneo become necessary to ensure smooth catalog maintenance operations.

Akeneo is an open source PIM that offers a strong suit of out of the box functionality as well as support and integration with major eCommerce platforms.

Challenges and Solutions

To truly leverage the power of Akeneo, we would need to put ourselves in the shoes of the content manager and think outside the box of how data is stored and Managed within the eCommerce solution so we can keep the catalog as manageable as possible and avoid data duplication or the need for frequent content edits.

We recently encountered two interesting cases.

Case 1

While migrating products and attributes, we noticed that we have duplicate naming for attributes. Normally, this is not an issue; but for some attributes we had hundreds of duplications and under the same name, we had thousands of options. For example, we had capacity, and the context can be the capacity of a water kettle in liters or the capacity of flash disk in GB, etc…

Putting ourselves in the content manager’s shoes, we asked ourselves: what would happen if we merge all attributes with the same name into one? It would not be easy to select options for products. Within the eCommerce solutions we would create nonsensical product filters that are not specific to the product context.

We then thought of keeping them as separate attributes, but generating unique attribute codes so we can distinguish the attribute contexts. It works on the eCommerce level in terms of filters, but for the content manager, when enriching a product or managing attribute groups, they would see a long list of attributes that have the same name. This makes managing content extremely difficult.

Solution

We extended Akeneo’s attribute table to have another field: context. For migrating the attributes, we included a script that would cross-reference each attribute to the unique category that it belongs to, and populate the context field. We modified Akeneo’s front-end so that when displaying attribute names, it would show the attribute context as well. So, for example, we would see “Capacity (Kettles)” and “Capacity (Flash Disks)” when adding attributes or managing attribute groups. From the eCommerce perspective, we would only export the name of attribute and a unique id, so that the front-end would not include the context.

Results

It’s a small change, but it makes a big difference for the content manager. When managing attributes, the content manager would know exactly which attribute they’re updating. When creating attribute groups and families, and assigning attributes to products, there is no more confusion about duplicate names.

Case 2

Some product descriptions contain references to other attributes and variables that are held on the eCommerce solution.

For example we have 16 stores that have the same locale, but different brand names. In the product description, we have a reference to the brand.

Normally, we can set up different channels in Akeneo for each of the brands, and assign each store a channel, but every time we would need to change the description of a product, the content administrator would then have to make the same edit 16 times.

For a large catalog and multiple references to the brand within the product description texts, this quickly becomes unmanageable.

Solution

Recognizing that there is no need to duplicate content that is 99% the same across multiple stores, we kept a single channel in Akeneo and mapped it to all 16 stores instead.

We created the ability to add variables within this text and ensured that after the texts were exported to the eCommerce solution, they are rendered with the values relevant to each store.

Results

For each of the products, we have a single text in Akeneo across all stores. The text contains a variable that is dynamically replaced on the eCommerce side. Content manager needs to change the products texts once. The changes will dynamically cascade to multiple stores and have the correct brands in the text.


Thinking about how content will be managed, not just stored, is of vital importance. Oftentimes this requires developing custom approaches, and Akeneo is a friendly platform in this regard. Stay tuned for the next article where we'll discuss 2 more cases:

  1. Filters for attributes in descriptions instead of text
  2. JSON for images and complex product relations

Is Magento/Shopify no longer cutting it for you, when it comes to product information management? Scandiweb, leaders in eCommerce since 2003, knows what works and what PIM solution is best for you - just get in touch at info@scandiweb.com and let's talk.

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