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The success (or failure) of an ecommerce retailer often boils down to product data. Mismanaged or poorly optimised, it impacts the visibility of businesses on ecommerce channels. And no visibility means no customers clicking Buy.

Intelligent Reach, an ecommerce software house providing retailers with product information for shoppers, uses Microsoft’s cloud computing to help online stores host and optimise product data. Here’s what they learnt about properly scaling a data-based business…

1. Stability matters

Product data needs to be correct, complete, and optimised – including titles, images, categories and GTINs. Yet, according to Intelligent Reach, over 70% of retailers have poor product data feeds.

As ecommerce competition intensifies, stores need to serve online platforms with what customers want to see. If not, retailers risk missing out on vital revenue. They must have the capacity to improve and change product data at scale. A lot of that depends on which channel is being used.

According to Steve Rivers, co-founder and CCO at Intelligent Reach: “Enterprise retailers might be distributing product data into multiple channels, all requiring different specifications. Coupled with the multiple territories they may be selling into, the amount of product data to be managed becomes unmanageable without a safe, scalable platform. Retailers need to be able to slice and dice their data, but it really comes down to the stability and scalability of the hosting platform.”

2. It helps the customer experience

No-one said ecommerce was easy. According to the Office of National Statistics, almost 19% of all sales are now made online – and that figure is expected to continue to grow year on year, as it has done since 2006. But with an increase in popularity, retailers can find themselves struggling to keep up with demand. This amplifies the need for security and stability for product data; the backbone of online product ads.

For customers, online shopping isn’t like visiting a department store. They’re not content with wandering around a website, browsing products. They want to know what they can get, and where they can get it. They want to see, at a glance, whether or not an item is in stock. Well-managed product data ensures a retailer can keep up with requests and stock changes, even during high-traffic events like Black Friday. It means they can add rules and exclusions to manage that data based on demand.

A retailer’s a reputation depends on this. If they can’t deliver the goods, the customer will move on.

Retail image

3. Reliable technology is critical

Having the right tech powering you is vital to a successful operation.

Intelligent Reach identified a need for a cloud platform that could safely handle large amounts of product data, with the ability to make large changes at scale. They chose Microsoft Azure. The cloud computing platform lets them provide security and stability to retailers, processing over two million products and 8.5 million data improvements in as little as 60 seconds.

Steve Ayers, Intelligent Reach’s Lead Software Developer said: “Azure’s services mean we’re able to offload security onto Microsoft which has freed up internal resources. This also means we can scale resources up and down to handle dynamic workloads throughout the day which has the added benefit of saving money by only paying for what we use or need.”

Before partnering with Microsoft, the business relied on a hybrid IT-managed cloud hosting solution. It was less than desirable.

Discussing the ‘bad old days’, Ayers stated that, “making changes at scale within the managed hosting environment was time-consuming and needed to be planned well in advance. The change has given us the ability to very easily scale as our clients grow and as we on-board new ones.”

It’s thanks to the flexibility and control of Azure that the company can grow and manage their infrastructure. Reliable technology means they’re able to scale in just a few clicks.

Find out more

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About the author

Tim Morrison, Enterprise Channel Manager for the Retail IndustryTim Morrison is an Enterprise Channel Manager for the Retail Industry at Microsoft working within the One Commercial Partner group (OCP). He’s worked in the partner channel for over 20 years, with 11 of those years at Microsoft in various partner-facing sales and enablement roles. Tim is passionate about his role in helping partners succeed and grow their businesses with Microsoft.