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SKU – Own product codes in an online store


Product codes in stock programme

While conducting commercial activity, we need a stock and bookkeeping programme, in which we store, among others, stock levels and documents of goods receipt, similarly to the online store. Stock programme enables to quickly check whether a given product is available in our offer, it is facilitated by the codes assigned to the goods, after which we can associate the product from the online store with the physical inventory. Usually the articles are equipped with their own codes, such as EAN or ISBN, which can be used to identify the goods, but what if the manufacturer has not entered the product codes or the codes of different products overlap?

No product code on the goods

In many industries there is a lack of product codes or production of multiple colors of a given model of goods under one code, this can cause problems when we want to pair stock with the availability of products in our e-store or quickly check in our stock programme whether we have a specific color or size. Lack of a product code is an issue that is often not taken into account when building a database of an online store. Unfortunately, later rebuilding or changing the system can have a strong impact on the operation of our business and finances, and therefore it is worth to start working with it.

What is SKU?

SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) is a unique product code that is assigned to goods in the company’s internal database. A stock keeping unit is created in order to identify articles in the database, thus it is good to include several elements, which will allow e.g. to determine the manufacturer, colour or size of the product.

Why do you need your own product codes in the online store for?

Own product codes allow you to easily identify the goods – by creating a product code that will contain several basic features that will determine e.g. manufacturer, color, size, we make the work of traders easier.
They help to manage the inventory in the online store – by entering the same codes for products into the stock programme and the online store, we reduce the risk of incorrect allocation of product quantities when updating the inventory of goods on the website.
They make it easier to check availability at the supplier’s – databases often contain duplicate product codes from different manufacturers, own SKU allows you to distinguish goods from the manufacturer’s stock and update availability only for selected goods.
They avoid duplication of product codes in database – creating your own product codes allows you to add goods with the same manufacturer’s code but different properties, e.g. different colors.
For sales analysis – SKU allows for the distinction of goods that occur at the manufacturer’s under one code – the division of products into several codes allows for an accurate analysis of sales, e.g. a specific size in a given colour.

Can a product ID become SKU?

In the online store’s database, each new product receives its unique ID, i.e. a consecutive number in table. However, this ID is not important for traders or customers, as it does not contain indicative data. Theoretically, it is possible to rely product codes on ID, but what if we migrate data to a new website? The goods will receive a new ID in database, which in turn will destroy the existing data ordering system. In addition, this method is inconvenient when the stock programme is our main database and it is in it that we store the product SKU – IDs in the online store are created (usually) independently of the stock.

How to create SKU, i.e. a product code for an online store?

When starting to work with an online store, it is worthwhile to prepare a document with basic guidelines for database at the outset, i.e. to specify what may be needed inside the company and what may be useful for the customer. Own product codes in an online store are one of the elements of such a list, as they play a key role in distinguishing goods.

It is good to start creating SKU by listing the basic features of our products and determining which of them will quickly distinguish goods with similar data. Most often the SKU includes a name of the manufacturer, series, colour and size. For the convenience of using your own product code, it is worth to include as much information as possible, and at the same time try to make the code short and simple – it will facilitate the administration of SKU in front of the customer or trader during a phone call, take up little space in table on printed documents, improve the work of your stock.
The use of letters in SKU makes it possible to create a short code with more combinations than a digital code, and additionally allows to express the nature of item to which the code is assigned. However, if an online store belongs to an industry, e.g. interior design, where we have a huge pool of colour names, it is worth considering creating a key in which the colors will correspond to three- or four-digit (instead of letter) codes.
When creating your own product code it is worth to exclude letters that can be confused with each other or digits, that is: "I", "O", "L" and avoid using characters that can be misinterpreted by software or difficult to read or rewrite by users: "/", "<", ">", "/", "|".
If the manufacturers of goods offered by us use their own codes, you can consider the simplest solution: manufacturer’s name (abbreviated name) + product code, if there would be a repetition of e.g. a newer edition of the book in a different cover (under the same ISBN), it is enough to add any distinguishing character at the end of new code. However, in this case, there may be a problem with too long sequences of characters, which can be difficult to illustrate in a table view and to provide by users of the online store and database.

It is important that your own product code is well thought out from beginning to end, and the guidelines for its construction are written down, easy to remember and understand by those whose tasks it is to enter products into the online store and manage the goods.

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