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Importance of Databases & Data for Powering an eCommerce Website

Author Justin Smith

When you're developing a new website or redesigning your eCommerce website it’s critically important to consider the data you'll need to have. It may seem obvious to some, but features such as searching or sorting by a specific designer won't work if there is not a designer field in your database. It's important to realize the data you'll need before you get too excited about the amazing features your website will have. Let's take a more detailed look.

To understand how a database works think of an Excel file. You have columns and rows. The columns contain specific types of information, such as product name, price, color and many other fields for eCommerce websites. Rows contain the actual information for each of those columns. For example row one may be a shoe product and will have “Nike Air Jordan” in the product column, “$185.00” in the price column and “White, Black” in the color column. As mentioned above, if you want customers to be able to search and sort by designer or manufacturer, you’ll also need a column for “Designer” or “Manufacturer” and also have that designer name in the row with the product (ex: “Nike”). This would then allow a customer to search for “Nike” only products and the website would look for all rows that have “Nike” in the “Designer” column.

Most eCommerce websites that have extensive features and great sort options have very extensive data and databases to back them up. The ability to search by 40” to 49” inch TV’s on BestBuy.com is because they have an inch field for each of their TV products. I know it sounds like a lot of data to input or import, but that’s what makes the best sites.

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Above: BestBuy.com allows a customer to narrow their results by TV size. All TV sizes must be entered in their database to allow this feature.

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Above: Gap.com allows customers to view T-shirts based on specific styles. These styles are not separate categories, they are attributes for each product.

So, what if you don’t have the data? Unfortunately only so much can be done with limited data. It doesn't mean you can’t have a site that looks great, but customers may not be able to shop by brand name, color or other specifics of your product. Your designers and developers can only work with the data they have and they cannot create eCommerce features that cannot be supported by the data you’re providing. Data can always be entered via your website administration or imported, but someone will have to enter that data into the admin or import file.

It’s important to understand that great data is the foundation for a site that provides the best shopping and user experience.

The Benefits of Data for Search Engine Marketing

The importance of having an expansive database really comes into play when performing search engine optimization on large eCommerce websites. (read more on eCommerce Website Marketing & SEO for eCommerce Sites) It’s important to rank for brand names, colors and product details. For example, if someone searches for 49” TV’s, if you have the data, you could display a page that lists all 49” TV’s. If someone searches for “Black Dress Shoes”, the website could dynamically (which basically means automatically) create a page showing all products that are dress shoes and have “Black” in the color column in your database. The amount of pages that can be created from your data is sometimes almost endless, and if the website is developed correctly, you'll end up with some tremendous search engine ranking opportunities!

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