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Curating Product Content with Microsoft Excel

Steve Johnston | September 9, 2013

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Update: we've made the cheat sheet available as a PDF. Click here to download.

While I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, I do get annoyed when product content isn’t formatted consistently. For example, some products I see on Amazon have PRODUCT NAMES IN ALL CAPS while others have the product number inserted at the end of the product title 485302456. If you thought the errors in the previous sentence were irritating, you know what I mean. I just think that the lack of consistency hurts the shopping experience – and anything that hurts the shopping experience hurts the brand that I am shopping for.

This doesn’t happen only on Amazon; this is a challenge for all e-commerce retailers AND the manufacturers that supply them with product content. On the retailer side, it is difficult to standardize all manufacturers to your specific requirements. On the manufacturer side, it is equally challenging to support all their retail partners with individualized templates. Add in the complexity of compiling content from six, seven, and sometimes eight separate teams, and the challenge compounds exponentially. The consequences are 1) manufacturers run through fire drills trying to supply accurate and timely data 2) retailers manually reformatting product content. The end results are a lot of headaches for all involved and sub-par shopping experiences for end consumers.

Feeling inspired by this opportunity, I sought to compile the Microsoft Excel functions that are useful in curating product content. This cheat sheet should be helpful for anyone curating product content with Microsoft Excel.

Excel Function Cheat Sheet for Curating Product Content

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Excel Function

Microsoft Excel Description

Use Case

Formatting Numbers

 

 

 

 

=CONVERT

Converts a number from one measurement system
to another

Very helpful when customizing data for your
retail partners, especially those that are international

 

=FIXED

Rounds a number to the specified number of
decimals and returns the result as text with our without commas

Easily normalize your data using this function
for consistent presentation

Formatting Text

 

 

 

 

=CLEAN

Removes all unprintable characters from text

Unprintable characters can pop up when data is
being moved around to/from different systems

 

=CONCATENATE

Joins several text strings into one text
string

Great for combining columns of information to
meet the formatting requirements of your retail partners

 

=LOWER

Converts all text characters to lower case

LOWER, PROPER, and UPPER are important
functions to ensure a uniform presentation of data

 

=PROPER

Converts a text string to proper case; the
first letter in each word in uppercase; all other letters in lower case

 

=UPPER

Converts all text characters to upper case

 

=SUBSTITUTE

Replaces existing text with new text in a text
string

A quick method for bulk editing

 

=TEXT

Converts a value to text in a specific number
format

For when you need to normalize the format of
product codes and other numbers; very helpful for when you need your numbers
includes leading zeros

 

=TRANSPOSE

Converts a vertical range of cells to
horizontal, or vice versa

Instead of endlessly cutting and pasting, use
this function to quickly reformat your data

 

=TRIM

Removes all spaces from a text string except
for single spaces between words

An easy and effective way to normalize your
data

Character Counts

 

 

 

 

=LEN

Returns the number of characters in a text
string

These functions are very helpful when you are
trying to split a single column in to separate fields (e.g. moving Length x
Width dimensions from one combined column into separate fields

 

=LEFT

Returns the specified number of characters
from the start of the text string

 

=MID

Returns the characters from the middle of the
text string, given a starting position and length

 

=RIGHT

Returns the specified number of characters
from the end of the text string

Quality Control

 

 

 

 

=COUNTBLANK

Counts the number of empty cells in a
specified range of cells

Quickly check to make sure there's no missing
information

 

=EXACT

Checks whether two text strings are exactly
the same, and returns TRUE or FALSE (case sensitive)

Confirm duplication of long numbers or written
copy

By no means is this an exhaustive list, and are there a million excel tricks beyond utilizing just the built-in functions, but I hope this helps to both manufacturers and retailers in getting your data in tip top shape.

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