Excel has been a superpower in the business world for a long time, but it’s getting a little outdated and really shows its limitations outside of its intended use. As marketing has evolved, other technologies have far surpassed Excel in most cases and marketers don’t think in rows and columns, and never have.
The biggest problems with Excel are these: first, it’s manual (producing less timely and less accurate information), and second, it’s simply not designed for managing dynamic and dispersed product information across an organization.
Excel is not a product information database, and it shouldn’t be used as one. Here’s some of the Excel deal-breakers that will make you want to stop managing your products in rows and columns:
Excel works for numbers, but products aren’t numbers:
A SKU is a number. A product is not. Products are so much more than numbers and words—they’re also detailed descriptions and manuals, images, and videos, and they’re all intertwined.
Excel lacks the capacity to show visual content alongside the written and numerical details of a product. In order to effectively and efficiently work with product information, it’s important to see the full picture, which Excel can’t provide.
Collaboration is clunky at best:
If you’re using Excel to hold product information, the process of sharing changes is tedious. You update, save, and then send the local files to your co-workers.The process repeats for the next person who makes changes. If they remember to send it back to you at all. Version control is a constant concern. Excel now offers some collaboration features but you’re sure to step on your coworker’s toes while both in the same document.
Manual work is bad for efficiency and accuracy:
Just like the process for sharing Excel is manual, so are its other functions. Many of the issues with Excel go back to the fact that it doesn’t have an automatic system in place for preventing, spotting, or correcting errors.
A 2018 Hubspot survey found that while 25 percent of sales teams spend 30 minutes or less on data entry or other manual tasks a day, 35 percent still spend up to an hour, and another quarter do even more manual work than that.
Workers who do more manual work are likely wasting even more behind-the-scenes, fixing inevitable errors in their manual data entry. A worse case, however happens in the alternative instance—when errors are made but not found until the product information is already published, if at all.
Even if marketers are careful to minimize mistakes in spreadsheets, they’re unavoidable, and trying to keep a file error-free can be a big use of time. Studies have shown that nearly 90 percent of company spreadsheets contain errors. Additionally, most of which result from human error and have serious repercussions impacting customers, revenues and the organizations themselves. The solution isn’t to be more careful; it is to remove the possibility of human error. A robust and automated product information management system lets you work faster and make errors obsolete, marketers should forget about wasting time with Excel.
Marketers don’t think in rows and columns. Top-performing e-commerce teams shouldn’t manage products and merchandising that way either. If you’re using Excel, you’re doing a lot more work than you need to, and you’re not doing it as well or as efficiently as you could be.
Your business, especially e-commerce and product-driven companies may have outgrown Excel, but now there are tools like inRiver PIM that automate and centralize product information and allow you to comfortably ditch the spreadsheets.
Watch how Teknos used inRiver to deliver one view of the truth for product information and put an end to spreadsheets and inefficiencies.
Erika Goldwater, Marketing Consultant
Erika Goldwater is a B2B marketer with almost 20 years of experience in demand generation, public relations, and global events. She creates marketing that drives revenue. Goldwater is a CIPP/US and has been consulting for leading SaaS organizations including Protagonist, Leadspace, Eloqua and ANNUITAS, a demand generation strategy consulting organization.