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Six Product Attribute Levels

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The basic bricks in Product Information Management (PIM) are product attributes. An attribute is a distinct data element that describe a specific property or feature of a product. You can divide the different kinds of product attributes into the following levels:

  • 1: Basic Attributes

  • 2: Classification Attributes

  • 3: Trading Attributes

  • 4: Recognition Attributes

  • 5: Self-Service Attributes

  • 6: Competitive Attributes

1: Basic Attributes

At the first level, we find the basic product attributes are typically the minimum required for creating a product in any system of record.

Here we have the primary product identification number or code that is the internal key to all other product data structures and transactions related to the product within an organization.

Then there is usually a short product description. This description helps internal employees identify a product and distinguish that product from other products. Most often the product is named in the official language of the company.

If an upstream trading partner produces and/or supplies the product, we may find the identification of that supplier here too.

2: Classification Attributes

Secondly, we have one – and often several – product category / classification codes. The classifications can be home-grown or classified according to a standard. Some of the most used classification standards are:

  • UNSPSC, which is the standard operated by GS1 for the United Nations and often used in tenders

  • GPC, which is another GS1 standard used in in the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN)

  • Harmonized System (HS) codes used in cross boarder custom reporting

  • eClass – an industry wide classification system

  • ETIM – a classification system for technical products

3: Trading Attributes

The third level are product attributes related to trading the product. We may have a unique Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) that may be in the form of an International – former European – Article Number (EAN) or a Universal Product Code (UPC). In addition, we have a lot of other product attributes that supports buying, receiving, selling and delivering the product.

The product attributes on level 1 to 3 are often also considered to be Product Master Data that may be governed in either in an ERP system and/or a Master Data Management (MDM) application, but used in PIM.

4: Recognition Attributes

On the fourth level, we find the extended product description is needed because the usual short product description has no meaning to an end customer. The best practices for governing the extended product description is to have a common structure of how the description is written, not to use abbreviations and to have a strict vocabulary.

We often see that the extended product description needs to be present in the range of languages covering the locations where business is done either if the business is international or done in a country with multiple languages.

5: Self-Service Attributes

Self-service attributes are up to thousands of different data elements that specifies a product. Some are very common for most products like height, length, weight and colour. Some are very specific to the product category. There is a huge difference between what specific attributes you need for a pair of trousers and what you need for a drilling machine. This challenge is one of main the reasons of being for dedicated Product Information Management (PIM) applications.

Some of the classification systems also have standards for which specific attributes are required for a given classification. Examples are eClass and ETIM.

Having the right specific attributes and having them populated is a must for any self-service sales scenarios – as in eCommerce.

6: Competitive Attributes

As the sixth level we find elements like on the fifth level, but usually these are elements that you won’t necessarily apply to all products but only to your top products where you want to stand out from the crowd and distance yourself from your competitors. If you are a reseller, you typically make the data yourself, where level 5 hard facts are delivered from the manufacturer.

These attributes are more subjective descriptions of the product, how it can used and the advantages of buying the product. These descriptions can also be Search Engine Optimized (SEO).

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