Manual vs. Automated Product Matching: What is Better?

Best practices in price monitoring 13.3.2019. Reading Time: 4 minutes

The number of online stores and products sold on the Internet is getting bigger day by day. Due to this, finding a match for your product on competitors’ websites can be nearly impossible sometimes. So, how do some retailers manage to find and monitor matches for their products? Well, they use product matching, which is basically a mix of algorithmic and manual techniques to recognize and match identical products from different sources. Many retailers try to do it themselves, but since it takes up so much time and resources, it can distract them from their core businesses. That’s why they turn to price monitoring tools, such as Price2Spy. Price2Spy offers manual and automated product matching services for all industries, worldwide. Using such tool allows companies to focus on their important tasks, and not to spend endless hours matching products themselves.

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Why is accurately identifying a product match essential?

Because, it gives crucial information on how the products are priced on your competitors’ websites. It can also provide information on stock availability of those product. It helps discover gaps between your product offers and your competitors’. Product matching isn’t important just externally, but internally too. It might help you to identify duplicate products in your product database, and as a result you can eliminate the identical products.

Why is product matching hard?

First of all, there are no obvious global unique identifiers. Second, it’s time-consuming. Third, it can be expensive. But in the end, when you measure all of the pros and cons, product matching is an essential and smart investment.

Product matching can be done manually or automatically. Manual product matching is well, what the name says.  A team goes through many websites and tries to find a perfect match for the wanted product. When performing this task, the team doesn’t check only product names, but also technical specs and product images – in order to ensure that a match is indeed a proper one. Automated product matching (Automatch) is a continual automated product matching process based on an algorithm. Companies that turn to automated product matching are mostly the ones dealing with electrical and electronic / household devices, TVs, cameras, IT equipment, car parts and so on. In other words – any industry having uniquely identifiable part numbers. Also, there is a middle ground, which is Hybrid Automach via Machine Learning that is the most reliable way because it combines machine and human intelligence and skills. It is meant primarily for those clients whose products can not be matched by unique identifiers. In that case, AI and ML Algorithms do the matching followed by human final check.

And which one fits your business the best. Ask yourself these questions and it will help you determine that.

How many products do you want to find a match for?

If you want to match a small number of products, let’s say 500, manual is the way to go. It’s easier and makes more sense. What you have to have in mind is that if you want to manually match more products, it will take a lot of time. It will also be expensive because it requires many hours of manual labor. If you’re looking for matches for more than 10 000 products, you should consider automated product matching. But you should think about some other factors when using automated product matching that will be explained next.

Do your products have standardized unique identifiers?

As said before, one of the biggest obstacles in correct product matching is the lack of global unique identifiers. However, this does not apply to all industries (electronics, auto parts, etc.). In those industries, it’s common to use standardized unique identifiers such as; SKU (Storage Keeping Unit), UPC (The Universal Product Code), EAN (European Article Number), MPN (Manufacturer Part Number), etc. Automated product matching is the perfect choice in this case. But, there is one small catch. Not all the online sellers are going to display this information on the website. Therefore not even automated product match can help there.

Your product name – The same product can be named differently among online stores. For example, if you name your product ‘hoodie’ in your store, competitor can use hoody or hooded pullover. Automated product matching can in some cases, using very complex linguistic algorithms, perform well. But it’s hard and high accuracy can’t be guaranteed always. In situations like this, it’s better to use manual matching, because it gives nonsense free output.

How accurate do you want the matching to be?

In some cases, it’s not important to have an exact match of the product. But if it’s crucial to find a perfect match, it’s better to do it manually. Algorithms, no matter how good, can sometimes mess up with the matching. If you are selling mugs, it will not be as important to have a perfect match, as in the auto part industry. Because if you’re selling car parts for certain types of car, you need them to be exact (a part for one type of car won’t fit others).

Product matching isn’t an option anymore. It’s something that has to be done if you want to keep up with the competition. The only question is how it will be done. In some industries you will have to use automated product matching due to the nature of products. In others, you have to stick to manual product matching. And then, there are industries where you can choose between the two.

Have you had any experience using product matching? Please let us know – we’d love to hear from you!