The Run Free Project platform uses a proprietary automated gridding system called Stacks based on the natural hierarchy of SKUs to automate and simplify inventory management. This article describes the mechanics of Stacks and how to use them to polish your inventory with ease.
What to Expect
The vast majority of your effort will be exerted at the beginning of your Run Free Project subscription in the form of initial inventory polishing and tuning of platform preferences. Among other things, this will familiarize you with how the platform handles product groupings and automation with Stacks, which will make polishing newly added inventory a simple task in the future.
Since we're nerds, we made a graph. It illustrates the average effort over time required to manage an ecommerce storefront with Run Free Project versus the other (way less cool) ecommerce solutions.
In essence, after the initial setup, your inventory pretty much manages itself.
Where to Start
When you log into your Run Free Project admin account, you'll be taken to the admin dashboard. Click Products on the navigation bar at the top.
You will land on the Manage Products tab, where you will be presented with a matrix of items similar to the example shown below.
To learn more about navigating this page, what each indicator means, and all of the various functions, check out this article.
First, click the filter box labelled All Brands, and choose one of your primary footwear manufacturers (we're using Altra for this example). This will filter the item list to show Altra products only.
Next, click once right on top of the words Item Name on the information bar (the area that displays "Item SKU", "Item Name", "Brand Name", etc.). This will re-arrange the list such that everything with the same name is grouped together and sorted alphabetically as shown below.
The reason we're going this route is that Stacks essentially adds a "layer" on top of the natural SKU hierarchy in the form of Item Name. The image below illustrates this relationship, the Men's Cayd Stack:
In short, each line item in the Run Free Project product list represents a SKU. Each SKU has a myriad of sizes and widths that belong to it. If you set the Item Name for a group of SKUs to be the same (in this case "Men's Cayd"), Stacks will auto-group those SKUs together as a single product in the customer's view, where each SKU is an option available for that product.
Confused yet? Don't worry, it'll make sense.
In this example, the Men's Cayd is available in three colors and they're represented by three SKUs. We have set the "Item Name" for each of those SKUs to be the same thing ("Men's Cayd").
This is done so that the Run Free platform knows to group them all together as one product. To the customer, this appears in the ecommerce store as shown below:
Notice that the tile displays a more options flag. This is because this Stack called "Men's Cayd" is comprised of three SKUs. If the customer clicks on the tile, they are presented with the three color options as shown below:
On this screen, each option represents a SKU, and the sizes and widths displayed (at the UPC level) are those that belong to that SKU. Clicking a different option shows the same information for a different SKU that has the "Men's Cayd" item name.
For reference, the SKU itself is displayed just above the sharing icons on the product page.
Long Story Short
UPCs of the same product share a SKU, and when SKUs share a Run Free Item Name, they become a Stack. If you set the Item Name to be the same across multiple SKUs, Run Free will group them together as a single entity (a Stack), where each SKU is an option of that entity.
Setting multiple item names is easy using the bulk actions tool. Simply highlight the checkboxes of the SKUs whose names you'd like to change:
Then, to the far right at the top of the item listing tab, click the bulk actions button (the downward pointing arrow in the blue box next to "Complete") and select Set Name as shown below:
This will bring up a dialog box where you can type in the item name which all of the SKUs you selected will share.
Then simply repeat the process as necessary to group things the way you want them grouped in your store.
Stacking Relay SKUs
The Run Free Project includes Relay, a feature that enables you to extend your in-stock inventory to include virtual inventory from popular vendors which can be drop-shipped to your customer and sold seamlessly alongside your inventory.
While we highly encourage the use of manufacturer's SKUs to minimize the amount of manual effort required to combine your inventory with your favorite brands' inventories from Relay, there are some exceptions that are simply impossible to get around...
For example, Brooks displays its SKUs differently depending on the source. On their B2B site, the Men's Ghost 15 in Flintstone/Peacoat/Oak is listed with 110393-025 as the SKU (regardless of width).
However, in data Brooks send to customers and vendors, these same products' SKUs include explicit widths between the style and colorway. For example, The same Men's Ghost might appear as 110393-2E-025 in product data you receive.
If you load Brooks' SKUs into your POS with widths, but Brooks sends SKUs to Relay without widths, you end up with duplicate listings in Run Free as shown below:
From a customer's perspective, these two duplicate items would look like this as-is:
Luckily, Stacks has a built-in solution for this common problem. If we jump back into the Run Free dashboard under products and find the two Ghost 15 SKUs mentioned above, we only need to make two small changes to give Stacks the permission it needs to combine them seamlessly and eliminate the duplicates for you:
The Item Name for both SKUs should be the same. In this case, we'll remove the 2E from the bottom listing so they match.
The Color should also be exactly the same for both SKUs. In this case, we'll copy the top SKU's color and paste it into the color field for the bottom SKU.
The result of these two steps is shown below:
Now that the Item Names and the Colors match, Stacks sees they're supposed to be combined and uses UPC code granularity (by size and width) to automatically combine them into one on the customer facing side... Magic!
These adjustments generate the resulting single product "Stack" below:
When a user clicks on the Stack, they're presented with a product page that displays the contents of the stack in a combined, easily navigable format:
Notice that the widths are listed as options beneath the sizes on the same page, giving the customer all the options they had before, but from within a single product Stack, a much more intuitive experience.
In short, as long as you ensure the Item Name and Color match exactly, Stacks will reference the per item UPCs and group like items together for you.
Ultimately, Stacks provide the pinnacle of POS agnostic automated gridding for eCommerce, saving you hundreds of hours you'd otherwise spend grouping products together manually on other platforms.