Choosing stock numbers is on the face of it a pretty uninspiring subject. However, all online retailers need to do it and choosing the wrong format can cause lots of pain later. Here are some quick tips:
Avoid preceding zeros
Avoid zeros at the front of your stock numbers like the plague. Excel will strip them out automatically causing endless issues when you are trying to combine spreadsheets of data.
This can cause issues if you are using barcodes as your stock numbers as these frequently have zeros at the front. An EAN (European Article number) is officially 13 characters long and so an 11 character EAN should really have two zeros at the front.
Advice: If you want to use barcodes as your stock numbers, I suggest you add a prefix e.g. Brand-Barcode Avent-0123456789898
Don’t just use numbers
If you just use a number string as your stock number, then this will mean that this number can be treated in two different ways by excel.
1. As a string of digits i.e. plain text
2. As a number
From Excel’s POV these are NOT equivalent. This will cause problem if you are trying to combine spreadsheets or use functions like VOOKUP as what looks like the same stock number will not match.
Advice: As above, start your stock number with text, that way it will ALWAYS be treated as text.
Avoid special characters
Keep to numbers and letters and limited punctuation in stock numbers as special characters can cause issues. For example Amazon does not support apostrophes. Also, apostrophes come in multiple formats which look similar e.g. straight, curly.
Include variant information
If you include variant information in the stock number e.g. Avent00100-Blue, Avent00100-Pink, you can use the root stock number to filter for variants.
Include useful information
Bit more subjective this, but personally I would always include useful information such as brand in the stock number as it makes filtering easy.