Building a product finder with MetaLocator

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Building a product finder with MetaLocator

Product finders are a type of locator that includes the tracking of a list of products for each location.  Users can search by a combination of location and product to produce results that show only locations near their search term that stock the requested product.  MetaLocator is especially well-suited to support this type of locator.

There are a few variations of a product finder.  In this example, we’ll be exploring a use case where the following conditions are met:

  • We have a variable inventory from location to location
  • Products include a UPC, SKU or similar unique identifier
  • Products may also include a name, price, description or similar details

Our customers can also create category-based product finders, where the notion of a product is handled by our category system.  That simpler method is recommended when the locator doesn’t require product details like categories, descriptions, or SKU numbers.

Getting Started

Our first objective will be to properly structure an import data file that includes both locations and products.  This approach is one of a few methods of importing this data, but it’s the most common.  In this example, we will create a single data file that includes both location and product data by repeating the location row for each product stocked by that location.  We will also create a product data file that includes all information for our products.

Importing Products

Before we can import locations with products, we need to configure our product list.  In MetaLocator’s dashboard, create a product table by clicking Data > Tables, click New in the upper right and enter “products” (without the quotes) in Table Name field.

The next step is to create a data file that includes your product information.  Your columns and information may  vary, but the minimum information is a SKU field and a Name field as shown below:

product finder locator

The SKU should uniquely identify the product.  The SKU should never repeat in this file.  Each row should represent a single product.  SKU is an example of an External Key.  This External Key is included by default in new tables.  If your unique product identifier is something different, like UPC, you can re-name the SKU field as needed by clicking Fields, choosing the product table and editing the SKU field.  More information on External Keys can be found here.

Now we can import the products list shown above by clicking Data > Import, and choosing the Products table as shown here:
Importing product data

In our example, the columns were all recognized as shown below.  Click Next, then “Add” on the import options screen:

Importing Locations and Products

With our product data imported, we can now import locations and the products they carry in a single file.  The file includes our location information in the usual columns, but also includes the SKU column.  When a location carries more than one product, the location row is repeated.  In this file, each row represents the unique combination of location and product.

Import this data by choosing Data > Import, choose the Locations table in this step.  In the Match Columns step, SKU will appear as an unknown field.  Select “Products” in the Destination table drop-down as shown here:

Choose Update Existing and Insert New on the following Choose Options screen.

Displaying Related Products

At this point, we have location data, product data and per-location inventory data but we need to display it in the back-end and the front end.  The first step here is to create a special field in the locations table that displays related products.

Under Fields, choose the Locations table, and click New.  Under Field Type, choose Related Table Link, and set the Related Table to products as shown here:

Once this field is created, you can see and manage the products related to a given location under Data > All Records.  (Choose Locations as the active table), then edit any location by clicking the location name.  Notice the new tab, Products at this Location as shown here:

related products to a location

Creating the Product Finder Interface

Showing the Products in the Search Form

At this point, we have all fields and data present in the system that are required to support a product finder interface.  Create a new interface by clicking Interfaces, then New.  In this example, we will choose the Sleek Design Template.  Before any modifications are made, we have a functional locator, but it doesn’t allow use to search by product or see what products are available at a given location.

We will add a product drop-down list by updating the Form Settings > Search Form to include the SKU drop-down as shown here:

This adds a dropdown list in our search interface labeled “SKU”.  To change that to read “Products”, we can follow this Tutorial.  Add LOCATOR_SKU to a new language file, and set your interface to reference that language file under Language & Internationalization Settings.  The result looks like this:

Showing Available Products in the Location Results

Once a user performs a search, it may be helpful to display the products available at that location directly in the results.  We can do this by adding the “Products at this location” field to the template where we’d like the data to display.  In this example, we’ll add that to the map marker window by editing the Map Popup Template.

Now, when viewing the locator, you can see the products available in the map popup as shown here:

This concludes this tutorial.  If you have additional questions on how to set up a product finder, contact our HelpDesk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-07-14T22:21:43+00:00

About the Author:

Michael is the owner and Chief Executive Officer of MetaLocator.com. He has operated an independent IT consulting firm for over 20 years, working with over 500 companies in all areas of technology application. In that time he has created multiple technology startups, including MetaLocator.com. His proprietary Web site software products have been purchased by over 1600 companies in 82 countries around the world. Michael was awarded an engineering degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in 2001. Michael has volunteered extensively, serving as a board director for an after‐school technology program for underprivileged youth and a nonprofit focused on computer hardware recycling. His ability ranges over a wide array of technologies with a focus on Web‐based data‐intensive applications. Michael is a highly experienced software engineer, fluent in hundreds of programming languages, APIs and platforms.