May 7, 2015

IDEA Dictionary: What is Attribute Normalization?

When dealing with data, and all related terminology, you may feel like you’re trying to speak a foreign language. In the interest of keeping things clear and simple, we will introduce commonly used terms in each newsletter that will help you navigate the data shorthand and learn the lingo. This issue, we bring you: attribute normalization.

Attribute normalization is the mapping of descriptive product information to one consistent format as that data is extracted from the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW). Normalization acts as an optional filter for distributors downloading IDW data into their business systems.

Attributes are any product descriptors beyond basic transactional fields, which can be applied to an entire product category. However, attributes are not always uniformly loaded into the IDW, which can cause confusion. To assist in the communication and use of such product information, the IDW has a normalization tool used to map variations of a product attribute to one consistent format. For example, if a manufacturer uses “blk” or “BLACK” to describe the color attribute of one of its products, the IDW will recognize the abbreviation or capitalized spelling and automatically populate the attribute with the term “Black.”

In addition, this normalization process excludes irrelevant or ambiguous data from any output (e.g., “120 V”, “B”, or “N/A” loaded for the color attribute), eliminating the need for additional modifications.

To date, more than 70 of the most frequently used attributes have been normalized in the IDW (e.g. brand, color, amperage rating, and wattage).

Normalized values save distributors time by making it easier for their sales teams and countermen to find products within their business systems. They also allow distributors to help contractor software estimating packages and online end users to locate desired products more quickly. Finally, distributors can use these normalized attributes when building the keyword dictionaries in the back-end of their mobile apps and web storefronts, allowing web searches to more easily bring up a manufacturer’s products.

Normalized attributes also help boost the visibility of a manufacturer’s products, grouping them with similar products in a way that makes sense to the searcher and increasing the likelihood that those products will appear in final search results. The more customized manufacturer product attributes’ are, the less likely it is that those products will appear in searches.

Ultimately, the more consistent product data is, the better distributor business systems will operate and the more manufacturers will be able to control their brand on distributors’ web stores and throughout the channel.

To optimize product data through normalized attributes, manufacturers can make a data request through the IDW with the normalization filter turned on. After making the request, manufacturers can review the normalized attribute values for their products and use them as a reference to increase consistency in future product marketing.

Distributors subscribing to the IDW at the Catalog Plus level have the option of downloading the IDEA-normalized values, the manufacturers’ values, or both.

If you have any further questions on how to load, view, or pull normalized attributes in the IDW, please contact us at for training videos and further resources.