May 12, 2016

Steering Clear of Placeholder Images


With IDEA’s Industry Data Warehouse (IDW), the electrical industry is well-equipped to handle the challenges presented by the rise of eCommerce and the rapidly growing need for accurate and comprehensive product information. In the fast-moving and highly competitive eBusiness environment, quality data is the foundation of success. While the IDW is a powerful tool that makes top-notch product content available, the fuel that powers the IDW platform – the data – requires ongoing maintenance and improvement. To ensure that the IDW data is meeting end users’ expectations, IDEA continuously seeks our customers’ feedback and suggestions. Recently, we’ve been receiving many comments from our distributors regarding the issue of placeholder images in the IDW. Below is a short interview with our Data Quality team, geared to address the question of placeholder images and offering some insight into how high-quality visual marketing can raise your brand’s visibility.

Q: What is a placeholder image?

A: When a manufacturer is loading their product data into the IDW and does not have a product image available, sometimes they decide to upload a so-called “placeholder image” instead – a blank image that has “Coming Soon” or “Image Pending” written over it, indicating this is a temporary substitute because an actual product photo isn’t available at the time.

Q: What is the value of having a placeholder image?

A: None! That’s right: to a distributor who needs a product image for their webstore or catalog, a placeholder image is of absolutely no use. The entire point of an image is to allow the consumers to see the item they’re buying, and a blank placeholder does not in any way help them understand what the product looks like.

Q: Is there any harm in uploading placeholder images?

A: Yes, in fact, there is.

First and foremost, placeholder images create more work for a distributor. The problem is that a placeholder image has the same file format as an actual product image (for instance, .jpg or .png), allowing it to pass the Data Quality Program’s compliance review. As a result, the compliance metrics will register that there is an image – even though it’s a phony placeholder one – and the item will be marked as “compliant” in the IDW.[1] Distributors will then have to put time and effort into sorting through the product data they extracted from the IDW to identify the items without a proper image.
Furthermore, when a product image isn’t available, most distributors prefer to use their own branded placeholder. This means that each placeholder image a manufacturer has put in will have to be taken down and replaced, which is tedious and time-consuming.

Q: What happens to placeholder images in the IDW?

A: As mentioned above, having the format and properties of an actual product image file allows the placeholder image to pass the initial compliance rules within IDEA’s Data Quality Program. However, when those SKUs undergo the excellence visual review, performed by our Data Quality team, the phony images will be identified and deleted. Hence, placeholder images are certainly not a long-term solution for manufacturers committed to data quality and determined to achieve full data certification. The goal of the Data Certification Program is to cultivate data that is timely, accurate, and reliable, but placeholder images are none of those things.

Q: How can placeholder images affect my sales?

A: When a manufacturer loads substitute images that require the distributor to put in extra time to sort through and subsequently replace, cleaning up the data may become too burdensome and time-consuming. If the data necessary to sell a manufacturer’s product isn’t available – and images are a highly important part of the marketing content – then a distributor might decide to not put the manufacturer’s products on their web storefront at all. Or, if the manufacturer does not provide the needed content, and creates additional work with useless placeholders, the distributor might simply go with a competitor brand that can accommodate their data needs. For a manufacturer, this means lost sales and damaged business relationships.

For more details about correctly uploading images into the IDW, check out our expert best practices.

If you have any questions or comments regarding placeholder images or the process of loading images into the IDW, please contact your Data Management Specialist, or email


[1] Presuming that all of the other 43 critical fields required to achieve compliance are properly populated.

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