The effects of database design decisions regarding the acquisition and storage of decoded inventory data can be far reaching. Mistakes early on can lead to poor database performance and sluggish load times for your users. They can lead to a tangled web of database tables that is difficult and expensive for your programmers and database developers to keep straight, and near impossible for new team members to learn. And, they can lead to poor use of data and missed opportunities to display thorough, accurate, and precise information about vehicles in inventory.
We've compiled a list of five best practices for storing decoded inventory data to help you get started, or to get you back on the right track.
1. Start off with a precise VIN Decode
The best database design and data management practices in the world will not help you achieve high quality data output unless you start with high quality data as an input. There are many choices for VIN decoding, make sure you choose a professional solution that can support the accuracy and detail that you desire to display with your inventory.
2. What you should store in your inventory table
Avoid storing text identifiers that are already tied to a Vehicle Style ID in your inventory table. There are often hundreds of these, and they can all be accessed by way of a Vehicle Style ID and a JOIN clause.
3. Suggested best practices for storing Option IDs
Use an Inventory Option lookup table to store installed options, and avoid comma separated lists of values stored in a single database column at all costs.
4. Additional vehicle data to store within your inventory table
Due to the many-to-one relationship between Vehicle Style ID and certain important vehicle characteristics like engine, transmission, and color these should be handled differently than the majority of vehicle equipment data. For these there are clear advantages to efficiently including this data in your inventory table, or a horizontally partitioned table using the same key.
5. Remember to prune your data as inventory rolls over and to include lookup records
Plan for what happens to inventory when it's no longer currently needed. It should by no means stay in your active inventory table, however it is still valuable data and you will want to make sure that you maintain it elsewhere. When you do move it out, use the same delete/archive scheme for your lookup tables as well.
Working with active vehicle inventory presents some unique challenges. For more insight and expertise on the five best practices for storing decoded Inventory data please click on the image below to download our free white paper. It contains additional details, direction and real world examples of putting these best practices into use.