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Daniel Hawks

By: Daniel Hawks on March 21st, 2019

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Explore+ Product Update, March 2019

Product Updates  |  Explore+

My name is Daniel Hawks, and I am the Product Manager for the Label Insight Explore team. We are the team responsible for the Explore data API and Explore web platform. The past four years of my career as a Product Manager have been spent in the retail and CPG industry, specifically working to help shoppers find the products they are looking for.

In my work day, I spend a lot of my time thinking about grocery stores and looking at the hundreds of thousands of food products in the Label Insight database. My private life also revolves heavily around food. I love to cook, my family watches a lot of food shows on Netflix, and I’ve recently started reading memoirs of restaurant industry professionals.

I am constantly searching for relatable analogies to help explain the work we do at Label Insight. I must have had food on my mind when our marketing department asked me to write this blog highlighting the work the Explore team has done this quarter.

The Explore team’s primary focus is building solutions to deliver Label Insight’s product data to our customers. The two pillars at the heart of our solutions are the aforementioned Explore data API and Explore web platform.

The Explore data API is used by customers who need to import vast amounts of Label Insight product data into their own database. For some enterprise customers, this means importing Label Insight attribute data into their data center to perform trend analysis. For retailers, this typically involves importing a feed of wellness attributes for the products they carry online and in-store to print shelf tags, or power e-commerce search and filter. 

In a way, the Explore data API is like a grocery store with hundreds of thousands of products. Customers can “shop” in the Explore data API “grocery store” and bring the products they need (whether it’s a single product or every product in the Label Insight database) into their “home” and use them in their own “kitchen.”

Carrying the grocery store analogy further, our main areas of focus for the Explore data API are reliability (our store is open 24/7) and volume (for customers who want to take home every product in our store). As the Explore data API is now a relatively mature product, we are beginning to expand our focus to areas of convenience and efficiency, making it easier for Label Insight customers to ingest the data they need.

Our second pillar, the Explore web platform, is a business intelligence tool for Label Insight customers to search, filter, compare, and analyze products in our database. Some of the most compelling use cases supported by the Explore platform include: comparing a private label product to the leading national brand, finding products that meet a particular diet or lifestyle, or understanding how specific retailers are attributing a brand’s products.

In our analogy where the Explore data API is a grocery store, the Explore web platform is like a kitchen with an extremely well-stocked pantry. Label Insight customers can use the Explore “kitchen” whenever they want, to cook up whatever they’re in the mood for, using the “tools” (features) and “ingredients” (product data) we’ve provided.

Early versions of the Explore platform offered bare-bones functionality, like a modest home kitchen. Over time, the Explore team has added new features and functions in response to customer needs and enhancement requests. In the same way that a home kitchen would become disorganized and hard to navigate if you kept filling it with new gadgets and ingredients, the Explore platform became increasingly difficult to use as we added new features and expanded our data offerings.

Our team has dedicated a significant amount of time and energy in Q1 of this year to improving the usability of the Explore platform and increasing the usefulness of Label Insight data. We streamlined the search-and-filter interface. We also updated the names of some of our most accessed attribute Views to highlight the type of data they use (on-package versus derived). Our most significant improvement to the Explore platform is the new, completely redesigned export feature. We observed that a majority of users export data from Explore, so we endeavored to make that function as fast and easy as possible.

Circling back to the kitchen analogy, the Explore platform of today hopefully better resembles a modern restaurant kitchen: organized, well-appointed, and built for efficiency.

About Daniel Hawks

Daniel is Senior Product Manager in Label Insight's St. Louis office, with 16 years of experience in the technology industry. He's passionate about good software design, and firmly believes in doing things the right way. His design philosophy is that a good product requires constant iteration and fine-tuning.