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Designing A Price History Database Model

Do you need to develop an e-commerce site that stores price history? This step-by-step guide to designing a price history database model will help you get started fast!

Designing a price history database for e-commerce or finance can feel like deciphering a complex algorithm. But with the right insights, what seems intricate becomes intuitive. Join us as we delve into the heart of this design process, from laying the foundational blueprints for tracking historical prices in a database to ensuring the model’s dynamic adaptability.

What Is Database Design?

Database design is both an art and a science. It involves structuring data so that it can be stored, retrieved, and updated efficiently and accurately. Think of it as the blueprint for how data will be stored – much like architectural blueprints detail how a building will be constructed.

A pivotal tool in this process is the entity-relationship diagram (ER diagram or ERD). It's a visual representation that shows the relationships between different data sets. The ER diagram helps in understanding how different entities (like tables) relate to each other, whether it's a one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many relationship.

Diving deeper, the data modeling process is governed by a set of database design principles that ensure:

  • Data Integrity: Data must remain consistent and accurate.
  • Data Security: Data is protected from unauthorized access.
  • Database Flexibility: The database can support evolution and growth.
  • Database performance: Data retrieval and operations are quick.

Stages of Database Design

The journey of database design progresses through three main stages:

  1. Conceptual Data Model: This is the high-level view, focusing on defining the entities and their relationships. It's more about understanding the 'what' rather than the 'how'.
  2. Logical Data Model: Here, we refine the conceptual model, defining specific attributes for each entity and detailing the relationships between them. It's database-agnostic, meaning it doesn't focus on the specifics of any database system.
  3. Physical Data Model: This is the most detailed and the most technical model. It is tailored for a specific database system (like MySQL, Oracle, or SQL Server). It involves creating tables, indexes, triggers, etc. to ensure the database's optimal performance.

For those eager to delve even deeper – especially into the intricacies of database schema design – we have a detailed guide to data models. It breaks down each step in the data modeling process, so you'll be well equipped to tackle any database design challenge.

Why Do You Need a Price History Data Model?

In the vast digital landscape of data management, designing a specific database model (such as one for tracking price history), requires a unique approach. This isn't just about storing numbers; it's about capturing the essence of market dynamics, consumer behavior, and business strategies over time.

Why Track Price History?

The importance of tracking price history cannot be overstated. It provides businesses with a way to:

  1. Understand Market Trends: Historical data reveals patterns, helping businesses anticipate market movements and adjust their strategies accordingly.
  2. Make Informed Pricing Decisions: By analyzing how previous prices impacted sales, businesses can set future prices more strategically.
  3. Evaluate Promotional Impact: Business leaders can understand the effect of discounts and promotions on sales and revenue.
  4. Predict Future Movements: Historical data can be a goldmine for predictive analytics, helping businesses forecast future pricing strategies and market reactions.

Price History Tracking Use Cases

These are two prime examples of where a price history database model plays a very important role.


  • Product Evolution: Track how the price of a product has changed over time, especially after major product updates or seasonal promotions.
  • Consumer Behavior Analysis: Understand how price changes influence consumer purchasing decisions.

Finance Systems:

  • Stock Price Monitoring: For investors, understanding the historical performance of a stock is crucial for making informed investment decisions.
  • Currency Fluctuations: For businesses operating in multiple countries, tracking currency exchange rates can be vital for financial planning.

Complex Scenarios in the Model

Designing a price history database isn't just about tracking the basic price changes. It's about understanding the nuances and intricacies of pricing strategies:

  • Price History for Product Variants: Products often come in various sizes, colors, or other variants. Each variant might have its own pricing strategy. For instance, a t-shirt might be priced differently based on its size or design. Our model should be capable of tracking the price history for each of these variants individually.
  • Effective Dates for Price Changes: Prices don't just change; they change for a reason and at a specific time. Whether it's a seasonal discount, a supplier cost change, or a strategic business decision, every price change is associated with an effective date. This not only helps in understanding when the price was changed but also aids in correlating price changes with external events or business decisions.

Designing an E-Commerce Price History Database Model

In the digital realm of e-commerce, data is the backbone. To ensure that this data is structured, accessible, and efficient, we need a meticulously crafted database model. As we delve into the design of our price history database for e-commerce, we'll emphasize the principles of normalization to ensure data integrity and consider denormalization where performance demands it. For designing our price history database model, we are going to use the Vertabelo data modeler.


In the rapidly evolving e-commerce landscape, having a solid database foundation is crucial – especially when it comes to monitoring ever-changing product prices. As we embark on this journey of building a price history database model for an e-commerce platform, it's essential to consider the principles of database normalization and the strategic use of denormalization.

Our database's foundation lies in its entities, which represent the primary objects or concepts. In the physical model, entities will become tables. Our entities are:

  1. Products: Central to any e-commerce platform, this table captures all the products available. Each product is uniquely identified, ensuring no redundancy. This follows the principles of normalization to the first normal form (1NF).
  2. Product Variants: Given the diverse nature of e-commerce offerings, products often have variations like size, color, or other attributes. This table ensures each variant is uniquely identified and linked to its parent product. This is the second normal form (2NF).
  3. Price History: This is the essence of our design. The Price_History table logs every price change, whether for a product or its variant. By ensuring that each price change is associated with a unique product or variant and an effective date, we maintain the principles of the third normal form (3NF).
A Price History Database Model


Each entity has specific attributes that capture the nuances of our data. In the physical model, these attributes will become table columns. These are the attributes we’ve selected for each entity:

  1. Products:
    • Product_ID (The table’s primary identifer / primary key.)
    • Product_Name
    • Description
    • Current_Price
    • Category
  2. Product_Variants:
    • Variant_ID (This table’s primary key.)
    • Product_ID (A foreign key to the Products)
    • Variant_Description
    • Variant_Price (The current price for this product variant.)
  3. Price_History:
    • Price_History_ID (This table’s primary key.)
    • Product_Variant_ID (A foreign key to the Product_Variants)
    • Price
    • Effective_Date

As you can see, all of the entities have an attribute which is marked as a primary key (PK) or  a primary identifier (PI); this attribute uniquely identifies each record in the entity/table. The PI is used in conceptual and logical models; it becomes the primary key in the physical model. As a rule of thumb, all tables should have a primary key.

A Price History Database Model


Relationships between tables ensure that data remains consistent and interconnected. Two key components in establishing these relationships are the primary key and the foreign key (FK):

  • Primary Key: A unique identifier for each record in a table. No two records can have the same PK, ensuring each entry is distinct.
  • Foreign Key: A column (or set of columns) in one table that refers to the PK of another table. It establishes a link between data in two tables, ensuring data integrity.

With these concepts in mind, the tables in the e-commerce price history database model are interlinked as follows:

Products to Product Variants (red line):

  • Type: One-to-Many
  • Description: A single product can have multiple variants (like different sizes or colors), but each variant is associated with only one product. The Product_ID column in the Products table serves as the primary key. It is referenced as a foreign key in the Product_Variants

Product Variants to Price History (blue line):

  • Type: One-to-Many
  • Description: A specific product variant can have multiple price history records, but each price history record is linked to one variant. The Variant_ID in the Product_Variants table is the PK and is referenced as an FK in the Price_History
A Price History Database Model

Indexes for Speeding Up Data Retrieval

Indexes play a pivotal role in enhancing the performance of a database. This is especially true in an e-commerce setting, where time is of the essence. By creating indexes on specific columns, we can significantly speed up data retrieval operations, ensuring that customer queries and backend operations are swift and seamless.

For our e-commerce price history database model, the following indexes would be particularly beneficial:

  1. Product_ID Index: An index on the Product_ID in the Products table ensures rapid data retrieval for specific products. Given that this is a frequently queried column, especially when customers browse products, this index is crucial.
  2. Variant_ID Index: Given the diverse range of product variants, an index on the Variant_ID in the Product_Variants table allows quick access to specific product variants. This enhances the browsing experience for customers.
  3. Effective_Date Index: The Price_History table will often be queried to generate price trends over time. An index on the Effective_Date column aids in chronological analysis, helping businesses quickly fetch price data for specific time frames.
  4. Foreign Key Indexes: Indexes can be placed on foreign keys, such as the Product_ID in the Product_Variants table and Product_Variant_ID in the Price_History This can speed up JOIN performance, resulting in more efficient data retrieval operations across multiple tables.

Note: Most database systems automatically create an index on primary key columns that are specified in the table definition. The default index created in this method is usually sufficient in most cases.

However, sometimes the type of index on a primary key should be manually specified. For example, all primary key indexes in SQL Server are created as clustered indexes. But there might be very rare use cases where we want this index to be of type non-clustered index; this would require us to specify the exact type of index when defining the primary key.

Common Errors in Designing a Price History Database Model

When designing a data model – especially one as crucial as a price history database model for e-commerce – you need to think things through very carefully. Some e-commerce applications require minimal features, whereas others force you to consider many possible pitfalls.

While the rewards of a well-structured database are numerous, the pitfalls of a poorly designed one can be costly. Let's explore some common errors that designers might encounter and how to avoid them:

  1. Over-Normalization: Normalization is essential for reducing redundancy and ensuring data integrity. However, overdoing it can lead to a complex database structure with too many tables. This can result in slower query performance and increased complexity in the application logic.
  1. Ignoring Time Zones: If your e-commerce platform serves a global audience, it's crucial to account for time zones when logging price changes. Failing to do so can lead to confusion about when a price change actually took effect.
  1. Lack of Scalability: As an e-commerce platform grows, so does its data. Neglecting to address the scalability of your design can lead to performance issues down the line.
  1. Not Accounting for Promotions or Discounts: Price history isn't just about standard prices; it's also about temporary promotions or discounts. Failing to account for these can give an incomplete picture of a product's pricing history.
  1. Inadequate Indexing: Not implementing the right indexes can severely hamper query performance, especially in read-heavy operations like generating price history reports.
  1. Ignoring Historical Data Integrity: It's essential to ensure that past price data remains immutable. Any changes to historical data can lead to mistrust and confusion.
  1. Not Planning for Denormalization: While normalization is a key principle, there are scenarios where denormalization can improve performance. Failing to consider this from the outset can lead to missed optimization opportunities.
  1. Overlooking Backup and Recovery: Price history is valuable data. Omitting a robust backup and recovery strategy can be catastrophic in the event of data loss.

Ready to Design Your Own Price History Database Model?

The task of designing a price history database model for e-commerce is intricate. Being aware of its common pitfalls and actively working to avoid them can ensure a robust, efficient, and trustworthy system. As with all things in technology, continuous learning and adaptation are the keys to success.

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