100% Beginner E-Commerce Product Catalogue Management Guide

ecommerce product catalogue management

Managing your product data is a struggle for most businesses. Customers today want rich, consistent product information. If yours falls below their expectations, they hesitate to do business with you. Learn how to manage your product data more effectively.

What Is E-Commerce Product Catalogue Management?

Let's start with the fundamentals. What is the definition of eCommerce product catalogue management?

It is the strategic management of your eCommerce product catalogue to maintain the accuracy of your product data across all sales channels. It describes how merchants organise, standardise, and distribute product data to each sales channel. Its accuracy must be managed if your product data is developed in-house or obtained from outside parties such as suppliers.

Why is E-Commerce Product Catalogue Management Difficult?

The concept of e-commerce catalogue management appears straightforward. You only need to keep a single catalogue of everything you offer online.

Unfortunately, this isn't easy to achieve for a variety of reasons.

Types Of Products

For starters, your product kinds can make SKU management more complex, such as:

Matrix/Variance/Product Options - A group of products that differ in size and/or colour. T-shirts, for example, must have linked SKUs for a single garment that may be available in multiple sizes and colours, such as Red, Large and Red, Small.

Kit/Assembly - Individual products that can be combined to form a single product. For example, you might offer individual parts and the entire bike.

Serialised - One-of-a-kind things with a serial number, such as diamonds or collectables. You may have a few 1-carat diamonds, but each has a serial number.

These products frequently have difficult-to-manage parent-child connections. How do you ensure that SKUs refer to their parent item while simultaneously being portrayed as individuals?

Selling Through Several Channels

Another issue with product data is managing it across several sales channels, such as different branded websites or marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. Each channel requires another format for your product data for listing purposes. How do you keep track of which channels need which information for listing? If these issues are not addressed, you may fail to meet listing standards or publish inaccurate information.

Pricing for Individual Customers

The price of the same thing can fluctuate depending on who buys it. This is standard procedure in B2B sales. Individual consumers or groups of customers can have their pricing sheets. Keeping this information on hand is critical since you'll want to guarantee that the correct pricing appears online for the right clients.

Third-Party Product Data Normalisation

Do you get product data from outside parties, such as suppliers? This data might be in a variety of formats. For example, one supplier may use the colour black as BLK. Are the attributes adequately organised? Normalising product data from other sources to suit internal needs can be laborious and time-consuming for merchants.

(These difficulties are pretty accurate for traders. This article covered it in depth because it is such an important issue.)

Product data can quickly get jumbled. Merchants frequently employ big teams that work for weeks accumulating, updating, and releasing product data. It is difficult for your operations and can lead to incorrect and inconsistent data on your website for clients.

ecommerce product catalogue management (what is ecommerce product catalogue management)

Why Is It Important to Improve Your Product Catalogue Management?

These obstacles can be difficult for merchants to overcome. This is why some businesses accept substandard product information. However, due to how competitive selling online is, it is worthwhile to do it correctly. See why updating your product catalogue is essential.

Lay the Groundwork for a Positive User Experience

Product information is an essential component of a positive online user experience. It impacts SEO, site navigation, and customers' confidence to purchase. The core of these experiences is how you manage your product data.

Potential customers frequently need to learn what goods they are looking for. This indicates that they require assistance locating it yet do not want to waste time searching. Your product information acts as a guide for your clients to identify and purchase the item they desire. However, most businesses need to do a better job of assisting people. According to a Baymard study of site search phrases,

61% of sites demand their customers to search using the same product type jargon as the site, for example, failing to return all relevant products for a search such as "blow dryer" if the site uses "hair dryer" or "multifunction printer" vs "all-in-one printer," and so on.

This may put customers off. It does not lead to the desired product outcomes. Instead, businesses must focus on lowering the time it takes a consumer to go to a desired product in novel ways. You have an extensive product catalogue, and your clients need assistance narrowing down their options. However, if your attributes are disorganised, you cannot organise and categorise your products for users in this manner.

Customers require a detailed product page after discovering a product. This page should anticipate and respond to any user questions before purchasing. LuLu's website presents detailed product information, such as size, colour options, photos, fit descriptions, reviews, model information, and more. This encounter ensures that the customer understands precisely what will be on their doorstep.

ecommerce product catalogue management (enhance operations)

Take note that the decision to craft a long scrollable page or a shorter one when designing a web page ultimately depends on the website's purpose. For example, suppose the main goal is to increase user engagement. In that case, users will likely appreciate having access to large amounts of information via a long scrollable page, which encourages further exploration and browsing.

On the other hand, for pages where it is vital to communicate essential info quickly, such as contact pages or product checkouts, short pages may be more appropriate due to their convenience and clarity. 

In either case, website builders must use elements such as logical headings, easily digestible chunks of text and well-designed menus or navigation bars to ensure that users are not overwhelmed with too much information at once.

Enhance Operations

Back-office processes are also aided by product information management. If product attributes need to be more apparent, it can take weeks to make the necessary adjustments to push new products to the website. You'll be cleaning and normalising data all the time. What if you could give employees that time back to do more meaningful work?

SKU management is essential in financial and operational reporting. How much of this product did you sell? How much does that SKU cost to produce? When will you require additional of this SKU for a kit/assembly item? You can only answer these questions readily if your product management is sound. There will be no relevant or actionable data.

Finally, adequate product management can improve your capacity to share data with other systems. For larger enterprises, you will manage or "master" your products in your ERP, PIM, or POS system rather than your eCommerce platform. You'll integrate your systems and automate the process of syncing product listings to share that data with your online store. Integrations become challenging to exhibit the item effectively online if SKUs are not correctly categorised. Associate the correct SKUs with inventory counts or customer orders.

Take on New Challenges

Mismanaged product data can hinder your firm, which is often neglected. Do you wish to branch out into new channels? Do you want to collaborate with new vendors? Simple methods like these can appear intimidating when you need a firm hold on your product data. When it already takes a week to get your data in order, adding another sales channel or data source seems excessive.

If these challenges sound familiar, it's time to think about improving your current practices.

ecommerce product catalogue management (how to improve)

How to Improve the Management of Your eCommerce Product Catalogue

E-Commerce catalogue management is determined by the tools available. First, decide where to maintain or "master" your product data. Whatever the case, this is one central location where you can find every product required with all relevant qualities. The items in this section are your data's only source of truth.

Choosing a Location to Master Your Product Data

Initially, merchants frequently use their eCommerce platform or an Excel spreadsheet to master their products. If your SKUs are limited or basic, you can get away with this for a while. Each location has a basic tool set that allows you to upload products, bulk modify product attributes, and publish to one (or two) channels.

However, as you progress, you'll realise that these tools need to be improved. You'll save time formatting and modifying data while still failing to keep things organised. You should probably update if you're publishing data to numerous sales challenges or dealing with third-party sources.

The next step could be to migrate your products to an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. While not all ERPs (particularly older ones) have this capability, modern ERPs have included product management capabilities. Because they are tightly linked to financial reporting or other operational needs, your ERP may be a superior alternative for mastering your products. Whatever sales channels they choose, they will begin in your ERP. Learn how to synchronise your products from your ERP to an eCommerce platform.

Merchants can also manage their products using a dedicated system such as Product Information Management (PIM). A PIM is well-equipped to handle thousands of goods coming in from numerous sources that require considerable standardisation.

ecommerce product catalogue management

What exactly is a Product Information Management System (PIM)?

A product information management system (PIM) centralises and controls all of your product data, no matter where it comes from or where it needs to go. It ideally speeds up the process of uploading, standardising, and publishing your data to your sales channels. You'll have powerful tools to correctly style data and ensure that you always have comprehensive, consistent product information that your customers are looking for. PIM systems that are popular include:

  • Akeneo

  • inRiver

  • Salsify

  • Jasper

  • Pimcore

  • Riversand

PIM solutions, like other software, exist in various shapes and sizes. You'll need to weigh your options based on your own needs. Consider your existing requirements as well as your future objectives. Consider how you can boost your business by increasing the quality of your product information.

Posted on 19 January 2023