In the age of eCommerce, a product catalog is an online database that includes all the items that you as a retailer or marketplace want to visually display and sell to your customers through the Internet.
These databases list different types of information for every single item, i.e. the SKU or identification code for the item, the images of the product, the number of pieces in stock, the category, the price, and the different features and product information relevant to the customer.
Organizing all this data might be costly and time-consuming. Let’s not forget online catalogs are dynamic and experience many changes, so maintaining and keeping your catalog updated is definitely not an easy task. Here are the main challenges of online catalog management:
- Selling through multiple channels
- Always showing relevant merchandising
- Scaling the catalog
- Having consistent data
- Optimizing product pages
- Displaying only high-quality images
1. Selling through multiple channels
Most retailers sell through different platforms. Some have brick-and-mortar stores, physical catalogs, eCommerce platforms and even sell through different marketplaces.
Challenges in online catalog management are diverse—retailers deal with huge amounts of information that require a specific structure for every sales channel. If you manage several spreadsheets and databases, you probably struggle to provide consistent and quality data while lacking a point of reference, a single source you can trust. This sometimes leads to confusing information regarding products, which makes customers walk away from your site.
That is why, over the past few years, PIM systems have arisen as a way to organize data to output data adapted to different sales channels, i.e. when trying to sell through different marketplaces.
2. Showing relevant merchandising
All eCommerce managers know how important it is to present the products in a way that appeal to the customer. This is a matter of how you do it, but also of what items you present. Why? Well, mainly because retailers struggle with an average online shopping cart abandonment rate of 69.23%. 1
This is sometimes due to customers not being able to find a specific item they are looking for in your catalog. Therefore, brands and marketplaces are increasingly trying new strategies to increase conversion.
Collecting data from customers has been one of the techniques used by many brands and retailers to determine merchandising strategies and carefully choose the items shown on their online store.
Nevertheless, in case you want to show relevant merchandising from day 1, another good technique is to focus more on what the customer is looking for at a certain moment in time rather than analyzing who the customer is and what’s their behavior. This means, for example, showing similar items that resemble the one the visitor is looking at right at the bottom of the product picture.
Therefore, when customers are not convinced to buy a specific item, or the one they like is out of stock, they are more likely to click on a similar one than to simply abandon your site.
3. Scalability in online catalog management
Scaling up your eCommerce is challenging, especially when your online catalog is not properly structured or consistent.
Adding more SKUs while avoiding inaccuracies or mistakes in your product data is certainly not a piece of cake. And these difficulties might discourage you from expanding the content on your product pages.
Excel was not designed to fulfill online catalog management purposes. That’s why there is a need for a platform that can easily support your growth. The aim is to assist e-tailers in achieving consistency across their catalog and easily and effortlessly applying mass changes.
4. Data consistency and ontology
Several problems may arise in online catalog management when trying to keep your data consistent. From typos to inconsistent category names and missing information. Having different human annotators introducing product information into different platforms can lead to contradictory or erroneous data.
You probably have been struggling to find a solution to this big pain for a while. In fact, 98% of shoppers have been dissuaded from completing a purchase because of incomplete or incorrect content.2 Traditional PIM systems have managed to unify data and provide a single source of information, but having different providers and product writers is still quite challenging.
Artificial Intelligence provides the solution to this problem. Automatic product tagging through computer vision:
- Recognises product images.
- Classifies them to categories and subcategories with your preferred tone of voice.
- Consistently assigns relevant attributes to the items.
5. Optimized product pages and descriptions
Optimizing your product pages requires a great amount of effort from your team dedicated to online catalog management. But we know that, in order for them to rank well in search engine result pages, retailers need to pay attention to relevant keywords. In fact, 43% of all e-commerce traffic comes from organic search.3
That is why it is also important to bear in mind that we humans use synonyms, and visitors can be typing different words to find the same item.
In order to make your product pages search engine friendly, you can use several strategies. Besides basic SEO techniques, implementing automatic product tagging or natural language processing, for instance, can be good ways to leverage technology in order to optimize your content.
6. High-quality product images
Visuals are extremely important in the digital era. To compensate for lacking the possibility to touch an item, online retailers and marketplaces have started using spectacular images to catch the visitor’s attention.
Human beings process images thousands of times faster than text. This is why 93% of consumers consider visual appearance to be the key deciding factor in a purchasing decision. 4
Therefore, brands and marketplaces need to carefully select their product images: they need to be appealing in order to increase purchase desire and provide as many views of the product as possible.
Image quality also plays an important role. But it can be a time-consuming task to check that all pictures have enough quality and discard those that don’t. Some tools make it possible to automatically detect which ones are suitable according to the standards of each specific retailer or brand.
Fighting Challenges for Online Catalog Management
With current solutions in the market, it is up to retailers to find the right tools to fight their current challenges in a well-informed manner.