Product Catalog Development
Your product catalog provides the essential information needed for online product visibility, discoverability and purchase decision support. Key components of the catalog include well-defined (hierarchical) product categories; concise product titles (brand/sub-brand/generic descriptors); unique product identifiers (SKUs/part numbers); short and long descriptions; inventory data; meta data; documentation (data sheets/drawings/user guides, etc.) and related (cross sell/upsell) items.
A well developed product catalog provides many benefits … both internally and externally. From an internal perspective, the product catalog development process requires rigorous, logical discussions regarding product line purpose, positioning and pricing. Competitive advantages (or lack thereof) must be considered and conveyed as concisely as possible to attract prospective buyers AND the search tools used by targeted markets to discover, classify and qualify them. From an external perspective, buyers seeking solutions that satisfy their requirements have limited time, and will appreciate the convenience and consistency provided by a properly structured product catalog, whereas a poorly structured (or non-existant) catalog may result in lack of visibility or confusion.
Calls-to-Action/Increments of Adoption
The key components of your product catalog each serve an important purpose, but the overall objective is to support a buyer’s journey from initial prospect to loyal customer. A variety of of tactics are available to reach that goal, depending upon the nature of your product portfolio and the budget available to push buyers as far as possible through the purchasing process. The good news is that a logically structured product catalog can be developed incrementally, over time, as your industrial ecommerce initiative matures.
Your calls-to-action/increments of adoption may include some or all of the following:
- General inquiry form (e.g. contact form): Contact forms can be used to elicit and direct inquiries.
- Direct sales engagement tools (e.g. chat/chatbot): Properly staffed chat tools provide real time access to inside sales reps/estimators. Automated chatbots can be used to supplement staffing during busy periods or after hours. Conditional logic can be utilized to direct inquiries from your chatbot to appropriate personnel within the organization for follow up.
- Proposal request/quote confirmation tools (custom forms, quote builders): Custom forms can be developed for each product line to capture requirements and convey this important information to your inside sales team efficiently.
- Transactional tools (quotation request/shopping cart/order entry tools, etc.): Quote request tools can be used within your product catalog as an alternative to full online ordering capabilities. A shopping cart and order entry tools can provide full, 24/7 online ordering capabilities. Account management features in your industrial ecommerce platform provide profile/bill-to/ship-to address updating, quote status tracking, shipment tracking and order history visibility.
Key Catalog Components
Product categories are typically used to position product lines within your portfolio. They can also be used as filters for product listings and site search tools in your product catalog. Tagging can be used to help site visitors identify and compare similar products, or dissimilar products used in similar applications.
Product titles differentiate individual products from others in the same category. Product titles may include branding and/or sub-branding, but should always include a concise, generic descriptor for those unfamiliar with your brand. Short descriptions are typically displayed in product listings (below the product title) to further clarify differences between each product within a given category. Long descriptions generally convey details such as specifications/ratings, as needed, to further support a potential purchase decision. Product attributes can also be defined for common comparators, such as weight, dimensions, color(s), etc.
Inventory Data/Status Settings
For standard (simple) products, inventory tracking tools can be used to display current counts in real time. Inventory counts can be automatically adjusted as online orders are processed. Inventory status settings can also be used to convey related messages, such as out-of-stock status, backorder availability, lead times for out-of-stock and build-to-order items, and more. Threshold levels can be established and low stock/out-of-stock notices can be sent to notify appropriate personnel.
Meta Data (Search/Social/Custom)
Meta data defines products in predetermined formats used by external search tools (Google/Bing), social media platforms (LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter) and ERP systems (custom fields). Our industrial ecommerce platform includes sections (meta boxes) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools that can assist in structuring meta data according to the needs of these and other popular social/search platforms, enhancing your overall SEO efforts.
An efficient product catalog structures data both directly within an ecommerce platform’s database (as per above) and through links to previously composed documents (PDF files, CAD drawings, Word files, etc.) Linking to existing documents eliminates the duplication of effort that would otherwise be required to manage this content in multiple locations, while preserving the high level of detail often required to support purchase decisions for more complex products.
Linking (to similar products and/or related accessories within your product catalog) creates cross-sell/up-sell opportunities in your industrial ecommerce platform. Cross-selling tools typically present related items within a given category at the bottom of a product detail page. Up-selling tools display recommended ancillary purchases in a shopping cart or on the ecommerce platform’s checkout page.