Every holiday season, New York’s 5th Avenue shopping district is thronged with tourists and locals coming to see the stunning window displays from high-end retailers. Just like brick-and-mortar shops routinely refresh their inventory and window displays to keep shoppers engaged, online stores are constantly updating their product catalogs.
The ecommerce catalog management process involves organizing, maintaining and updating the product information in an online store. This encompasses everything from product descriptions to images, pricing, inventory and other details displayed on the website.
Catalog management entails adding new products, updating product information, removing out-of-stock items and organizing products into categories for easy browsing.
This behind-the-scenes legwork ensures your product information is searchable, accurate and up-to-date — providing your customers with a seamless online shopping experience.
Failure to do so will cost you. According to Salsify’s “Cracking the Consumer Code” report, 87% of shoppers rated product content extremely or very important when deciding to buy.
Considering that 75% of customers expect a consistent customer experience across every channel, it’s clear why product catalog management is essential.
With ecommerce stores selling on multiple platforms — their website, social media networks, mobile apps, online marketplaces and in-store — effective product catalog management helps businesses standardize product information and provide a unified customer experience.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial element of ecommerce catalog management, which helps improve a website’s search engine ranking, drive traffic to the site and boost the store’s overall visibility. Optimizing product metadata — product descriptions, titles, categories, etc. — increases the likelihood your products will rank highly in search results and be easily found on your website.
Catalog management ensures product information is up-to-date and consistent across platforms, reducing the risk of inventory mismanagement, overselling and stockouts.
By providing a single interface from which to add, update and remove products from the online store, business owners save time and effort on catalog management.
A well-managed catalog ensures product information is accurate and up-to-date so customers are not misled. Products that are correctly indexed and keyword-optimized are more discoverable, which leads to a seamless customer experience.
Properly formatting product metadata also improves the quality of your product recommendations and website search filters, enabling you to upsell and cross-sell products to increase average order value.
Businesses often struggle with the tedium of data entry and keyword research. Digital catalogs must be updated and inspected regularly, even if you don’t make major changes to your inventory.
As an online store grows, its product catalog becomes increasingly complex, adding new product lines, product variations and item discontinuations. Online stores that don’t standardize their product metadata will see a decline in data accuracy and consistency.
For example, items listed under the wrong category or incomplete product descriptions are less searchable and may confuse customers.
Inconsistent information across channels can confuse customers and erode your store’s credibility. Miscategorized products or missing keywords can lead to lost sales. A disorganized catalog complicates the process of product catalog management, making it more time-consuming for the business.
Businesses must undertake periodic keyword research to update their product descriptions, titles, and other metadata to optimize for search engine rankings and user intent. They must also examine web analytics to determine which product pages are underperforming and tweak the copy accordingly.
Finally, businesses must monitor sales data to identify product lines to promote or discontinue. These obligations present challenges for time-poor business owners.
Managing your store’s online catalog is an ongoing effort. Standardizing your data, keeping tabs on inventory and writing detailed product descriptions are essential.
An inventory audit verifies that product information is accurate and consistent across channels. If you don’t already use product catalog management software, you’ll need to pull this data from various platforms manually.
Here are the steps involved in an inventory audit:
Verify the accuracy of your product information: Ensure that product metadata is standardized regarding category assignment, product naming conventions and keywords. For example, tennis shoes may be called “sneakers” or “trainers.”
Compare data to actual inventory: This can be done manually or with inventory management software.
Review and update product information: This can be done as necessary.
Document the audit results for future reference: This includes any discrepancies, product updates and inventory changes.
Ecommerce catalog management software provides a central repository for product information. The software is designed to streamline product information management for an online store.
In addition, the software lets you manage your catalog across sales channels, such as your ecommerce website, online marketplaces, search engine results and social media platforms.
The key features of catalog management systems include:
Product Information Management (PIM): Manage all product information in a centralized database.
Product categorization: Categorize products based on type, brand or other attributes, and group related products.
Inventory management: View real-time data on product availability, stock levels and order status.
Data standardization: Standardize product information such as titles, descriptions and specifications.
Data quality checks: Run automated data quality checks or manual data reviews to ensure the data is accurate and up-to-date.
SEO: Optimize product information for search engines using keyword research and site crawling tools.
Standardizing product categorization is the most crucial element of product catalog management. Here are some steps you can take to define your approach:
Define a consistent data structure that outlines the information that must be included for each product, such as product title, description, specification, pricing and images.
Use a unique identifier, such as a product number or SKU, for each product in the catalog.
Introduce naming conventions for product titles, descriptions and specifications to ensure a consistent omnichannel experience.
Categorize products according to type, brand, application, pricing or other attributes that make sense for your business.
For example, a gaming PC must be designated as either a desktop or laptop and listed under “Electronics” and “Entertainment,” while a tablet would go under “Electronics” only.
Run data quality checks and monitor your web analytics and inventory data to keep product details up-to-date.
Product descriptions are a crucial sales pitch as they explain the features and benefits of your products. Provide detailed specifications such as dimensions, weight and materials. Anticipate any questions or concerns the customer may have and address them in your product description.
The "What, Where, Why, When, Who" format is a useful framework for writing comprehensive product descriptions. Here's how to use this format:
What: Clearly describe the product and what it does. Be specific about the features and benefits.
Where: Explain where the product can be used or the environments in which it is best suited.
Why: Explain why someone would want to buy the product and what problem it solves. Highlight the unique selling points and what sets the product apart from its competitors.
When: Explain when the product is best used or the ideal time for customers to purchase it.
Who: Identify the target audience for the product and explain why they would be interested in it.
The best product catalog management tools provide scalability, integrations with your ecommerce platform, and functionalities like product categorization, product attributes and pricing.
Feedonomics, a BigCommerce partner, is the market leader in product feed management that lets you send your product data to more channels and synchronize it across systems.
Feedonomics helps sellers by automating product listing and order management, as well as optimizing product catalog data to improve search relevance and conversion rates. The ecommerce solution helps sellers resolve errors and maximize uptime by generating data feed error alerts to avoid disapproval and lost revenue.
Feedonomics services many of the world's most prolific online retailers and brands, including over 30% of the top 1,000 internet retailers. The platform also integrates with more than 160 online marketplaces, including Amazon, Walmart, eBay and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Ecommerce catalog management is a crucial behind-the-scenes function that enables ecommerce operations to run smoothly by centralizing product information management.
With ecommerce businesses selling across multiple channels, catalog management can be time-consuming and costly, especially in the absence of ecommerce catalog management software. Using software helps businesses improve data accuracy, follow SEO best practices and automatically correct errors before customers can encounter them.
Ultimately, ecommerce catalog management leads to a better user experience and supports business growth.
Writing product descriptions requires a special skill. Use a conversational tone and address the most relevant features of your products.
Here are some best practices for writing effective product descriptions:
Highlight key features: Explain what problems the product solves or the benefits it brings. Include any important specifications to the customer, such as dimensions, available colors and materials.
Use descriptive language: Avoid using technical terms that may be confusing.
Include product images: Use a variety of product shots that showcase the product from multiple angles, including how the product is used.
Optimize for search engines: Use relevant keywords to improve your product’s visibility in search results.
Use customer reviews: Incorporate customer ratings and reviews into your product description to provide social proof and build trust with potential customers.
Product Information Management (PIM) is a system for managing and organizing product metadata. The goal of PIM is to create a central repository of product information that can be shared across channels.
By centralizing product information, PIM systems provide tools for data management, product categorization, data enrichment and content publishing.
Additionally, PIM eliminates errors and inconsistencies in product information. These capabilities vastly reduce the time and resources needed for ecommerce product catalog management.
Product Information Management (PIM) and Product Content Management (PCM) are two related but distinct concepts in digital commerce. PIM is a process for managing, organizing and maintaining product information in a central repository.
On the other hand, the goal of PCM is to store product content in a centralized database and make it available across multiple channels, including websites, mobile apps, print materials and more.
In summary, PIM focuses on managing product information, while PCM concerns digital assets such as images, videos, and product descriptions.
Yes, you can outsource product catalog management to a third-party vendor. The provider will oversee tasks such as data entry, data standardization and data distribution across channels.
Outsourcing can benefit businesses that lack the resources or expertise to manage their product information in-house — and lets business owners offload the tedium of keeping up with ever-changing SEO best practices.