You take great pride in the products you sell. And why shouldn’t you? If you’re a manufacturer, you’ve made a significant investment in the development of your goods. And if you’re a reseller, you’ll have spent plenty of time and money researching and stocking up.

Your product catalog is a reflection of your business. You should be in control of that.

It’s vital for the survival of your business that you can connect this catalog (and your brand) with customers. That means effectively marketing your products and providing comprehensive information about them through a wide variety of channels — wherever your buyers are shopping.

But achieving this is easier said than done. Communicating with different audiences, sourcing data, managing integrations, and ensuring consistency adds up to a serious workload.

To make this manageable, you need to ask yourself: what level of control is right for your business? Once you know how to present product information in a way that resonates with your buyers, you’ll be able to prioritize efforts and spend. Failing to get this right could be costly.

Here’s how you can stay in control of your product story.

Why it’s important to maintain control

Consider the vast amount of user-generated content (UGC) found on social media, review sites, and shopping platforms. Because you don’t own these channels, information around your products could become skewed or inaccurate. To complicate matters further, if your products are listed outside of owned channels, they could be directing your buyers straight to competitors.

Take Amazon for example. This is a business that has incredible product information management capabilities. The platform is able to control millions of different pieces of product information and algorithmically deliver the right data to the right people and, ultimately, get them to make a purchase.

But allowing Amazon to become the primary source for your products is risky, especially if you sell premium products. If your customers find relevant information quicker and easier on Amazon than they do on your channels, you may lose them for good. After all, customers browsing the platform can click through to a suggested product in the blink of an eye, and that could well be a competitor’s.

Selling primarily through platforms also diminishes your view of your customers. It can mean you lose the opportunity to build a picture of them and create personalized experiences that keep them coming back for more.

Customer loyalty is at stake. It’s vital that you create a rich shopping experience for your customers — with accurate and up-to-date information at the core.

Making the right choices for happier customers

The question is, how can you achieve such a high level of control over your product data, considering just how complex the omnichannel shopping environment is currently?

The first decision to make is an architectural one. Obviously, centralizing as much product information as possible will make your job easier. However, each type of data will require a specialized system. For example, catalog data should be managed in a product information management (PIM) system, and product-related marketing content in a Content Hub. Be sure to choose solutions that allow easy, quick, and secure access to information.

The second decision is your choice of core Experience Platform, which will be your key tool for delivering product information in the most relevant and easy-to-consume experience. This platform should also connect to those tools just mentioned, allowing you to link the whole experience. You will want to be able to connect to commerce platforms (like Sitecore Commerce Cloud), your content hub, and other third-party systems for UGC and other related content.

Making the right decisions at this point will not only make managing your product information easier, but also dramatically enhance the customer experience. Having the right data management systems in place will help you deliver the right product information to the right people at the right time. Your goal should be helping customers discover features, pricing, options, and product descriptions as quickly and easily as possible.

When you’re able to achieve this, and interact positively with customers before, during, and after their purchases, you’ll be well-placed to generate lasting loyalty.

A multi-brand's retail success story

Sitecore Experience Platform™ (XP) and Sitecore Experience Commerce (XC) used together have already helped household brand names improve their online shopping experience. Even complicated ecosystems made up of multiple brands and sites can be managed effectively.

We recently shared the success story of Caleres, a business that used Sitecore XP and Sitecore XC to manage their products and sell them across 13 of its retailer websites, including Famous Footwear’s web experience.

The implementation needed to support nearly 400,000 different items with near real-time inventory information across all their stores nationwide. Customers can browse for product, look up prices, check availability at a given store, and make purchases. Searching was also simplified providing many easy ways for customers to find the exact shoes that they want.

Previously, managing such a catalog across multiple platforms was an unwieldy challenge. Now, with their websites on a single platform, Caleres teams have been freed up to really add value to the shopping journey — taking advantage of personalization, A/B testing, and data-driven optimization.

The Caleres brand used to be solely a transactional shoes company. Now, with the help of Sitecore, they’re differentiating themselves by providing their customers with integrated digital experiences, and saving a lot of time and hassle internally as well. It’s a win for the business, and a win for their customers.

To find out more about creating outstanding digital commerce experiences, explore our solutions for commerce.

Pieter Brinkman is Senior Director of Technical Marketing at Sitecore, overseeing global strategy for its developer ecosystem, technical enablement of partners and technical employees, GTM strategies, and Sitecore’s sales demos.