What is e-commerce catalog management?

Learn how e-commerce catalog management can help you consistently present accurate product data across all sales channels.



Quick insight

B2B decision-makers believe self-service is more important to customers than traditional sales interactions — up from 48% before the pandemic, according to McKinsey.


Defining e-commerce catalog management

The very definition of a catalog is a complete list of items in some systematic order. In commerce, having this type of organization has been fundamental and effective to selling, and it certainly hasn't changed in the e-commerce era.

Combining the organization of catalogs with e-commerce management applications is known as e-commerce catalog management. The objective is to consistently present product data and messaging across all sales channels. It's a crucial customer-first sales strategy that can make or break merchants.

Over the years, you might have noticed that catalogs have evolved. They're more function than fashion. Remember the iconic, oversized Sears print catalogs? Today, we're finger-swiping through digital catalogs, and these catalogs can be spread across numerous platforms where we're met with bots or virtual concierges to keep us engaged with the brand.

But one thing hasn't changed from old-school print catalogs: Merchants must create and curate accurate product information to build a brand, attract customers, and provide a positive experience.

The method for tracking products also has evolved. It's gone from manually logging jillions of hand-written entries into ledgers, to typing into thousands of Excel spreadsheet cells, to out-of-the-box software platforms. Now, we're down to distilling mass volumes of inventory data with the click of a button.

All this, of course, underlines the need for a quality e-commerce catalog management system. It must organize, standardize, and publish product data in a specific way across sales channels.

It also must move the needle when it comes to what legacy e-commerce solutions provide. It must embrace the omnichannel experience and sell across multiple channels.

Manufacturers, wholesalers, or distributors should make sure their e-commerce catalog management systems accurately provide product names, descriptions, prices, hierarchy, suppliers, and other associated details while considering search engine optimization (SEO), site navigation, and consumer confidence. If possible, businesses should identify a product information management (PIM) system to streamline product catalogs and standardize data to suppliers.

For logistical purposes, it must manage catalogs for different audiences and track inventory across multiple channels. Oh yeah, it also must be available 24/7, adaptable, and scalable.


Why do you need e-commerce catalog management?

Just as in traditional old-school shopping, convenience is an integral part of an effective customer experience. Navigating the process successfully could mean expansion to new channels and new suppliers.

That means the buying process must be clear and offer intuitive navigation. It should be next-to-impossible to order incorrect products. You want brand loyalty because, as the old saying goes, you don't get a second chance to make a good first impression.

A customer who clicks away from your site and visits one of your competitors might never return. On a B2C level, losing a customer can be tough. Losing a B2B customer, which can be a high-volume supplier or retailer, can mean a substantial loss.

Poor catalog management can lead to imprecise or insufficient information on a product. This results in lost sales and a customer's hesitation to purchase. It also could mean more returns, which lead to slow and reverse revenue streams and can damage brand loyalty.

It’s also important to identify potential circumstances that might cause an industry disruption. Is the pandemic, and the variant, changing the way customers do business? Will they have to shop for apparel, cosmetics, or home furnishings through e-commerce? If so, it's important to ensure customers have all the relevant product details so they'll feel confident when making purchases.

The early stages of the pandemic have provided valuable lessons on supply-chain techniques and sales strategies. In 2020, McKinsey surveyed B2B decision-makers to determine how the pandemic impacted the e-commerce landscape. B2B decision-makers believe self-service is more important to customers than traditional sales interactions — up from 48% before the pandemic, according to McKinsey.


7 e-commerce catalog best practices

What are the best practices of e-commerce catalog management? Here are a few that stand out:

  • Map and manage the process: That means breaking down silos. Make sure internal and external stakeholders know the process of managing the catalog. Specify roles and authorization flows for database updates. When appropriate, make knowledge of the process an open-source proposition for wholesalers, or external stakeholders who might want to add products. Internal stakeholders need to understand the process for product descriptions and imaging and new stock-keeping units (SKU) documentation. Use SKUs to automate reorder point notifications and management to track real-time inventory counts.
  • Build and sustain trust: Customers should be comfortable shopping on your e-commerce site. Be sure the product has comprehensive and current information, such as technical specifications, images, videos, inventory availability, units of measure, and product applications.
  • Suggest associated and alternative products: We've all gone to check out at a brick-and-mortar retailer. Before you pull out the credit card to complete the transaction, products you might have forgotten or overlooked are within eyesight in the checkout area. It works the same way in an e-commerce environment. Customers should get choices or be encouraged to browse if they haven't found the exact product they seek. Don't be afraid to upsell and cross-sell with related and alternative products to increase average order value.
  • Be innovative: Potential customers can be unsure of what they want yet need comparisons to narrow their focus on a merchant's vast product selection. But at the same time, customers can be frustrated by e-commerce sites that insist on exact descriptions of products. This can be remedied by being innovative with more intelligent search queries, intuitive drop-down navigation, or interactive bots.
  • Properly categorize products: Customers want dynamic search and sorting filters to determine their choices. This means making sure all product descriptions and measurement units are tagged consistently.
  • Follow the same pillars of e-commerce for the modern world: Flexibility, scalability, omnichannel, integrations, and customizations are covered here.
  • Finally, don't forget the traditional catalog: Just because it's a print product and arrived via snail mail doesn't mean it's ineffective or outdated. The online and offline catalogs should complement each other. Make the offline catalog an easy-to-read reference overview guide for a broader understanding of the products in the online version. And vice-versa: Print catalogs should acknowledge their digital sibling with consistent branding, pricing, packaging, and QR codes to create an interactive experience.


How Sitecore can help

Choosing an e-commerce catalog management tool for your business can be tricky and time-consuming for any type of business. Sitecore Commerce offers comprehensive catalog management capabilities that users can manage product catalogs, update pricing, track and process orders, control inventory, or keep track of customer information.

Sitecore Commerce offers flexible options between a full-suite digital platform, Sitecore Experience Commerce®, and a composable commerce architecture, Sitecore OrderCloud®. Based on your business environment and needs, you can pick the best suitable commerce platform to take full control of catalog management.

To learn more about how Sitecore Commerce can help your e-commerce business, reach out to one of our experts.