Abandon your idea of building eCommerce product catalogues.
It's a dead thing!

A big challenge for most ecommerce businesses is building and managing their product catalogue. Today’s customers demand rich, consistent, rich customer experiences and the product catalogue is an essential part of it. If the catalogue isn’t up to their standards, the customer won’t buy from your store. Here are some of the reasons you need to abandon building your product catalogue. 

What Is eCommerce Product Catalogues Management? 

Let’s start from the beginning and define what eCommerce product catalogues are and how they are typically managed. 

eCommerce product catalogue management is the strategic process of managing, updating and optimizing your product SKUs to ensure the quality of your product data across sales channels. This is where product information management comes in. The process involves how eCommerce businesses organize, standardize and publish their product data to sales channels. 

Why Product Catalogues Management is challenging 

eCommerce catalogues seem simple enough – just maintain a single catalogue of all the products you sell. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are the reasons why it is difficult. 

Multiplicity of Product Types: SKU management is more complex when you have several products. There can be Matrix, Variance, Product Options for a family of products. These can vary by attributes like size and/or color. For instance, shirts must have related SKUs for multiple sizes, colors and fit. Individual products, such as bikes that can be assembled might have corresponding SKUs for parts and accessories. It gets complicated with unique items that have a serial number such as diamonds or collectibles. Essentially, the point being made is that it is hard to manage the parent child relationships with product types such as these. 

Multiple Channel Retail: Customizing the product catalogue for multiple sales channels is challenging. It needs complex data transformation to adapt the product information to different formats. Fail your business fails to do this, you could fail to meet the listing requirements of the sales channel or publish incomplete information. 

Customer-specific Pricing: The price of the product can vary depending on who is buying. A common practice in B2B selling, there are specific pricing sheets for an individual or groups of customers. 

Third-Party Product Data Normalization: Normalizing product data from a plethora of sources to meet the internal requirements of your business is tedious and time consuming. 

When you eCommerce platform limits your growth 

More often than not, the commerce platform’s rigid catalogue structure has brands adhering to what the technology dictates. Two decades ago, most eCommerce businesses would create their product catalogues by ingesting product SKUs directly from the ERP. This is the reason most product catalogues support just this rigid structure – they were built this way. 

ERPs weren’t built to support the experiences customers want. They were built to support business processes, both internal and external. Virtually all commerce platforms, even after all this time, follow this rigid catalogue structure which has hardly changed. 

To mitigate this problem, eCommerce businesses have created workarounds, complex integrations, data replication workflows and more. When the business wants to adapt its customer experience based on a new product offering or a flash sale, these workarounds become a hassle. The result is delayed, inconsistent and poor customer experience that dampens revenue. 

As shopper journeys become more distributed and complex, the lines between service, marketing, and commerce are blurring. At the same time, customer expectations are rising, with 86% of consumers saying the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services.  

Why is Building a Good Customer Experience Imperative? 

As we mentioned earlier, product information is an integral part of customer experience. It affects everything, right from your eCommerce store’s SEO to the site’s navigation – these aspects give your customers the confidence to buy from you. The product catalogue serves as the foundation for superior customer journeys and experiences. 

It’s an undeniable fact, 90% of business buyers and 84% of consumers expecting consistent experiences across touchpoints. 

Most customers often don’t know what they are looking for exactly. They need help finding the right product. The reality is that your customers don’t want to waste time searching too hard. Your product catalogue serves as a roadmap for your customers to find and purchase what they want. A recent study by Baymard on site search queries revealed that “61% of sites require their users to search by the exact same product type jargon the site uses, failing to return all relevant products for a search.” 

This is a turn off for customers as it doesn’t lead them to the right product results. eCommerce businesses need to reduce the time it takes for a user to navigate to a product they want. When you have a large product catalogue, customers will need help in narrowing down their choices to exactly what they want. If your product catalogue and its attributes are a mess, you won’t be able to organize and categorize your products for users in a way that is intuitive. 

Once your customer finds a product, your need to take her to a detailed product page. This page will need a mix of benefits and features, anticipating any questions a user might have while making the purchase. For instance, if you the product in question is a shirt, provide the buyer with rich content about each product attribute such as the size, color, visuals, fit descriptions, reviews and more. Giving the prospective buyer this experience ensures the customer knows exactly what they are going to get. 

In essence, your product catalogue fuels the customer experience. 

Ready for Multi touchpoint, Multichannel Retail? 

A mismanaged product catalogue can restrain the growth of the business. Integrating new channels and suppliers? These simple strategies can seem overwhelming when you can’t handle product catalogues, seamlessly. Business will need a better way forward. 

The Challenge of Mastering your Product Data 

Commerce businesses often turn to their platform or an Excel spreadsheet to master their products catalogues. If your SKUs or basic or limited, you can probably get away with this – at least for a while. While this tool set may allow you to upload, bulk edit product attributes publish to one or two channels, it is limited. 

As you grow, you will start finding these tools aren’t enough and they have several constrains. Formatting and editing the catalogue will rob you of time, and it will become harder to keep things in order. When there are thousands of products coming in from disparate sources across industries, the information will require extensive normalization. The problem becomes even more severe when you if want to publish catalogues across multiple sales challenges. 

To overcome these challenges, businesses will need a well-structured Product Information Management (PIM) workflow to handle their products catalogues. 

How to Fix Your Product Catalogue: No more DIY 

It’s tough to overcome these challenges. That is why some digital commerce businesses settle for subpar product catalogues. However, it is something that must be done well and done the right way because selling online is competitive and your product catalogue matters. 

There is a better alternative to this antiquated, rigid approach. The first step is to decompose all the parts that make up a product and catalogue experience. Then allowing the eCommerce business to create product and merchandizing experiences easily, when they want and how they want, without relying on any complex workarounds. 

Microservices for the Win 

The million-dollar question is how can this be done? Each component of the catalogues needs to be isolated into its own set of microservices. Architected this way, the individual components of the product catalogue can be managed separately. eCommerce businesses can create any combination of products they want using flexible hierarchies.  

To illustrate the point, a Price Lists Microservice can be managed separately from the Product Information Management Microservice. This can enable digital commerce businesses to create multiple pricing strategies, such as support for loyalty pricing. In just a few clicks, a catalogue experience can be composed, based off offers, promotions, price lists tailored to their targeted customers. 

Say goodbye to complex catalogues with Concord 

The powerful combination of Microservices, APIs, the Cloud and Headless Commerce provides digital commerce businesses with flexibility. Tech and business leaders alike need the agility of being able to swap out different components of their platform. In real life, there are no silver bullets when it comes to technology. It’s time to shift to Concord Commerce. Get in touch with us to know more. 

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