Product Catalog Management: A Deep Dive

Product Catalogs have long been known to involve users in a story they represent; a story about a storefront and all the best it has to offer. But scratch the surface a bit, and you will find that it’s much more than placing product information in a structured and consistent manner. Instead, building product catalogs is about bringing lots of distinct pieces together. It enables sales teams, enterprise partners, and end customers to access products, services, and offerings; it is about comparing and viewing product details in a simple and straightforward way.

And today’s electronic catalogs propelled by big eCommerce ships are all about presenting information in real-time, which is as dynamic as it can get. But how did we get here? It was surely not achieved in a short period. Here’s tracing the journey of product catalogs to understand what they are all about.

 

What You’ll Learn From This Insight:

I.     Defining Catalog Management?

II.    Product Catalog Management Software Types

III.   Biggest Challenges in Product Catalog Management?

IV.   Importance of catalog management software for enterprises

V.    Some of the Main benefits of PCM

VI.   How can Catalog Management Improve Business?

VII.  Who Needs Product Catalog Management?

VIII. Catalog Management Best Practices

IX.   Pimcore Use Case

I. Defining Catalog Management?

Catalog Management pertains to the creation and management of hierarchies of specific items (product or services) under various groups and categories for the purposes of selling, maintenance, or partnership-based selling. It brings together multiple characteristics and specifications that describe those specific items. Catalogs facilitate the ease of comparing and perusing items in a clear and uncomplicated manner.
 

i.    What is Product Catalog?
A product catalog is a marketing tool that showcases products along with their pertinent details, aiding customers in making informed purchasing decisions. These details encompass product descriptions, pricing, features, weight, dimensions, color options, availability, technical specifications, customer reviews, ratings, and more.
 

ii.    What is Product Catalog Management?
Product Catalog Management (PCM) involves the consolidation and oversight of comprehensive product catalogs across various divisions, organizations, and geographical locations. This process encompasses the creation and upkeep of detailed product descriptions and hierarchies, facilitating product categorization, price updates, inventory level management, and the optimization of the ordering process. PCM ensures a uniform presentation to customers, fostering an environment conducive to effective cross-selling and up-selling initiatives.   
 

iii.    What is Enterprise product Catalog Management?
An enterprise catalog management platform refers to a technological framework that consolidates and arranges eCommerce product information into a singular digital repository, essentially forming a product list that facilitates interactions between businesses and buyers. This platform stands out in its ability to enhance product information records by allowing for edits and modifications, thereby ensuring the preservation of product data quality. The typical features of a product catalog management platform include:

  • Facilitating the creation of an electronic catalog
  • Providing product search and filter capabilities
  • Incorporating categorizations for the classification and organization of products and product families
  • Offering features for editing, updating, and rearranging product details
  • Providing tracking and storage capabilities for both product and customer data
  • Maintaining consistency in product prices across various geographical locations globally

iv.    Print vs. eCatalog
Printed catalogs refer to catalogs that are physically imprinted onto paper sheets for the purpose of personally presenting them to customers. Printed catalogs have traditionally been recognized for immersing customers in business offerings through their enchanting look, feel, and texture. Printed catalogs are considered to have paved the way for eCatalogs. 

eCatalogs, on the other hand, can be browsed virtually on a web interface and shared with customers over the internet. Since eCatalogs are powered by significant software platforms, they prioritize real-time information presentation, which adds a dynamic dimension to them. However, eCatalogs have still not eliminated the need for a physical catalog entirely. 

II. Product Catalog Management Software Types

i.    Cloud-based PCM

In a cloud-based PCM the product catalog management system is deployed on an off-site server provided by 3rd party infrastructure providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), etc. It offers excellent scalability and flexibility and great options to customize the catalog in accordance with the dynamic needs of the business. While the capex is significantly contained in an on-cloud PCM, security, data ownership, and compliance navigation in a global scenario can get complicated.   
 

ii.    On-premises PCM

In an on-premises PCM, the product catalog management system is deployed on the customer’s own on-site servers in their physical locations. In this case, the entire responsibility for the storage and hardware maintenance, integration, and upkeep rests with the enterprise. Though it offers firm control and high security over enterprise data, the capex (including the license fee) and opex can be high. Scalability and flexibility may not be so easily achievable in an on-premises PCM due to cost considerations.

iii.    Open-source PCM

Open-source PCM are flexible, scalable, customizable, and secure (due to their community support) and come with the lowest upfront cost of deployment due to no license fee. They can be easily implemented and integrated with a range of software to build synergies. The only challenges with open-source PCM are that they might require a highly trained staff to carry out necessary customizations and may sometimes lack the latest features and functionalities.      
 

iv.    SaaS-based PCM

SaaS-based PCM software comes with a plug-and-play implementation and is entirely managed by the software provider; businesses can always enjoy the latest version of the software at all times through the internet from any location. Right from deployment, maintenance to security, every aspect is handled by the software provider. The software is poised for optimal performance. However, the flexibility and customizations can take a back seat as the software cannot be tailored.  
 

III. Biggest Challenges in Product Catalog Management?

One of the most significant and complex challenges in Product Catalog Management lies in the integration of various systems within an enterprise environment. Additionally, dealing with heterogeneity poses challenges in terms of data, procurement processes, and protocols. For instance, non-automated data processes can become problematic. Suppliers may also encounter challenges such as publishing catalogs on their enterprise interface, responding to queries for appropriate product configurations, and accepting valid orders for products.

Below are some of the key challenges in product catalog management:

  • Organizing and structuring a wide array of products from diverse sources to present a cohesive view for the customer.
  • Managing the workflow of complex products, which may require the execution of a comprehensive set of business processes.
  • Creating product ‘bundles’ with potential dependencies or constraints among them.
  • Identifying dependencies stemming from existing products and services already present in the inventory.
  • Collaborating with third-party suppliers and vendors for order querying, processing, and fulfillment.
  • Defining dependencies as rules and disseminating them across various levels of service offerings.
  • Dealing with incompatibilities in supplier interfaces due to distinct terminology, data models, and processes.
  • Addressing disparities in evaluating rules employed by the suppliers.

IV. Importance of catalog management software for enterprises

Efficient product catalog management enables businesses to quickly adapt to changing market trends, expand their reach to new audiences, and gain a competitive edge. By providing accurate and up-to-date product information, businesses can enhance customer trust, optimize operational efficiency, and leverage personalized marketing strategies. In an era where digital presence and customer expectations continually evolve, PCM has swiftly evolved into a standard method for the standardization of product information and market penetration across various geographical regions. Subsequently, with the advent of social media, brands have begun curating catalogs tailored to consumers’ preferences and past activities, emphasizing the transformation of purchasing into a ‘social shopping experience.’ It only helps brands that every social platform comes with its own demographically defined set of users. And with the digital disruption brought by AI and NLP technologies, automated catalogs have turned the tide in favor of enterprises, as capabilities such as decreased workload, reduced likelihood of human discrepancies, personalized recommendations via algorithms, impeccable user experience, and quick customizations are all within enterprise reach.

V. Some of the Main benefits of PCM

Among the most significant advantages of a catalog today is the ‘infiniteness’ associated with it. Apart from standardizing information from multiple systems and organizing product data across networks and devices, PCM lays out boundless, structured, comprehensive, up-to-the-minute product information in front of customers. Some of the chief benefits associated with it are:  

i.    Elegant, Data-driven Catalogs 
PCM systems empower the development of advanced catalogs that go beyond mere navigability and searchability, offering a highly intuitive and interactive experience for customers when filtering products. Alongside the main product, customers are presented with a diverse range of related products and recommendations based on their past behavior and history. Furthermore, with high-end data integration and software interactivity, catalogs can now be accessed through social media, image searches, and voice searches, providing customers with highly curated results. In this context, PCM plays a pivotal role in effortlessly integrating various technologies and systems, ensuring the presentation of the finest options to the customer.     
 

ii.    Quick and Seamless Publishing
Through the seamless publication of impeccably optimized product listings across diverse channels and marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, Facebook, eBay, Google Shopping, and more, PCM systems empower businesses to ensure the consistent dissemination of information and facilitate swift updates. These updates are executed with a comprehensive workflow that includes necessary approvals and checks. A distinct advantage of PCM lies in its unparalleled capacity to handle the publication of extensive product information to multiple recipients, adhering meticulously to the unique business rules and policies of each channel. Moreover, PCM excels in addressing customized and localized marketing and campaign requirements associated with the publishing process, showcasing its tailor-made capabilities.
 

iii.    Smooth Maintenance and Scaling
Enterprises usually operate multiple units, where every unit comprises expansive product portfolios often maintained in multiple product masters. PCM makes it extremely easy for catalog management teams to continuously work towards maintaining recency, reliability, and relevance of product data.  
PCM also facilitates high-end scalability that is fast and easy; it proves to be an extremely important element for growing businesses. In addition, modern-day PCM systems lead to flawless scaling into new and diverse markets; this helps businesses sell seamlessly, leaving out any manual processes or the need for custom development.   
 

iv.    AI-powered Inventory Management and Customer experience
AI powers tracking and managing inventory by ensuring product information accuracy, availability, and transparency in stock levels and syncing it across channels. With no manual intervention, high inventory visibility, efficiency, proactive optimization, and continuous analysis of previous data, forecasting, and aiding businesses in garnering insights, AI is proving to be an ally for inventory management.
Through AI-powered technologies such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning, the customer experience (CX) hasn’t remained the same. Tailored product recommendations, purchase history, preferences, and customized shopping experiences were there before, too, but with AI’s precision, the chances of conversion and repeat purchases have become really high.    
 

VI. How can Catalog Management Improve Business?

Product catalog management is built to improve businesses by facilitating flawless, data-driven interactions between customers and brands through any device or touchpoint for any eCommerce interaction. The primary role of PCM is to articulate product descriptions for potential buyers. Some of the key ways in which product catalog management enhances business are:

  • Information Organization: PCM addresses the significant challenge faced by teams spanning different geographies and time zones by providing an excellent framework for organizing and storing information. It ensures timely updates and facilitates the retrieval of data from content management systems (CMSes).
  • Excellent User Experiences: PCM enhances customer experiences by presenting compellingly designed product information that showcases every crucial detail, including user reviews in various formats such as text and media. This approach contributes to creating exceptional user experiences.
  • Seamless Information Flow: PCM fosters a smooth flow of information among internal and external teams, encompassing product marketing, sales, customer service, vendors, suppliers, and agencies. This promotes collaboration, ensuring all teams are on the same page and can exchange information seamlessly.
  • Accelerated Selling: Sales and marketing professionals benefit from PCM by saving time through tracking campaigns, analyzing performances, efficiently distributing catalogs, and swiftly bringing products to the market. This expeditious process aids in generating sales while simultaneously assessing product performances.
  • Quality Conversion: A fundamental objective of product catalog management is to facilitate quality conversions. By expediting the product discovery process, PCM allows sufficient time to build contextualized and personalized communication with clients, ensuring high-quality conversions.
     

VII. Who Needs Product Catalog Management?

i. Industries that Benefit from Product Catalog Management

Retail: Product catalog management is an integral part of retail businesses today; it structures, organizes, standardizes, and facilitates the publishing of product information in a meaningful and helpful manner for the customer. The biggest benefit of PCM is that it provides omnichannel experiences that enable seamless customer buying journeys while scaling the catalogs as per seasonal spikes in demands and weekend rushes, all while delivering hyper-personalized product experiences to users.         

eCommerce: Product catalog management provides the requisite capabilities on which the modern-day eCommerce industry thrives. PCM provides excellent support to eCommerce businesses for managing the dynamic demands and the sheer variety, volume, and velocity they have to navigate to reach their revenue generation, upselling, and cross-selling goals. PCM also underpins real-time data management and enables necessary processes and tools for impeccable product exposure and profits while aiding decision-making.    
 

Manufacturing: Manufacturers depend on product catalog management to consistently showcase products, establish authority, and stand out from the competition. High-quality, enriched product data, including product imagery, videos, specifications, availability, pricing, products manuals, and other technical and non-technical details, differentiates manufacturers from retailers and eCommerce businesses. PCM offers the right scalability to them in terms of the breadth and control over their assets that helps them innovate quickly and effortlessly. 
 

ii. Teams and Departments that Need PCM

By centralizing product information and automating processes, product catalog management empowers collaboration across the organization and with external partners, ultimately leading to a smoother customer experience and enhanced sales performance. Effective product catalog management acts as a central hub, simplifying tasks and improving communication for various departments:

Customer-Facing Teams: Sales and Inside Sales: Leverage accurate product information and persuasive descriptions to confidently engage customers and close deals.
On-Site Marketers: Deliver powerful product demonstrations, address customer inquiries, and tailor catalogs to meet specific needs in real-time.
 

Internal Operations: Warehouse and Store Personnel: Maintain accurate inventory levels and proactively trigger refills with a clear view of product data.
 

External Collaborators: Suppliers: Seamlessly publish products, manage inquiries, and process orders through a dedicated interface.
Partners and Agencies: Stay informed about relevant products and services they can integrate into their offerings.
 

VIII. Catalog Management Best Practices

i.    Key best practices 
Exceptional product catalogs aren’t simply lists of items; they’re meticulously crafted layouts designed to serve the best interests of both the business and the customer. While specific details may vary depending on the industry and target audience, the following best practices remain constant in all catalogs: 

  • Prioritize Customer Experience

At the heart of any successful catalog lies a singular focus on enhancing the customer journey. This means providing clear, concise, and accurate product information, showcasing items in an appealing way, and streamlining the buying process. Imagine a beautifully designed catalog with captivating product descriptions and high-quality images, making it easy for customers to find what they need and understand its value. Such a catalog becomes an interactive experience, fostering trust and engagement.

  • Harness the Power of PIM System

Product Information Management (PIM) systems are the de facto allies in catalog management. They act as a centralized hub for all product data, ensuring consistency and accuracy across multiple channels and platforms. Think of a PIM as a single, well-organized library containing all your product information, readily accessible to various departments and external partners. This scalability and flexibility empower businesses to manage even the most complex catalogs efficiently.

  • Right Tagging and Categorization

Just like a well-organized library relies on a clear classification system, effective catalogs thrive on meticulous tagging and categorization. This involves assigning relevant keywords and attributes to each product, making it effortlessly discoverable by customers. Imagine a clothing catalog where items are categorized by type, size, color, and material, along with additional tags like “eco-friendly” or “limited edition.” Such a system empowers customers to narrow down their choices quickly, saving them time and frustration.

  • Correctly mapping the PCM Process

Creating and maintaining a successful product catalog necessitates a well-defined workflow. This involves clearly outlining who is responsible for what task, at what stage, and how changes will be implemented. Think of a detailed map charting the journey of each product information, from initial creation to final publication. This ensures seamless collaboration among internal teams and external partners, preventing confusion and delays.

  • Optimizing the ever-evolving Database

The product catalog, much like a living organism, requires constant care and attention. This includes maintaining a single source of truth for all product information, assigning clear roles and responsibilities for data management, and regularly evaluating the database for optimization opportunities. Imagine a well-maintained garden where each plant receives the necessary care to thrive. Similarly, a well-optimized database empowers businesses to make informed decisions and ensure the catalog’s continued relevance.

  • Tailoring for Personalization

In today’s dynamic market, a one-size-fits-all approach rarely yields optimal results. This is where catalog personalization comes into play. Businesses can leverage technology to showcase different product selections or pricing structures to distinct customer segments. Imagine a website displaying a curated selection of baby products to new parents or offering special discounts to loyal customers. Such personalization fosters a sense of connection and value, ultimately driving sales and customer satisfaction.
 

ii. Oversights to Avoid while creating Product Catalogs

Unclear Objectives
Businesses sometimes overlook defining clear goals for their data catalogs. Therefore, clearly outlining objectives to provide purpose and guide implementation is must. Examples include improving of accessibility of data or applying data governance policies.

Data Quality Disregard
Not paying enough attention to data quality is a significant mistake in creating a product catalog management. Conducting a data audit before migration to ensure all data is correct and relevant, followed by maintaining data quality through regular audits and established guidelines is needed.

Poor Metadata Management Ensuring robust metadata management processes for understanding and organizing data is at the core of data management and hence PCM. Establishing clear metadata standards and regularly reviewing and updating them is necessary, as inaccuracy can cause ambiguities when it comes to data organization.

Insufficient Data Security
It is important to implement access controls and conduct regular security audits to avoid data breaches. Poor data security can lead to regulatory violations and damage business reputation. Informing the team on best practices and compliance with industry regulations is crucial.

Not Sticking to Frequent Updates
Frequently updating the data catalog to prevent technology and data from becoming outdated is critical as overlooking updates can impact catalog’s usability and reliability. A reliable timetable for regular updates must be adhered to.

Untrained Users
Untrained users will be unequipped to use data catalog features leading to ineffective utilization. User tutorials, workshops, or regular sessions to familiarize teams is must as only a well-trained team can maximize the benefits of the product data catalog.

• Building Overly Complicated Catalog
It is vital to keep catalogs simple for flawless CX and facilitate product accessibility and discoverability. Avoiding clutter free and unnecessarily complicated UI or unwarranted features is not only a waste of resources, but it can also test customers’ patience.

• Not Factoring Users Engagement Not factoring users’ engagement from the start must be avoided. Users must be made accustomed to the product data catalogs. Seeking their feedback, encouraging participation must be ingrained into the PCM creation process. This goes a long way in making the platform user-friendly tool.

 

IX. Pimcore Use Case

Pimcore Helped a global automotive manufacturing organization to generate printable price catalogs for their distributors and customers


The organization wanted a centralized PIM system to act as a single source of truth by consolidating and managing around 45K product SKUs and maintaining them in 40+ languages to disseminate them in 50+ countries across the globe. Earlier, the product information was kept in various systems like SAP, MS Excel and shared via emails. As a result, product data was lying with multiple users and existed in disparate systems. Digital assets were also shared manually.

Pimcore implemented a robust PIM and DAM platform to centralize, control, and manage product information and digital assets. Customized workflows were implemented, and digital assets were centralized for disseminating data in multiple international languages. 

As a result, a printable price list catalog was created for distribution in 30+ markets with information of 5000+ products on 300+ pages per catalog. It also involved managing marketing data, automated quality checks by implementing the approval process and ensured custom product data export based on complex transformation rules specific to consumers.
Pimcore reduced data retrieval time, improved data usability and viewability, and simplified the global management of assets. As a result, the business gained significantly in terms of customer experience and streamlining of operations.

“Product Catalog Management for the Retail Industry”
Read this whitepaper to understand the five ways in which a Product Information Management (PIM) system can be instrumental in creating excellent product catalogs, and put you on the path to success.
  • The Need for Immersive and Dynamic Product Cataloging 
  • Retailing at the Intersection of Commerce and Catalogs
  • 5 Ways PIM Contributes to Your Product Catalog Strategy  
  • Attain the Next Level in Business User Centricity for Your Data Catalog with PIM
     

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