Product Catalog Management: What, Why, Who and How
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:
1. Product Catalogs: The Beginnings
Even though catalogs have been around for many centuries (with the first ever published in Venice in the year 1498), it was only around one and a half centuries ago (1894) when printed product catalogs started getting discovered by companies that sold manufactured goods to end-customers. Gradually from listing products to adding a bit of context to the product was introduced to involve the customers further. By the 1960s-70s, product catalogs had started being printed in a massive way. In the 1980s lifestyle products to apparel manufacturers that wanted to tell a story and speak to the customers on their turf started heavy use of catalogs that went along with their brick-and-mortar store displays. Gradually catalogs for different product lines and brands started getting printed to empower the customer even more.
It was only during the late 1990s-2000s, when the eCommerce rush began, that it generated opportunities for established brick-and-mortar organizations to develop into click-and-mortar organizations. Fast forward to the present. Big retail brands are thriving on sophisticated product catalogs. They contain not just every aspect of the product information but user-generated information in terms of reviews and recommendations, communities on social media websites, and an entire ecosystem to engage customers.
2. What Is Product Catalog?
According to Gartner Product Catalogs “Contains all commercial product information that enables product marketing managers to define and map new product offerings. This encompasses certain sets of tools that allow configuration of new products and service bundles, pricing and discounts.”
A Product catalog can be defined as a marketing collateral that populates products and essential details related to products to help customers make a buying decision. The product details could be about product descriptions, price, features, weight, dimensions, color, availability, technical details, customer reviews and ratings, and so on.
3. What is Product Catalog Management?
Product Catalog Management (PCM) is the process of aggregating and managing detailed product catalogs across multiple divisions, organizations, and geographies. It is to do with creating and maintaining product descriptions and hierarchies, enabling product categorization, updating prices, managing inventory levels, and streamlining the ordering process. It presents a consistent view in front of the customers and enables a favourable environment for cross-selling and up-selling.
i. PCM’s Emergence, Evolution and Present
Product Catalog Management emerged as a system that online retail companies successfully adopted and started using to manage their e-catalogs to offer customer convenience and enjoy first mover advantage. However, sooner this became a default way to standardize product information and penetrate markets across geographies. Then came when social media entered the picture, and brands started offering consumers curated catalogs based on their preferences and past activity and focusing on turning buying into a ‘social shopping experience.’
Today, the world is driven by high-end tech, where brands connect with consumers on multiple channels and devices. From AI-enabled software, native apps, and mobile apps, to Internet of Things (IoT) powered smart devices—product catalog management has become synonymous with displaying dynamic, comprehensive, structured, up-to-the-minute product information in an omnichannel environment.
ii. What is an Enterprise Catalog Management Platform
An enterprise catalog management platform is a technology platform that consolidates and organizes eCommerce product information into a unique, digital record (i.e., a product list) that lets businesses and buyers interact. A catalog management platform is uniquely placed to enrich product information records by enabling product information edits and modification, ensuring that product data quality stays intact. A typical product catalog management platform:
- Enables the creation of an electronic catalog.
- Has a product search and filter capability.
- Has categorizations that classify and arrange products and product families.
- Has features to edit/update/rearrange product details.
- Has tracking and storage capability of product and customer data.
- Maintains product prices across geographical locations across the globe.
4. Biggest Challenges in Product Catalog Management?
One of the biggest and trickiest challenges in Product Catalog Management is of integrating various systems in an enterprise environment. Also, heterogeneity can pose a challenge when it comes to data, its procurement process, and protocols. For instance, data processes that are not automated can become a problem.
Also, suppliers can face challenges in: publishing catalogs on their enterprise interface, accepting queries to permit suitable product configurations, and accepting valid orders for products.
Some of the Chief Product Catalog Management Challenges Are Listed Below:
- Arranging and organizing a whole lot of products from various sources and weaving a consistent view for the customer.
- Workflow management of complex products might need an entire set of business processes to be undertaken first.
- Creating product ‘bundles’ that might have dependencies or constraints among them.
- Looking out for dependencies that occur because of existing products and services already present in the inventory.
- Interfacing with 3rd party suppliers and vendors for order querying, processing, and fulfillment.
- Denoting dependencies as rules and propagating them among various levels of service offerings.
- Incompatibility in the supplier interfaces due to separate terminology, data models, and processes.
- Disparities in evaluating rules employed by the suppliers.
5. Why Do You Need Product Catalog Management?
Product catalogs management is designed to enable data-driven interactions across multiple devices and touchpoints and extensible eCommerce web services. PCM’s main function is to describe products to potential buyers.
Some of the Chief Reasons Why Product Catalog Management Is Needed Are:
- Stores and Organizes information: The biggest challenge for teams spread across geographies and time zones is to be able to collaborate. And PCM offers an excellent way to organize and store information, ensure timely updates, and retrieve information from CMSes.
- Seamless information Flow: Information flow among internal and external teams, such as product marketing and sales, customer service teams, vendors and suppliers, agencies, etc., can happen freely. They can be on the same page and exchange information seamlessly.
- Faster Selling: Sales and marketing professionals can save time by tracking campaigns, analyzing performances, distributing catalogs, and bringing products to the market faster to generate sales while also gauging product performances.
- Quality Conversion: One of the end goals of product catalog management is to facilitate a quality conversion. By accelerating the process of product discovery, it allows time to build contextualized and personalized communication with clients, ensuring quality conversions.
- Outstanding User Experiences: Product catalogs management offers customers compellingly designed product information showcasing every important detail, user reviews in the form of text and media, to make for outstanding user experiences.
6. Who Needs Product Catalog Management?
Product Catalog management eases the job of various departments across the enterprise hierarchy but primarily affects customer-facing departments.
- Inside Sales and Sales representatives: Use product catalog management and its functions to present persuasive information to customers. Using a PCM system helps them connect and communicate effectively and confidently with prospective customers.
- Warehouse and Store personnel: By having accurate information displayed through PCM systems, store and warehouse personnel can double-check and keep an eye on the inventory levels and order refills accordingly.
- On-site Marketers: They make use of PCM to give live product demonstrations and answer customer queries. They can even request customized catalogs from the back office to cater to customers’ real-time needs and demands.
- Suppliers: Suppliers get their own interface and process model for products enabling them to interact with an enterprise catalog management system; they use it to publish products and accept queries and valid orders.
- Partners and agencies: A variety of external partners, from resellers, agencies, and vendors, depend on product catalog management systems to keep track of the products and services they add value to.
7. Catalog Management Best Practices
Best catalogs are the ones that are created keeping the best interest of the business in mind. However, a few common things among all of them are that they aim to enhance customer experiences that strengthen the sales process while helping customers to choose seamlessly.
Some of the Best Practices in Catalog Management Are:
- Deploying a Robust PIM: PIM systems centralize product data, keeping it in its best version so that it can be consistently disseminated across multiple channels and platforms. The scalability and flexibility a PIM offers are tailor-made for PCM.
- Tagging and Categorization: Lucid tagging of products and product lines for customers and ensuring that the attributes are clearly stated in the tags and categorization is a must for any PCM to succeed.
- Mapping PCM Process: Every product catalog needs to clearly understand which parts are to be worked on by which (internal or external) stakeholder at what time and when those changes are going to show up in the process.
- Managing eCommerce Product Database: From maintaining a single source of truth to assigning roles, responsibilities, and authority in the data flow to examining the possibility of expanding the database, it is all about relentless database optimization.
- Catalog Personalization: To control certain aspects of the catalog, as businesses sometimes want to showcase separate contents (such as price according to time or situation) to separate customers, catalog personalization is necessary.
8. Key Benefits of Product Catalog Management
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 PCM Are:
i. Build Sophisticated Catalogs Quickly
PCM systems enable the creation of sophisticated catalogs that are not just easily navigable and searchable but are highly intuitive and interactive in filtering products that customers seek. Along with the product, a variety of related products and recommendations based on their behavior and history are presented to them. Besides, as the world of AI takes over, catalogs can already be found through social media, image and voice search to offer highly curated results to customers. In this, PCM plays an extremely important role in bringing several distinct technologies and systems together and presenting the best in front of the customer.
ii. Fast and Easy Publishing
By publishing flawlessly optimized product listings on a variety of channels and marketplaces (like Amazon, Walmart, Facebook, eBay, Google shopping, etc.) PCM systems empower businesses to disseminate consistent information and make quick updates, with all the necessary workflow approvals and checks in place. PCM’s unique ability to manage the publication of large quantities of product information to multiple recipients in complying with every channel's custom business rules and policies is another advantage. Also, publishing comes with customized, localized marketing and campaign needs, for which PCM is tailor-made.
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 smooth scaling into new and diverse markets; this helps businesses sell seamlessly, leaving out any manual processes or the need for custom development.
- 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
9. How to Choose the Right PCM System?
To choose the right Product Catalog Management system, the first thing to think of is that the system must match the businesses’ current technology stack and requirements in terms of business size, product catalog complexity, scalability, flexibility, cost considerations, and the resources needed to manage it. Using a PIM-powered catalog can help businesses chart their route to high growth and productivity. From gathering and consolidating all product information to enriching and managing, syndicating and automating real-time information PIM ensures that product catalogs are easily maintained and validated effortlessly. PIM also ensures that any new information enters the system automatically goes through a validation process according to business rules, strengthening business-supplier relations.
However, some of the essential qualities that must exist in a catalog management system are:
- Easy creation of electronic catalogs
- High-end search and filter capability
- Sophisticated categorization options for organizing product
- Editing, updating, and enriching product descriptions and information
- Tracing and collecting customer information
- Maintenance of both local and global product listings
- Effortless Integration with various systems such as payment gateways, CMS, accounting software, etc
10. 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 it in 40+ languages for disseminating it 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.