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Ecosystem

Nov 22, 2022

5 min to read

What is a Digital Product Catalog for eCommerce?

A digital product catalog is an interactive listing of all of your products that’s hosted on a website, like a digital brochure, and allows your organization to create a truly omnichannel experience.

Keywords

customer experience management

eCommerce

omnichannel commerce

product experience management

PXM

There’s nothing quite like cracking open a fresh, print catalog. 

The colorful images. The leisurely flipping of pages. That new-catalog smell. It’s enough to inspire even the toughest customer to consider a purchase. 

Yet the digital transformation is here, and eCommerce sales are on the rise, even for industries that traditionally operated with print catalogs only. The Granite Group, a wholesale distributor and Akeneo customer, says its eCommerce share of sales was about 20% in 2021—well above industry standards.

What’s a traditional, print-catalog business to do? 

The good news is that print catalogs aren’t going anywhere. They’ll remain integral to many sales processes, but they’ll need to be supplemented with digital product catalogs. The even better news is that you can use digital catalog software for both print and eCommerce, creating an omnichannel strategy that keeps up with the times. 

 

What is a Digital Product Catalog?

A digital product catalog is an interactive listing of all of your products that’s hosted on a website, like a digital brochure. The most basic type will allow customers to browse and see product information. More advanced digital catalogs also allow customers or sales reps to:

  • Make purchases directly through the website
  • Search for what they want
  • Compare items based on features and price point
  • Filter items by desired attributes
  • Watch videos or see 3D models

On the business side, there are lots of potential features that make it easy to create a digital catalog and see its benefits:

  • Easily create custom and shared catalogs 
  • Update product information
  • Track and manage your sales
  • Optimize for mobile and other new channels

Digital product catalogs weren’t always so packed with functionality. Back when the internet was just getting started, digital catalog creation might have involved simply uploading scanned PDFs of your print catalog. We’ve come a long way. 

 

How a Digital Product Catalog Can Benefit Your Business

No matter your industry or vertical, business success starts with customer experience. Your customers may be sales reps or distributors, but the story remains the same: Providing a seamless, immersive buying experience via a digital catalog helps move your customers more quickly from discovery to purchase. 

What if you don’t have a digital product catalog? Or, what if your catalog is very basic, like that early-2000s scanned PDF version? The truth is that you could fall behind the competition.  

We’ve all heard the story about how the human attention span is only 8 seconds, which is shorter than a goldfish’s. It isn’t exactly accurate, but studies have shown that our attention spans are indeed getting shorter. 

There’s no telling your customers’ exact attention spans, but chances are if they head to your website and can’t find exactly what they’re looking for, they’ll bounce—and they’ll do so quickly. But give customers the product information they want, when they want it, where they want it with an easy-to-use digital catalog, and you’ll create loyalty for a lifetime. 

Digital catalogs aren’t just for customers and sales reps. They also allow manufacturers, retailers, and their internal teams to have a single source of truth when it comes to product information. With digital catalog software, your catalog can automatically update product information so that everyone is on the same page. And that has big benefits for your business, including: 

  • Increasing agility. Print catalogs can take six months to a year to update. That dramatically affects your product release schedule and your time-to-market. If you operate in print or even in a basic digital catalog, you may wait to release new products. When you create a modern digital catalog, you can release your products whenever they’re ready—helping you stay agile and keep up with the competition. 
  • Streamlining operations. Digital catalog software ensures your engineering, product, sales, and marketing teams are all working with the same information, and the benefits are immeasurable. You’ll make fewer mistakes. You’ll communicate better. And you’ll always know the status of your products. 
  • Offloading inventory. Because print catalogs are time-consuming, many businesses only create one or two versions. With digital product catalog software, you can easily create as many versions or layouts as you want. The best idea? Create a catalog for old and surplus inventory you want to offload. Customers get a deal, and you get to focus on the future. 

The bottom line: Digital catalogs aren’t just good for business—they’re the future of business. Are you ready to get on board?

 

Digital Catalog Creation: The Basics

Learning how to create a digital catalog can seem overwhelming. You have thousands of SKUs. Incredibly detailed product specifications. A global network of manufacturers and sales people. But that’s exactly what digital catalog software is for.

Choose your software

The first step is always to choose your digital catalog software. This is your central system for inputting data, organizing product information, and creating your catalog.  There are various tools and price points available, but the more features you have, the better. Videos and 3D models are becoming must-haves, and you’ll definitely want to provide the ability to search, filter, and compare. 

Input your data

The biggest barrier to digital catalog creation is often the sheer amount of data. This is another area where catalog design software comes to the rescue. Digital catalog creators like Akeneo Product Cloud allow you to easily input raw data from many different sources, including spreadsheets and product data management software. You can combine, enhance, and refine data until you have a complete and accurate description for every product. 

Create a tagging system

Even the most basic digital catalogs today allow customers to sort, filter, and search products. Product tagging is the foundation of these features. First you’ll need to categorize your products by function, size, type, and so on. Then you’ll tag each product so they can be found based on these attributes. Again, digital catalog software can help you automate this process.

Sync your channels

Using the same SKU, model number, and name for each product, across all of your channels, is essential to avoid confusion among both customers and your employees. From in-store to your website to your print catalog, consistent information makes it easier to find what you’re looking for. Your software should do this automatically. 

If you don’t have a digital catalog, it’s time to bring your business into the future. And if you do have one, you might want to take another look and consider if it’s providing all the features you need. Because your digital product catalog shouldn’t just list your products—it should provide an immersive, seamless customer experience that encourages conversion. 

At Akeneo, we’re experts at digital catalog creation, product information management (PIM), and customer experience, and we have industry-leading software that allows you to take advantage of that expertise. Start your free trial and let’s see how we can help. 

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