How eCatalogs Can Enhance Customer Experience
In this Article
The primary goal of an eCommerce business is to increase sales by showcasing as many products as possible to the largest number of customers. Businesses need product catalogs to showcase their products in a searchable, informative, and attractive way. In other words, product catalogs are the foundation on which companies build sales strategies.
However, as the world increasingly goes digital, the place for print or physical product catalogs is narrowing; it may disappear soon. Instead, the new reality favors electronic or digital records, called eCatalogs. But why bother with the eCatalogs anyway; what do they do? This article explores this resource, focusing on how they help eCommerce businesses to enhance customer experience.
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What are eCatalogs?
An eCatalog is a catalog of a business’s products but only available as an electronic copy; so, you could say that the term is short for electronic catalog. But this does not get any closer to answering the question, what is an eCatalog?
First, let’s talk about catalogs. The Oxford Dictionary defines a catalog as a complete list of items. And it is not just an ordinary list because the one in a catalog typically has a systematic order. In eCommerce, a catalog is the list of items for sale, including all the relevant details about the items.
Catalogs have several benefits:
- They help provide detailed and accurate product information to prospective customers, enabling them to refine their purchasing decisions.
- They showcase the best features of products on sale, helping to improve brand credibility, business growth, and omnichannel presence.
- They reduce returns and increase sales by retailing the right customers and attracting new ones.
- Most importantly, product catalogs help eCommerce businesses manage product information across multiple platforms and channels, ensuring quality and consistency.
As you may recall, we said that eCatalogs are merely electronic versions of print product catalogs. Therefore, consider eCatalogs as everything we discussed catalogs, including the benefits. But the eCatalogs have additional features that make them more convenient and valuable to eCommerce businesses.
For example, eCatalogs have more technologically advanced features like interactive elements like zoomable product images, 360-degree product views, videos, customer reviews, and links to related products. Some eCatalogs also offer additional features like personalized recommendations based on user preferences and past purchases and the ability to add items to a shopping cart for easy checkout.
Types of eCatalogs
Let’s take a pause here and reflect on the types of eCatalogs. This is critical because the question of ‘type’ can be confusing when talking about this item, mainly because it refers to two different aspects. In other words, there are two different ways of categorizing eCatalogs.
Types of eCatalogs Based on Audience, Purpose, and Format
There are five main types of eCatalogs under this category:
- Product catalogs: These eCatalogs showcase a vendor’s products and services. It includes product details like title, description, price, links, and images. Since their primary purpose is to display products, these eCatalogs are designed to attract shoppers and facilitate online ordering and payment.
- Corporate catalogs: These display the details of a company, including its profile, vision, mission, achievements, values, history, and additional information that can enhance the company’s reputation and image. Such eCatalogs communicate the brand’s information with stakeholders like investors and potential partners.
- Punch-out catalogs: These eCatalogs facilitate business-to-customer (B2C) operations. A customer uses it to access the vendor’s product catalog from a different procurement system; this enables them (the customers) to accomplish processes like order placement without exiting their system. This way, the ordering process is more accurate and efficient because punch-out catalogs reduce errors.
- HTML catalogs: As the name suggests, these eCatalogs are published in the hypertext markup language (HTML) format. This is also the foundational format of content published on web pages. In other words, these eCatalogs are published in a form that browsers can read and display. They can be either interactive or dynamic. In addition, the format of these eCatalogs makes them easy to update.
- PDF catalogs: Also, this category refers to the format in which the eCatalogs are published. A Portable Document File (PDF) format presents documents independently of operating systems, hardware, and application software. The document can include images and text formatting. The eCatalogs published in this format is downloadable files you can store locally on your device for offline viewing. This format of eCatalogs is fixed and static, and you can print or email them.
Types of eCatalogs Based on the State
Regarding eCommerce, only one type of eCatalogs is used, product catalog. We explained previously that product catalogs showcase the products and services offered by a vendor. Some of the most common product catalogs in eCommerce include:
- Static eCatalogs: The term ‘static’ describes anything that is not changing. Therefore, static eCatalogs are digital versions of traditional paper catalogs that you cannot update once published. They are the most basic type of eCatalog, typically used by small businesses with a small inventory. However, large organizations may prefer static eCatalogs because the fact that they cannot be changed once published make them secure. But the product information the eCatalogs showcase cannot be customized, making the eCatalog type inconvenient and visually unappealing.
- Dynamic eCatalogs: These are the opposite of static; they can be updated in real-time. They are more interactive than static eCatalogs, allowing users to search for products, filter results, and add items to a shopping cart. eCommerce businesses that use this type of eCatalogs can add new products or remove them as needed, alter product descriptions, change titles, and change prices. In addition, this category of eCatalogs can be customized to individual needs; for example, businesses can filter the products showcased to customers based on past purchases, location, and interests. To create these eCatalogs, you need a web application development platform or a content management system (CMS).
Lastly, eCatalogs can be classified into different categories depending on the business activity. For example, if they are used in business-facing activities, they become business-to-business (B2B) eCatalogs. On the other hand, they are B2C if they are consumer-facing and hybrid if they serve both functions. So, let’s dive deeper into these categories:
B2B eCatalogs: These digital product catalogs showcase the various items offered by a vendor. Primarily, these eCatalogs are tools for exchanging orders, payments, and other essential information between businesses; some examples of B2B eCatalogs are HubSpot, Salesforce, and Alibaba. These eCatalogs are popular because they offer the following benefits:
- You can update them easily and as many times as you want without tampering with the accuracy of product data.
- They are easily customizable based on customers’ purchase history, preferences, and needs.
- You can integrate them with other systems, such as product information management (PIM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP).
- They reduce the costs associated with manual product data management by avoiding data entry errors.
- They enhance customer loyalty and improve satisfaction by providing more convenient and faster ordering and payment options.
B2C eCatalogs: These are online product catalogs that facilitate business between vendors and individual consumers. Typically, these eCatalogs have a user-friendly, straightforward interface and a secure and fast checkout process. Some examples of B2C eCatalogs include Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon. In addition, the eCatalogs offer the following advantages over paper/print catalogs:
- They enable businesses to reach a wider audience of potential customers
- Because customers get more choices and various products, they enhance customer experience and improve customization.
- These eCatalogs are dynamic, meaning users can interact with them – they provide more engaging and interactive customer experiences, including personalized offers, recommendations, and ratings.
- They allow businesses to collect and analyze user data; companies can analyze purchase history, feedback, and browsing behavior and use the insights to improve customer service and marketing.
- Since they do not require mailing or printing papers, they reduce the business’s environmental impact.
Hybrid eCatalogs: Hybrid describes a mixture of two elements which in this case are B2B and B2C eCatalogs. Combining the features of the two types of eCatalogs enables businesses to showcase their products to both individual consumers and other businesses. A hybrid eCatalog has a single platform that manages both channels simultaneously. However, it includes separate content, portals, payment terms, and prices for each customer type. Core DNA and Shopify are typical examples of hybrid eCatalogs. Some of the common features of hybrid eCatalogs include:
- A dual interface that switches between B2C and B2B modes depending on the customer’s login or preference.
- A dynamic content management system that can display different product information, images, videos, and reviews for different customers.
- A flexible payment system that can accept different payment methods and terms for different customers, such as credit card, invoice, or purchase order.
- A smart analytics system that can track and measure the performance and behavior of both B2C and B2B customers.
- Hybrid eCatalogs also offer several benefits compared to pure B2B or B2C solutions. They include:
- They grow the market reach of a business and the customer base by servicing both B2B and B2C segments.
- They help businesses to increase profit and revenue margins by customizing discount and pricing strategies depending on customer characteristics.
- By consolidating orders and deliveries across B2B and B2C channels, hybrid eCatalogs help businesses to optimize supply chain and inventory management.
- They help businesses provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across B2B and B2C channels, enhancing loyalty and retention.
How eCatalogs Work
To recap, eCatalogs showcase the products and services that a business offers. Let’s see how they work.
Let’s consider TechCo, an online consumer electronics company. The company wants to create an eCatalog to showcase its product offerings to customers. Here’s an overview of the steps the company will follow to accomplish the goal:
Step 1: Product Selection
The company must begin by identifying the range of products it wants to sell; this may include a computer, smartphone, laptop, tablet, headphones, and a smart home device.
Step 2: Product Information Gathering
Recall that a product catalog provides all the information about the product to enable customers to make the best choice when looking for the correct item or items to purchase. Therefore, the company must consult various sources, including manufacturers, to collect sufficient product data. Some of the information TechCo must gather include specifications, features, pricing, and images directly from manufacturers, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information for each product.
Step 3: Content Creation
At this stage, TechCo’s content team writes compelling product descriptions highlighting each item’s key features and benefits. The content must be appropriately formatted to ensure consistency in style and tone. In addition, the company should enrich the product data using high-quality images and visuals and any other details that improve the accuracy and relevance of the product data. The ultimate goal is to showcase the items effectively.
Step 4: Catalog Structure and Organization
The product data must be structured and organized to be logical and user-friendly. To achieve this, the company must create categories and subcategories based on how they define the various electronics on sale. They may also define the categories and subcategories based on the types of products on offer. For example, they may have categories like “Computer”, “Smartphones,” “Laptops,” and “Audio Accessories,” with subcategories such as “Apple iPhones” and “Gaming Laptops” for easier navigation.
Step 5: Design and Layout
This phase belongs to TechCo’s design team. Their primary goal is to help create an eCatalog that is visually appealing and engaging to boost user experience. As such, they must incorporate the company’s branding elements, including colors, fonts, and graphics that align with the brand identity. Most importantly, the layout should facilitate easy navigation and highlight key product features.
Step 6: Technology Selection
The company must also select the appropriate technology or software to build and host the catalog. Various platforms and tools are available, from custom-built solutions to pre-existing e-commerce platforms. So, let’s say TechCo decides to use an e-commerce platform with built-in catalog management capabilities to create and host their eCatalog. This platform has customizable templates, integrates with their website, and offers a user-friendly interface for managing product data.
Step 7. Data Entry and Management
This phase entails entering the information gathered earlier into the chosen eCatalog platform. This involves populating the database with product details, such as titles, descriptions, images, prices, and any other relevant attributes. The data is organized within the platform’s database, making it easily accessible for updates and retrieval.
Step 8: Visual Enhancements
Recall that an eCatalog targets businesses or customers and aims to convince them to do business with you. So, TechCo must add visual elements to create a more visually appealing eCatalog. For example, the company may add zoomable product images, 360-degree product views, or interactive elements like videos. These features provide users with a more immersive and informative experience.
Step 9: Testing and Quality Assurance
Before making the eCatalog available to the public, thorough testing and quality assurance are essential. As such, TechCo must check for any errors or inconsistencies in the product information, test the catalog’s functionality and usability, and ensure that all links and navigation paths are working correctly.
Step 10: Publishing and Distribution
After ensuring that the eCatalog meets the company’s quality standards, TechCo can publish and distribute it. They can make the eCatalog available on the company website or an online marketplace to ensure it is easily accessible to potential customers. At this point, the company may also undertake marketing efforts to promote the eCatalog and drive traffic to it. TechCo may use marketing channels like email newsletters and social media to drive traffic and generate interest.
Step 11: Updates and Maintenance
eCatalogs require regular updates to reflect product offerings, prices, or other relevant information changes. As such, TechCo must undertake periodic maintenance, which involves keeping the catalog current, adding new products, removing discontinued ones, and addressing any issues or feedback from users.
Going through the eleven steps is challenging, especially when TechCo has many products to offer. Imagine that the company wants to sell to other businesses and that it has tens of thousands of products. Considering that the eCatalog creation process is largely manual, especially the data entry stage, there is a high chance that TechCo will commit many errors along the way.
But instead of creating an eCatalog from scratch, TechCo can simply import product data from a PIM platform. A PIM system manages product data much like an eCatalog but offers more scope and functionality. Unlike eCatalogs, PIM systems are more sophisticated and comprehensive, enabling you to manage all aspects of product information without jumping through too many hoops. On the contrary, eCatalogs mainly create and maintain product information.
Some PIM tools, like Catsy PIM, come with built-in digital asset management (DAM) functionalities. A DAM solution enables businesses to store and manage, i.e., organize and share their digital assets in a centralized repository. Combined with a PIM platform, they create a single point of truth for all of an organization’s product information.
Therefore, instead of using an eCatalog, TechCo can use a solution like Catsy PIM to gather and manage the information for all the tens of thousands of products it offers. Most importantly, the company will have a central repository of all product data, ensuring all stakeholders can get accurate and authoritative data from one place. In addition, this prevents the need to create different catalogs (if the company were to choose eCatalogs) for each of the company’s operations, i.e., a catalog for products and a separate catalog for rich data like videos, audio, and images.
In fact, PIM systems allow you to share product data with different channels. So, if you must create a product catalog, you may not have to start from scratch. Instead, you can simply export the information from the PIM system to your preferred eCatalog format.
Benefits of eCatalogs to Customers
- Convenience: ECatalogs shared online (through the company website or other marketplaces) allow customers to browse their products from any internet-connected device.
- Personalization: Dynamic eCatalogs are easily customizable, enabling customers to filter products based on interests and preferences.
- Efficiency: ECatalogs streamline the process of showcasing your products to customers. If created correctly and without errors, eCatalogs make it easy for customers to navigate your product list and filter them based on individual needs.
- Quick search: This is possible because of the efficiency that comes with eCatalogs. However, the effectiveness of this feature depends on how well you execute the content creation phase of the eCatalog creation process. An adequately created eCatalog allows customers to search for specific products using keywords or product codes.
- Cross-selling and upselling: Some eCatalog types collect user data to facilitate things like product recommendations. Using this feature, eCatalogs can suggest related products or alternatives to customers, increasing the likelihood of purchasing.
eCatalogs are electronic versions of print catalogs with advanced features for eCommerce. They offer interactive elements, customization, and real-time updates. They can be categorized based on audience, format, and state. B2B eCatalogs facilitate business transactions, B2C eCatalogs target individual consumers, and hybrid eCatalogs serve both. Benefits include convenience, wider reach, improved customer experience, data analysis, and reduced environmental impact.
Catsy PIM, a comprehensive Product Information Management (PIM) solution, offers businesses an efficient alternative to creating eCatalogs from scratch. Companies can gather and manage product information, including digital assets, in a centralized repository. This eliminates the need for multiple catalogs and ensures accurate and authoritative data for all stakeholders. Additionally, Catsy PIM enables easy sharing of product data across different channels, simplifying the process of creating product catalogs if needed. By leveraging this tool, businesses can streamline their product management processes and enhance the overall customer experience. Schedule a demo today to know more about this ideal solution for your eCommerce business.
An eCatalog is a digital version of a print product catalog that helps eCommerce businesses showcase their products in a searchable, informative, and attractive way.
eCatalogs can enhance customer experience by showcasing the best features of products on sale, reducing returns and increasing sales, and helping businesses manage product information across multiple platforms and channels.
Some advantages of using eCatalogs over traditional print catalogs include reduced printing costs, increased accessibility for customers, easier management of product information, and the ability to update product information in real time.
Businesses can create effective eCatalogs by following a step-by-step process that includes content creation, visual enhancements, testing and quality assurance, and optimization for search engines.
Yes, eCatalogs can be used for both B2B and B2C sales. They are particularly useful for B2B sales because they allow businesses to manage complex product information across multiple channels and platforms.