When you think of catalog management, do you picture a glossy JC Penny paper booklet full of ~trendy~ new clothing that came in the mail?
While the days of cheesy poses by unknown fashion models may be mostly long gone, catalogs in the context of ecommerce today are a lot more functional than fashionable.
And while you might not have a catalog as large as SkyMall, it’s just as important to manage your products this way, so you can expand your product line, attract the right customers, and spend less time on managing your inventory.
In this article, we’ll go over best practices on how to efficiently manage one or more product catalogs to increase sales and streamline inventory management.
What is catalog management?
For ecommerce, catalog management is the process of ensuring that your product database is organized, structured, and up-to-date across all online sales channels.
Catalog management is a vital component of building an online brand because it helps customers find what they’re looking for and feel comfortable making a purchase based on the information provided.
For ecommerce logistics purposes, it helps merchants manage product catalogs for different audiences and track inventory across multiple channels.
Product catalogs for online stores include information such as color options, prices, sizes, country of origin, materials, and more, though different types of products require different details and information.
Ecommerce catalog management: why does it matter?
Online sales continue to grow as customers become more accustomed to shopping (for everything!) online.
Though online shopping provides convenience, it is harder to make purchasing decisions, especially when it comes to apparel, makeup, or home furnishings — items that must be a specific size, color, fit, or material
That’s why it’s important to ensure customers are given as much detail as possible, so they feel comfortable making their purchase.
Poor catalog management can lead to inaccurate product information (or a lack of information). Unavailability of product information can result in less sales; customers might feel hesitant to purchase, whereas inaccuracies can cause a higher volume of returns.
Additionally, catalog management helps improve your online store as it makes it much easier to upload product information to your product pages and automatically organize it all.
For instance, if a customer is shopping for an electric mixer in a specific color, you want to make sure you display all the color options available. With proper catalog management, the process of uploading new items with detailed information is much more efficient.
Lastly, if your online brands offer B2B ecommerce services, then having an accurate and streamlined product catalog helps attract the right suppliers and retailers.
7 ecommerce catalog management challenges and solutions
The more products you sell, the harder it is to manage an accurate ecommerce product catalog.
But there are several solutions to common challenges that help simplify the process.
Here is an overview of the most common catalog management challenges and how to solve them.
1. Selling across multiple sales platforms
Between your online store, Amazon, Facebook, and other sales platforms, selling your products across multiple sales channels can be difficult to keep up with.
Different sales channels might include their own specific compositions of your product information. You will have to remember which channels require what information and how customers view product details.
You will also have to ensure consistency of product information across all channels.
Solution: implement inventory management software
An inventory management system makes it easier to organize available products, and categorize and organize items by similarities. It also makes it much easier to track inventory across different sales platforms.
There are several inventory management solutions on the market. Large, established brands often implement an ERP inventory system, but it can be costly.
However, partnering with a tech-enabled 3PL like ShipBob offers fulfillment services and the tools you need to organize SKUs, track products across channels, and collect data on past historical inventory trends to not only streamline your product catalog but to also automate time-consuming inventory management tasks (i.e., manual tagging or bulk updates for large catalogs).
2. Building trust with customers
Proper online catalog management ensures customers can find what they need. For instance, if a shopper searches for a red blouse only to stumble upon a black blouse on your online store, you miss out on a potential sale.
Furthermore, some shoppers are unsure of what they intend to buy when navigating through products online. The inability to freely navigate through a store’s online catalog can make it harder for customers to find what they’re looking for based on the product category (e.g., pants) or specific detail (e.g., size 7).
Solution: create a good user experience
Shopify shows that when customers searched for a product, they were 1.8x more likely to add to cart.
A great user experience is one of the best ways to build trust with your customers, help them find what they’re looking for, and keep them coming back.
With accurate product information that is easily searchable, customers can navigate through your online store and stumble upon the perfect item to add to their cart.
3. Lack of consideration for different audiences
Some ecommerce businesses have multiple catalogs for different audience, such as one for direct-to-consumer orders and another for B2B.
A common mistake is not considering the audience of each catalog. As a result, the information across catalogs is too similar. This can cause issues, especially if you want to display bulk pricing only for B2B customers.
Ensuring that you display the right information for different types of catalogs based on the audience is critical.
Solution: keep the customer in mind
The best way to streamline different product catalog based on different audiences is to consider all audiences when curating a catalog, and set it up that way in your ecommerce platform.
Then, by implementing inventory technology to automatically display the right details and information for each audience can help eliminate manual work and improve accuracy and consistency.
4. High return rates
Poor product cataloging can lead to more ecommerce returnsand losing out on building brand loyalty.
Returns are inevitable, but if the reason there is influx in returns because product information was inaccurate or not detailed enough, then there is an opportunity to make catalog management improvements to increase sales.
Solution: stick to consistent product catalogs
Always be consistent with product catalogs using clear descriptions that give your customers all of the information they need.
If you utilize product images, be sure to link the correct image to the product to avoid errors. Also consider the type of product you sell and key buying considerations. For example, furniture should always display weight, material, and dimensions, while food items should always display ingredients.
5. Standardizing product catalog management
Retailers with a strong product catalog management system can make it easy for brands to attract different audience segments, such as B2B buyers and other types of customers, by automatically organizing and categorizing different products available to certain audiences and display the right information accordingly.
Without a standardized catalog management process, expanding your business with new product lines or sub-brands can be a challenge, and you’ll be spending all your time and effort manually organizing products for different audiences and sales channels.
Solution: implement a PIM system
Using a product information management (PIM) system will streamline your product catalog and standardize data to suppliers. It organizes product data into one centralized space, eliminating a chaotic hub of information.
Additionally, the PIM system quickly uploads your information across all sales channels, allowing it to be easily accessible across different audiences. A PIM system is a powerful tool that can integrate with other inventory management solutions,, which can enhance your tech stack and streamline product data and information all in one place.
6. Inaccurate product tags
Product tags used on a store’s website help identify the product by type so it can easily be searched for and found on your online store.
It also helps with internal efforts, such as tracking inventory at the SKU level across channels and in distribution centers.
With improper catalog management, product tags will be inaccurate, causing internal inefficiencies and displaying the wrong information for customers.
Solution: create a product tagging system
Most of the major ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce, allow you to tag products as you add them to your online store.
With all of your tags in one centralized location, it streamlines the process of updating your online catalogs. This allows your customers to easily browse and find the properly tagged items, and enables better inventory control, so you can enhance logistics operations.
7. Poor SKU reorder points and management
Without easily tracking inventory by SKU number, it makes it difficult to track which items need to be reordered, where to store certain items based on demand, and ensuring the information displayed online is accurate across channels.
Solution: automate reorder point notifications and management
For each product you sell, you should pay attention to real-time inventory counts and set up notifications that alert you when they fall below a certain threshold so you don’t risk you running out of stock. With this easy process, you never have to worry about running out of your most high-demand products.
ShipBob’s built-in inventory management tools allow you to access inventory data to decide on the best time to reorder more inventory and create reorder points that notify you when SKUs have reached their predetermined low levels.
“ShipBob’s analytics tool is also really cool. It helps us a lot with planning inventory reorders, seeing when SKUs are going to run out, and we can even set up email notifications so that we’re alerted when a SKU has less than a certain quantity left. There is a lot of value in their technology.”
Oded Harth, CEO & Co-Founder of MDacne
Tips to improve your ecommerce catalog management
Want to improve catalog management and spend less time on logistics-related tasks?
ShipBob’s best-in-class fulfillment services and technology help you optimize your supply chain while spending less time and energy on managing inventory, organizing storage, and shipping orders.
1. Personalize your product catalogs
Different types of products require different details and information. By personalizing your product catalogs across your online store and multiple sales platforms, you’re able to display the right information, even for different audiences.
For instance, apparel sales are based on different color options, sizing and fit, and where the item is manufactured. But lighting products need specifics on installation, brightness, and different use cases.
ShipBob makes it easy for you to add, update, and remove SKUs all from a single dashboard using the Product Details page.
“We roll out new products and designs on our website 1-3 times a month and send new inventory to ShipBob each week. It’s really easy to create new SKUs and restock existing ones using ShipBob’s technology, which is especially important with high inventory turnover.”
Carl Protsch, Co-Founder of FLEO
2. Implement a warehouse management system
A warehouse management system (or WMS) aggregates inventory data and provides supply chain visibility within a fulfillment center.
- Manage SKUs.
- Upload photos and descriptions to improve order accuracy.
- Bundle products.
- Track inventory levels in real time.
- View inventory performance across your distribution network ..
- Leave retail fulfillment and ecommerce warehousing up to the experts.
“We have a Shopify store but do not use Shopify to track inventory. In terms of tracking inventory, we use ShipBob for everything — to be able to track each bottle of perfume, what we have left, and what we’ve shipped, while getting a lot more information on each order. The analytics are super helpful.
We download Excel files from the ShipBob dashboard all the time and use them to analyze everything from cancelations, to examining order weights, to checking on whether ShipBob is shipping orders on time.
Even the way their warehouse receiving orders (WROs) work for sending inventory is very straightforward.”
Ines Guien, Vice President of Operations at Dossier
ShipBob’s international fulfillment network is powered by the same WMS, which enables real-time inventory tracking across the globe.
With ShipBob, you can manage, organize, and update inventory at the SKU level, and add specific attributes and different information (including product images) to enable accurate and fast fulfillment.
3. Regularly audit your inventory
Conducting regularinventory audits ensures that the products you display as available online match the actual inventory in stock. If a product is out of stock, you want to update your product page to avoid backorders or selling an item that won’t be replenished.
Below is a great example of an ecommerce brand that displays product information in an organized fashion. Waveform Lighting offers a wide range of quality lighting that offer variations in brightness, sizes, and installation requirement.
To support their inventory management process, they utilize ShipBob’s Inventory API to track inventory across channels. This allows them to properly manage, track, control, and audit inventory, so that product information is accurate and consistent.
“Due to lighting products being so complex, having an extra layer of control before things get sent to ShipBob through their API is very helpful.
We also utilize ShipBob’s Inventory API, which allows us to programmatically retrieve real-time data on how many units of each product are currently stored at ShipBob’s warehouses.
We currently use this API to generate custom reports to tie this inventory data into our accounting platforms.”
Streamline inventory with ShipBob
Outsourcing fulfillment to ShipBob makes it much easier to track inventory across all channels, so you can spend less time on time-consuming inventory tasks and more time focusing on growing your business.
“Our store is on WooCommerce, which integrates well with ShipBob. I loved how easy it was to set up my products in the dashboard for all SKUs (our box, pouch, marketing insert, etc.).”
Leonie Lynch, Founder & CEO of Juspy
Along with order fulfillment services, ShipBob’s premium technology comes with built-in inventory management tools, so you can track inventory in real time, manage and update SKUs, view inventory performance across your sales and distribution network, and much more.
Learn how ShipBob can help you grow your business. Get the conversation started by requesting a quote.
Catalog management FAQs
Here are the top questions people have about catalog management.
What is catalog management in ecommerce?
In ecommerce, catalog management is a strategic process that ensures the organization and oversight of product listings across sales channels. This streamlines the process of uploading details and data to the proper channels, as well as encourages an organized catalog system and ensures enough information to build trust with customers and increase sales.
Can you outsource catalog management?
Much of the process surrounding catalog management is laborious and time-consuming, and you may not have time to juggle this with running your business. There are plenty of catalog management software and tools out there to help, and you can always get help from other or hire a part-time person. Finally, 3PL companies, like ShipBob, offer fulfillment services and inventory management tools that reduce manual work and makes it easy to add, update, and manage SKUs across channels to manage inventory and shipments.
How does catalog management work?
There are a few facets of catalog management that aim to organize and streamline high-quality and consistent product details across all channels. Catalog management is a vital component of building an online brand because it helps customers find what they’re looking for and feel comfortable making a purchase based on the information provided.
You can implement a PIM system (product information management), which organizes your product data into one centralized location. This easily allows you to upload all product information to your sales channels. Another way is to keep the customer in mind. Organize your catalog based on the targeted audience instead of repeating the same information to multiple different audiences.