Product Catalogs Overview
Print catalogs were popular several decades ago before the ability to shop online became accessible and more widespread. Consumers would thumb through print catalogs to see what pieces stood out to them, how they looked on the models, and what they paired the product with. After perusing the catalog, consumers would then either call the brand’s support line to place an order or they would visit a physical store in hopes of finding their desired product.
But that’s cumbersome and doesn’t elicit a great customer experience.
Jump forward to today’s world. We now live in an era of instant gratification. Consumers want the easy road and they want to make purchases instantaneously without calling support or visiting a physical store.
Additionally, consumers are overwhelmed with choices and places to purchase products. A consumer could go to one store and have the ability to purchase hundreds of products, then go to another store and have an entirely new set of options.
How can brands get consumers to purchase their products? By creating the right touchpoint at the right moment in the customer journey.
Enter the digital product catalog.
The customer journey has five stages:
- Awareness: Consumer becomes aware of a brand or product through any number of methods from word-of-mouth referrals to a billboard on the side of the highway.
- Consideration: Consumer recognizes they have a need that the brand or product can fulfill and they begin to think about making a purchase.
- Decision: Consumer makes up their mind and buys from the brand.
- Retention: Consumer is using the product or service and the brand is working to ensure they are satisfied by providing support.
- Loyalty: Consumer shares their brand experience with others, whether positive or negative, in the form of reviews, social posts, and word-of-mouth. Brands seeks to incentivize repeat purchases and brand advocacy.
In the awareness stage of the customer journey, consumers have a problem or a need to solve. Consumers are beginning to seek out information and educational content to help meet their needs. Product catalogs can help trigger the customer to remember or recall the fact they have a need or a gap they need to solve. For example, a lawn mower product catalog that a consumer comes across in early Spring might trigger the consumer to remember that last year their lawn mower wasn’t working properly and therefore needs replacement.
In the consideration stage of the customer journey, consumers are beginning to compare their options. People compare their options; your brand vs. the competition. If customers are in this stage of the customer journey, a product catalog can help spell out the customer's options when trying to solve their problems. For example, a faucet product catalog can help homeowners decide on which type of faucet to purchase for their kitchen sink.
Product catalogs still remain a valuable marketing and sales tool to entice consumers to purchase from their brand. Let’s look at what a product catalog is, what makes a good product catalog, various examples, and how you can start creating an engaging digital product catalog.
What Is a Product Catalog?
Gartner defines a product catalog as “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.”
The purpose of a product catalog is to provide customers with a comprehensive list of all products offered. It also often contains relevant product data.
Is it Product Catalog or Catalogue?
Let’s quickly address the elephant in the room - the spelling of catalog. The short answer is it’s both! Catalog is the American English spelling and catalogue is the British English spelling of the word. Both mean exactly the same thing so that's why you might see one version of the spelling of the word compared to the other.
In the marketing world, catalog (or catalogue) often gets used interchangeably with a few other terms that similarly relate to the resource. Let’s take a look at some of the terms product catalog gets confused for.
- Product Guide: A product guide is defined as a document that contains a list of products and relevant product information such as product descriptions, features/benefits, photos, related products, etc.
- User Guide: A user guide is often a product instructional manual that helps guide users on how to use a specific piece of software or product.
- Buyer’s Guide: A buyer’s guide is a resource that includes helpful information, tips, best practices, etc. to help guide consumers to purchasing the right product for their needs.
Types of Product Catalogs
There are essentially two types of product catalogs:
- Physical Catalogs: Printed or physical catalogs are the ones you most likely used back in the day. They are presented like magazines and offer consumers the ability to thumb through the resource to gain a deeper understanding of the brand’s product offerings.
- Digital Catalogs: These resources contain the same product information and images as a physical catalog, as well as multimedia content. Consumers access the digital resource by scanning a QR code, clicking a link, or texing a keyword to a phone number. Digital catalogs often make the customer experience easier and more delightful. Consumers can search for specific products or filter their view. Some digital catalogs include a cart functionality, enabling consumers to make purchases.
Who Uses Catalogs
Manufacturers and retailers are the most common types of businesses that create. Some examples of the types of product offerings that would have a product catalog include:
- Light Fixtures
- Home Appliances
- Lawn and Garden Tools
Free Product Catalog Makers
If you’re searching for catalog maker software or even the best free online catalog maker platform, there are some options your brand has in order to create these resources for your customers. Let’s take a look at some examples that answer the question, “How do I make my own product catalog?”
Lumavate is a tool for marketers that enables teams to build digital product experiences, like catalogs, in its platform. Though Lumavate is not a free PDF catalog creator, the possibility of what marketing teams can create in the platform is even better than a PDF.
PDFs are not conducive to an engaging customer experience and don’t lead to the increased revenue and brand loyalty that creating a digital experience within the Lumvate platform holds. Marketing teams that use Lumavate to create product guides can create and launch a product guide in 30 minutes or less. Lumavate has a wide variety of design elements, integrations, and even templates to help business teams get started fast.
Another free product catalog maker example is Marq. Marq has free catalog design templates that enable users to create basic catalogs. Users can get started for free on Marq but are limited in the types of features they have access to. Marq is more similar to Canva in that the software offers a wide variety of templates that users can use to create things like social media assets, pamphlets, and more. So Marq does not specialize in being a free catalog maker.
Benefits of Product Catalogs
Product catalogs are not just an “old school” marketing tactic. If done well (and created within a digital experience platform), product catalogs yield many benefits for brands, including:
- Being a cost-effective marketing tool (if you use a digital experience platform to create and launch your product catalog).
- Product catalogs enable brands to showcase a brand’s entire line of products in a digestible way for consumers to read.
- Brands can track the analytics of popular pages within the catalog if they build the catalog using a digital experience platform.
The Traditional Product Catalog is Broken
We already discussed some of the many benefits of product catalogs, but let’s discuss some of the cons associated with creating and launching product catalogs the old way.
If brands choose to continue to print product catalogs, many consumers may have concerns over the environmental impacts these marketing resources may have (especially if they are lengthy in size).
But most importantly, the major cons to creating product catalogs the old way (AKA printed versions), is the amount of time and resources that is often wasted as a result of this process. Brands that are using traditional methods to create product catalogs have most likely not invested in a product information management (PIM) solution, which means their product data may not be accurate (or worse, even available) because of the disparity of where the data is located.
Then there’s the matter of shipping and printing costs (which can be upwards of $10,000). These resources can be extremely expensive and eat up a large portion of the marketing budget if they are done through traditional means.
That’s why digital product catalogs are better for brands. They decrease time and costs to create and yield better results for brands. Next, let’s take a look at some examples of well-done digital product catalogs.
What is an Example of a Product Catalog?
Put your consumer hat on and ask yourself when is the last time you read a physical catalog? It’s probably tough to remember if you’re like most consumers.
Print is dead and it’s time businesses moved to the digital product catalog. Numerous brands have already made the switch to digital, so let’s talk about some of the best product catalog examples.
IKEA’s Product Catalog
IKEA does a lot of things well, including its experience with the consumer. In 2020, the world altered forever, and consumer behavior has changed drastically as a result. The well-known home goods brand was forward-thinking and could see the shift in consumer behavior. They recognized that the world had turned digital seemingly overnight. So what did the brand do? They stopped printing their product catalog which had been around for 70 years and made the switch to digital.
Let’s take a look at IKEA'S product catalog for outdoor living and see what the brand does right. Right off the bat, the digital version of the product catalog is an extremely engaging experience for consumers. Individuals no longer need to carry around a clunky and heavy product catalog in order to find the best outdoor furniture for their homes.
The IKEA digital product catalog includes hundreds of visually engaging images and charts for consumers to the consumer. Consumers are able to zoom in and out of the catalog, share the resource with others, and search for specific items within the catalog. The catalog also pairs products with related parts and accessories in an effort to increase sales for the brand - which it did. After the brand moved its catalog to digital in 2020, it witnessed 45 percent more online sales making it one of the best digital catalogs examples.
H&M Product Catalog
Another example of a free online catalog (or product magazine in this instance) is the clothing brand H&M.
The digital magazine presents the retailer's products in an aesthetically pleasing and engaging way for shoppers. There are three categories for the product catalog: fashion, beauty, and culture.
Each category has its own story within the magazine and offers readers more insights to the specific trends H&M highlights in the season’s product catalog. In addition to writing articles on trending fashion, the retail brand also presents products that coincide with these trends and offers consumers an easy way to add these products to their digital shopping carts.
Ulta Beauty Product Catalog
An example of a cosmetic product catalogue is Ulta Beauty. Ulta Beauty is most well-known for its physical product catalog. Even though it’s a printed version, brands can still take notes from the cosmetic retailer’s strategy.
Everything in marketing needs to have some sort of value trade with the consumer. If a consumer is going to spend their valuable time and effort consuming a piece of content, there has to be something in it for them.
The Ulta Beauty catalog is famous for highlighting its campaigns like 21 Days of Beauty in an engaging way. By reading the product catalog, the consumer gets informed of upcoming promotions. It’s a win-win for the consumer and Ulta.
From these three product catalog examples, brands can learn that in order to capture the attention of consumers, product catalogs need to not only be visually engaging but also offer an enhanced shopping experience that alerts consumers to special promotions and makes the shopping experience easier.
How to Make a Product Catalog
We recommend following these steps when beginning to create your own product catalog.
- Determine the structure of your product catalog. Are you going to have a more editorial-style product catalog like H&M where you’ll have products consumers can purchase and articles on the latest trends in your industry? Remember to think about the product catalog from the point of view of the consumer. Will adding additional content bog them down or will it enhance the experience? Determining what information you’ll include in the catalog will help your team figure out the assets you’ll need to collect in the next step.
- Gather all of the product information and related assets. Depending on how you’re planning on structuring the data, this might mean that your team is writing articles that help explain recent trends to your consumers, taking updated product photos to include in the experience, or staging a scene like a home with related products and accessories. This step also might mean that the marketing team needs to gather data from product managers to help complete the catalog like product descriptions, specifications, price, etc.
- Add all of your product information and related assets to a PIM solution. By putting all of your product data in a centralized location like a PIM solution, you’re saving yourself and your team hours of work down the road when you begin to create the product catalog.
- Create a product catalog digital experience. Once you’ve added your product information and related assets to your PIM solution, you can easily pull in the updated product information when creating the digital experience. This is the step where you’ll bring your product catalog to life (and is arguably the most fun). In the DXP you’re using to create the digital experience, you can pull in various ensign elements like images, buttons, or even third-party integrations that make your product catalog engaging.
- Update your product data and related assets. Your product data like the price is most likely going to change over the course of a few weeks or months. Use a PIM solution to make changes to your product’s data to ensure that the information you’re providing customers is accurate. This step should not be undervalued. According to a recent Retail Dive study, 23 percent of consumers reported they would ditch a brand if it had conflicting product information. Once your changes are made in the PIM, your updates will be immediately reflected in your product catalog.
Using a solution like Lumavate makes it easy for you to manage your product data and digital assets using Lumavate's PIM functionality and allows you to build digital experiences tied to product data in less than 30 minutes.
Product Catalog Management
Managing a product catalog is no small feat. It takes a team of individuals, time, and effort to create a compelling product catalog to entice customers to purchase products from your brand.
Despite the time and energy it takes to manage a brand’s product catalog, there are several tools that can make this process easier. Let’s dive into a few of them
Product Information Management (PIM) Solution
In order to create a product catalog, marketing teams need to gather the product information necessary to include in the resource. If teams don’t have a centralized location to put all of their product data, this could drastically increase the effort and time spent creating the document.
Not having access to a PIM drastically decreases the efficiency and quality of work for business teams. According to Gartner, poor data quality costs organizations an average of $15 million per year.
That’s where a product information management (PIM) solution comes in handy.
A PIM solution organizes product data based on their characteristics, attributes, and similarities. Teams can store the following in a PIM:
- Product Name
- Product Images
- Lifestyle Images
- Product Descriptions
- SKU (stock keeping unit)
- Product Ratings
- Product Classification
- Product Ingredients, Specifications, or Composition
- Intended Uses
- Related Products
- Replacement Parts
- Compatible Accessories
- Disclosures and Regulatory Approvals
- User Manuals or Instructions
- Owner’s Guides
- Assembly or Onboarding Instructions
- Warranty Information
Take a look at an overview video of Lumavate’s PIM solution to learn more about how it can help your team unify your brand’s product data and increase cross-collaboration between teams.
Content Management System
Another layer to managing a product catalog is managing the content which can be just as difficult as managing all of a brand’s product data. Fifty-one percent of marketers agree they waste money and time producing and recreating content that often goes unused because team members can’t locate the file or know if it even exists.
Content management systems, otherwise known as CMS, offer organizations the ability to store content in one location. Your team may also choose to invest in a content management system that enables teams to store content such as images, videos, audio, forms, and more.
Here’s a list of some of the items one can store in Lumavate’s CMS:
Digital Experience Platform
Now that we’ve addressed where businesses can store their product data and content, let’s move onto how businesses can present the product catalog.
Prior to this, we were talking about the backend systems of product catalog management. Now we can move onto the front end.
If marketing teams want to move fast, get more done with less, and decrease costs, teams should invest in a digital experience platform, otherwise known as a DXP.
A DXP is a platform that enables business users to create digital experiences that act as touch points within the customer journey.
A digital experience can take on many forms, including:
- Connected Products
- Field Services
- Landing Pages
- Mobile Apps
Forward-thinking business teams understand the value of using these tools to create next-gen product catalogs. These teams understand that the world is a digital place, and in order to capture the attention of consumers, they’ll need to do something their competitors aren’t doing and invest in the tools necessary for providing a personalized digital experience.
Create Product Catalogs with Lumavate
Lumavate is the place where marketers go to manage their product information and content and create digital experiences to engage with their customers.
Using Lumavate, you can create highly personalized product catalog experiences for your customers in 30 minutes or less.
Want to give it a try? Take a tour of the Lumavate platform or schedule a demo with one of our product experts to learn more about how we can help get you started creating product catalogs on our platform to enhance your customers’ buying experience.
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