Effective business to business (B2B) ecommerce product catalog management makes sure your products are accessible online. Your buyers will trust your site to deliver accurate information, and their visits are more likely to convert into sales.
However, if your B2B ecommerce catalog contains thousands of items, it can be challenging to maintain standards and move quickly to meet your buyers’ needs.
Managing your large B2B ecommerce catalog
Both B2C customers and B2B buyers expect to find and buy products online easily. For your business to be successful, your products must be accessible with clear and detailed information and easy ordering and payment options. This will build trust and confidence with your buyers.
To do this effectively, you have four main challenges:
- Multiple sources of information – in most cases your product catalog will contain information from different parts of the business and third parties. This makes catalog management and maintenance complicated, time-consuming and prone to mistakes.
- Ease of use – depending on your market sector your products might come with a wealth of technical information and specifications. All this internal data needs to be translated into clear, easy-to-use information for your buyers. You must also make sure your products are displayed and categorized in ways that they will understand.
- Management – with thousands of products meeting the needs of a variety of customers, you will need to have a deep understanding of your product range, your buyer’s needs and the tools available to help you manage such a wide range of details. If your business is multinational, it can be even more challenging to find a scalable catalog management solution, especially if your enterprise, product management, marketing and ecommerce systems vary by country.
- Updates –as your business expands your catalog will change. This will probably mean changing your catalog structure as well as adding new items or ranges. Inconsistency and inaccuracies can damage customer relationships and cost valuable sales.
Based on our experience working with B2B companies around the world, here are some important steps you can take to manage your large catalog and improve the performance of your ecommerce business.
Build your brand with quality product information
When you deliver a high-quality online experience, you create the foundations for a long-term relationship with loyal customers. Many will go on to become your brand ambassadors.
The first step is comprehensive, easily navigated product catalog content with all the details your customers need to easily assess your products. This can include technical data, images, videos, inventory information, measurements, and product combinations.
To improve customer experiences and reduce product returns, your content must be accurate. To simplify the process, it’s worth separating more static information, such as product details and high-quality images, videos and documents, from frequently changing inventory information and pricing.
Integration and automation will help you to streamline and speed-up the process and reduce the risk of data entry errors. You will also be able to monitor the effect of changes to your catalog on buyer behaviour, helping you to create accurate real-world models of trends and to improve your product road map.
Make your information easy to find
By tagging and categorizing your digital product catalog you will help your buyers find what they need quickly and easily. You can also offer them options to filter and refine their searches.
However, it’s important to organize the information with your buyers in mind, rather than using internal structures and cost centres.Base your categories on how your customers look for information and the journeys they take through your ecommerce site.
In addition, make sure your product tags and measurement units are consistent, but keep the flexibility to add different attributes to help buyers find the right products. Ideally, use machine learning to improve and refine your catalog over time.
Offer related and alternative products
As consumers, we are all familiar with Amazon-like recommendations for related products. This is an easy way to make the investment in your large B2B ecommerce catalog work for you and increase the value of each sale.
You can link related products, or you can create rules and recommendation models in-house. Alternatively, you can complement your catalog with machine learning that will do the job for you and provide valuable insights into customer behaviour at the same time.
Understand your catalog management needs
To improve the management of a large product catalog you will need to understand the people and processes involved in creating and maintaining it. This will include who is involved in each part of the catalog management process, who will be affected by changes and how. This will help to minimize mistakes and delays and improve customer service. You will also be able to identify potential improvements and possible bottlenecks in your product management process.
Curate your product information
Managing a large product catalog will need good information management practices and, almost certainly, a database. To avoid unnecessary complication, you should ideally have a ‘single source of truth’ in just one database that isn’t copied or reproduced in any other systems.
Many people are involved in the content of your catalog, so roles and authorizationsmust be controlled to maintain accuracy and remove out-of-date information. As your business grows you will rely on your database more to keep everything under control, so this is an essential step.
Plan your catalog management
You have a number of options to manage your product information. However, treating it as a standalone activity won’t help you to deal with the challenges you face as your catalog grows.
One option is to choose an ecommerce platform with built-in product information functionality. In addition, you can integrate with your existing enterprise systems to create a complete end-to-end process.
While you should bear in mind your plans for the future, you will also want to consider your current business size, the complexity of your catalog, and your in-house skills.
Provide personalized product catalogs
Most B2B companies have complex pricing structures, including breakpoints, bundles, customization, and promotions.
Catalog personalization allows you to show each registered customer the prices that are relevant to them. You can provide tailored views for each company, division, department, or for individual buyers. If needed, each group within an organization can see its own catalog. If your catalog includes thousands of items, this can save valuable time.
You can even offer bespoke menus with their own view of relevant products. They can see their most frequently bought products and regular purchases. Previous purchases can be pre-assigned, ready for immediate re-ordering.
Complement your offline catalog
Many B2B companies rely on tools like MSeller and a back-office enterprise system to run their business operations. By combining this with your Cloud-based ecommerce platform you can provide seamless online and offline sales. You can synchronize customers, orders, pricing, products, stock and order status in real time to allow your customers to view products, place orders and check their order history easily.
Talk to one of our experts to find out more about Cloudfy’s essential B2B ecommerce elements and how they can streamline management of your large product catalog and improve business operations.