For any retail business, especially if you are selling online, maintaining a structured product catalog information spec sheet is critical to success. A product catalog contains every piece of information about the product – from its attributes to what it is or does to what it looks like.
Unlike in traditional retail, e-commerce products do not come with the ‘touch and feel’ experience. Consumers cannot physically interact with the product in real-time. This is where a product catalog becomes the go-to information hub. It will drive consumers towards a purchase decision.
Before the products are published on an e-commerce page to be listed and sold it is important to organize the product data and standardize its format. A product catalog serves as a navigational framework for shoppers to view all the information they need.
Key Elements of an online product catalog information
Any product in a catalog would have some or all of the following elements:
- Variations and Bundling information
- Warranty and expiration information
- Manufacturer details
- Statutory information
Title of the product
One of the first things consumers notice or look at when shopping online is the product titles. More often than not, the product title is the name of the product. The title is one of the factors used to populate the search results to match relevancy.
Having the proper titles that immediately let the consumer identify what the product is, makes all the difference. Titles should be crisp and descriptive. They must include the brand name, product name, variant type, size, and color.
When building an online product catalog information sheet, one needs to ensure that the product title includes the right keywords. These are the words that people use to search for products and will make product discovery easy. Another thing to keep in mind when writing a product title is the intent. The intent needs to match their needs and use of the product. A good understanding of the target audience will ensure that the intent and keywords become easily identifiable.
Codes to identify the product
When a product is ready for shipping, it is put in packaging material in non-descriptive boxes. It is no longer identifiable by its noticeable physical attributes or traits. This is where product codes come into play. These codes follow widely accepted protocols that make it easy to recognize all the details about the product.
Let’s look at the different codes retailers use to ship and track products.
The SKU code, an abbreviation for ‘Stock Keeping Unit’, is a code normally used by retailers for internally managing and tracking inventory. This code varies from merchant to merchant. It is expressly for the merchants themselves to identify every individual product. SKUs help in identifying a product by its specific variant type. This could include color and size amongst other things.
SKU codes are alphanumeric and range between 8-12 characters. Each is a unique internal code. This gives retailers an efficient way to track and distinguish their products in the warehouse.
The UPC stands for Universal Product Code and is a standardized code with 12 digits. It is predominant among North American retailers from the United States and Canada. It is used even in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
The UPC is a barcode that follows a fixed universally standardized format. The format is according to the GS1 information standard organization that all retailers participate in. The UPC contains a unique ID that identifies a particular business or brand. The next part of the code identifies the specific product.
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique numeric code used to identify books. It is a 10-13 digit number and is assigned by an ISBN registration agency that governs a country, region, or territory.
The ISBN can be used to find the specific edition and version of a book and is a different code for different versions of the same book. It is also applicable to digital versions of books such as e-books and audiobooks.
The EAN stands for European Article Number, now commonly referred to as the International Article Number. The abbreviation EAN is still used though.
It is issued internationally to distinguish goods at the time of sale. It is a code similar to the UPC and is also 13 characters long. UPC began as a protocol in North America and EAN evolved to tackle the globalization of product sales across Europe and other countries.
Product images to allow buyers to visualize the product
Shoppers do not get to physically interact with products sold online, unlike in traditional retail. But what can offset this is the ability to showcase the ‘look’ of the product.
A product image is the first aspect of your online product catalog to make an impression in buyers’ minds. Product images help potential buyers see and view the product in all its glory.
They are often the differentiating factor that can push the buyers’ decision towards a purchase. People often lay a huge value on how the product looks and appears.
High-quality images that show the product in different angles and settings help buyers visualize the product. It helps them see whether the product suits their tastes and how it would look when they use it.
Product description lays out all the necessary information
Having a clear and crisp product description helps buyers understand the product better. A good product description should include aspects of the product such as:
- Main intended use
- Feature list
- Key functionalities
…among other things.
The product description section needs to be simple to read and also convey the right information about the product. This section provides the most information to buyers and it also helps them decide if the product fits their specific needs.
This part of the product catalog also serves as a space to include additional details. This could include product benefits and what differentiates it from other similar products.
Product attributes help consumers with the specifics of a product
A key way to group products is by their individual and specific attributes. These are the traits or properties that describe the product. Consumers also use product attributes as one of the filters to search for what they need to buy.
Product attributes can be segmented broadly into two categories or types:
- Tangible attributes: physical identifiers of the product such as its color, content, the material it’s made of, size, weight, design, etc.
- Intangible attributes: information such as price, the aesthetics of the product, its quality, and its reliability.
Composite SKUs for variations and bundling information
Most retail products come with some form of variation – be it the color, size, or other physical attributes. Bundles let merchants to group goods that can be sold together as a single order or item.
A composite SKU lets you bundle several individual SKUs into one big combo SKU. This will include all the variations of each product or product type. It can also be used to group and sell products that complement each other. A composite SKU allows for the reading of the underlying distinct SKUs as well, enabling accurate product tracking.
It is an important part of online product information that ensures that the inventory is managed and shipped efficiently. A well-rounded inventory management system lets you easily create, track, and manage composite SKUs with ease.
With an integrated inventory management software like Primaseller, you can easily create composite SKUs and accurately track them. It allows you to always maintain an up-to-date product catalog information sheet.
Warranty and expiration information
Retail products almost always carry information regarding their warranty coverage and (possible) expiration dates. This is in fact a law that retailers must adhere to. Warranty information is available to the buyer even before they buy a product, via the product packaging or listing.
The warranty description includes information such as:
- The period from purchase for which a warranty is applicable
- Conditions of the warranty
- Actions that void the warranty
- Assurance of care in cases of product failure or breach
- Methods and departments of the manufacturer to contact when needed
- Extended or lifetime warranty information, where applicable and necessary
The expiration information lets the buyers know the period until which the product is safe to use or consume. Food products and medicinal items commonly contain expiration information on them.
The expiry description includes information such as:
- Date of manufacture or production
- The “use by” or “best before date”
Manufacturer details in the product catalog information
Trade has gone global and most countries these days often trade across borders. It has become increasingly important to include the details of the manufacturer in the product catalog information.
It is now mandatory for product manufacturers to include information such as:
- Their geography and/or the location of their headquarters
- Country of origin declaration
- Local production address, where applicable
- Details about the importer, where needed
- Address of a distributor if partnering with one
- Contact details to reach each of the above
Statutory information in the product catalog information
Statutory information is the information about the special nature or details of specific products. This information ensures that certain products with specialized use indicate it in their packaging or listing information.
Statutory information may include further declarations regarding:
- Their import and export status
- Hazardous nature, if applicable
- Limited use and restrictions
- Special permits for usage
An online product catalog lays the foundation for an omnichannel retail strategy. It is that much easier to build a sales channel across multiple avenues with a detailed and accurate product catalog information document.
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Sharan is an avid writer with experience writing on different technologies for startups in various domains. He’s a self-professed tech nerd and start-up buff who likes keeping abreast with all the latest news in these areas.