Building and managing product catalogue for your online store

Online Store

Let us continue our discussion on the various steps in setting up an online eCommerce store. Having gone through the process of choosing the right eCommerce platform and defining your ideal customers, let us now focus on another important aspect, defining and managing the product catalog for the online store.

We all have experienced the challenge of finding the product we are looking for particularly in large format physical stores like D-Mart, Reliance, Big Bazaar or Walmart. We would either go by the visual signages or avail help of the salesperson who is around.

eCommerce customers go through a similar experience while trying to discover products in your online store. With a large number of categories and products to search from, it can become tedious for customers.

A McKinsey report confirms that customers rate quick product selection and checkout as the most important feature of an online shopping interface.

Mckinsey Report

Identifying the right products for the catalog depends on your clarity and understanding of your customer expectations and buying behavior. Then come the tools to create and manage the catalog.

What is product catalog management?

It is the process of identifying, building, and updating product information to ensure accurate and detailed product information is available to make the customers’ purchase easy.

Product cataloging includes defining product attributes like images, weight/size, offers, discounts and classifying them into logical categories and subcategories. It would also include additional information like place of manufacture, date of manufacture and warranty (if applicable) as secondary information accessible easily as needed.

Why is product catalog management important?

A well-organized product catalog serves two primary purposes:

  • Product discovery
  • Drive buying decision

Taking a cue from offline

If you are running an offline retail store, you are already practicing the art of product cataloging. Positioning the products strategically has a massive impact on the customer’s purchase decision and improving the average order value (AOV).

As you know, expensive products are placed on the top shelf, and popular products that customers generally seek are placed on the lower shelves. You put the products of specific brands you want to promote (or those that give you a better margin) at the customer’s eye level, which have the highest chance of being purchased.

Translating it for online catalog

A neat and intuitive product listing page (PLP) has the same impact as the entrance area of an offline store. Customers get drawn in by the look of it and explore other products in your store. So, it is essential to make sure that the product catalog (mostly the home page) is simple, appealing, and user-friendly.

You can list the items you want to promote more (like your own branded products) to be categorized and displayed at the top. Remember that the general tendency is to scan information starting from the top left and move to the screen’s right side. You can plan the display sequence of product categories accordingly.

Making your online catalog efficient

There are certain aspects to an efficient product catalog for your online store.

  • Adequate product information
    Your primary objective should be to make sure your customers are comfortable shopping on your e-commerce site/app. Customers must get a sense of trust in you to increase their chance of buying from your store.
    It is critical to provide comprehensive and accurate information including, product attributes (e.g., size, color, weight), images, videos, stock information, and measurement unit. This information needs to be simple and easy to understand. User reviews also tend to drive trust and increase sales.
Awaytravel Photo
  • Ensure information accuracy
    A product’s static information, such as product details and changing information like inventory, need to be up to date. You can either have a store person to maintain this data or, easier still, connect your online store inventory to your POS software to update the inventory details automatically.
    eCommerce platforms also allow you to set a product-level threshold for online sales, i.e., you can automatically disable the product for online sales if the inventory falls below a specific limit.
    Customers also expect clear information on out-of-stock items and, if possible, information on when they will be available again. eCommerce platforms can help you with these settings as well.
  • Visual appeal
    Use high-quality original images of products to enhance their appeal to customers and nudge the buying behavior. But make sure it doesn’t delay the page load time on the app/website. You can use multiple formats like audio and video, apart from the easy-to-understand text information.
    Never use unlicensed images/videos as they may affect the visual appeal of your online store. You could else end up in lawsuits.
  • Categorize products consistently
    Create categories/subcategories of products according to how your users would generally like to search. You can also leverage the “Tags” to position your products smartly. You can tag them based on their attributes (Large, medium, small…) or based on any offers or discounts (40% off, top sellers …).
    Decide product attributes depending on the type of the product. If you are selling organic food, use that attribute apart from the standard attributes like weight and price.
Weight price
  • Up-sell and cross-sell
    Suggesting related / alternative products is an easy way to increase the order value per customer. This is like keeping bread and egg near the shelf where milk is kept in your offline store to prompt the customer to buy them.
    You would have experienced similar features while buying products online. When you ordered your mobile phone, you would have also seen suggestions to buy a back cover or a screen guard. Most likely, you ordered them as well.
    In this example, the store suggests products related to the trolley mentioned above, with a smart prompt…
Travel Uniform

What to expect of an eCommerce solutions for managing your product catalog

Your eCommerce platform must-have features to create and manage product catalogs easily. Following are some of the important ones to look out for:

  • Connecting to ERP/POS
    It is always a good practice to maintain a single source of truth about your products. It will make the management of your offline and online store efficient if you maintain it in an ERP so that the data is always up to date. Most eCommerce platforms provide seamless integration with ERPs to pull and push product information. It will also help avoid manual errors.
  • Define user roles
    Ensure that roles are defined clearly, like administrator, manager or user. You can also specify who can create/edit product information. You can set up approval mechanisms to ensure data changes are reviewed and approved to avoid errors.
  • Managing product grouping
    Your eCommerce platform should allow for the easy creation of categories and subcategories. You should also be able to assign products under the categories and move them across categories depending on customer behavior.
    Like you would display seasonal items conspicuously in your offline store, you should also be able to set the display order of categories/subcategories according to the ongoing season.
    Not just categories, you should also be able to decide the sequence of display of the individual products and SKUs within them. Users generally tend to buy the first SKU of a product, they see.
  • Frequently ordered items
    Most eCommerce solutions also let you display frequently ordered items to be shown to customers to repeat their purchases quickly. Reordering is also another handy feature that reduces the time to purchase online.

Customer Analytics

Personalization is a fast-growing expectation from customers. Retailers can leverage this to enhance customer experience, retain customers, and drive sales. Knowing the customers is key to offering personalization. eCommerce platforms can help you collect important customer information like buyer age, gender, brand preference and frequency.

The transactional and demographic data of customers can be used to:

  • Custom shopping list
    Showing repetitively purchased items is a good head start. Contextual analysis can add more value to the shopping experience. If a customer orders for a particular Tea brand every 2 weeks, then that can be suggested right at the start, the next time.
  • Personalized offers
    Like products, offers must also be personalized. Customers can also be segmented (on various parameters like frequent shoppers, shoppers of a particular brand, or shoppers from a specific locality), and offers can be rolled out to such customer segments.
  • Contextual suggestions
    Custom recommendations can be shown on the product page to related products they usually buy together or remind them of products they might have forgotten to buy this time. Such an unintrusive approach enhances the customer experience to the next level while driving revenue for the store.


When starting first, retailers tend to use an excel spreadsheet to maintain product information. If you have a limited number of products / SKUs, an excel based approach is fine. As the product volume increases, it is better to leverage a POS software that would help you bulk upload/edit products and their attributes.

eCommerce platforms allow you to collect and analyze customer behavior around product discovery and purchasing. You can use this information to constantly revisit your product listings to align with your customer expectations and buying psychology like pre-defined/loaded monthly purchase lists, frequently bought items.

Customers like to make purchase decisions quickly, and it is up to the stores to make this buying journey as easy as possible. Product catalogs must have all the necessary information that customers are looking for along with a call to action.

Product listing pages are the heart and soul of your online store. With adequate attention to customer behavior and expectations, they can be turned into extraordinary experiences, turning visitors into customers and increasing your sales revenue.