Why product cataloging is so critical to retail sales

January 6, 2023
Catalogix
Team Streamoid

The National Retail Federation (NRF), reported that in 2021 online sales in the US were in the region of $1.05 trillion and roughly $218 billion of this was returned. Product cataloging plays a crucial role in both, product discovery leading to sale and in reducing product returns, the bane of online retail.  

While it might be hard to directly attribute increased revenues to a good catalog, seasoned retailers are intuitively aware of the value and are investing in technology to create detailed and meticulous catalogs.

Retailers are increasingly turning to technologies like AI/ML, computer vision, Natural language processing, AR/VR, 3D etc to enrich and automate cataloging.

To understand why so much attention and investment is being focused on this area, let’s take a look at the kind of value cataloging adds across the customer journey.

Simplyfying the Complexity of Cataloging
Cataloging is a complex repetitive process. Input comes from different sources like CRM, PLM, tech pack, Photo studio etc at different times. This data needs to be normalised and presented in a structured format to make it easy for shoppers to discover and understand the products. Catalog data is typically what you see on PDP pages on websites. It basically covers product images, product attributes, Product titles, product descriptions, wash care, maintenance and other instructions.

Most companies have large teams doing this day in and day out. Manually looking at images and adding product attributes, titles, and descriptions at scale takes a really long time and is prone to errors of omission and interpretation.

Companies like Streamoid are automating the cataloging process using AI/ML and computer vision to automatically enrich attribution and building tools to efficiently generate titles and descriptions etc. To get standardised output at scale.

Image Credit : Information Transformation Services

Accelerated Speed to Market
The faster the product gets to market and is listed on marketplaces the more time the brands have to sell their products at full price. Manual cataloging typically can take from 2-6 weeks to list new collections. With automated solutions, you can do this in hours. That is 2-6 weeks of extra time to sell your products.

Reaching Wider Audiences via marketplaces
The easiest way to reach a wider audience is to list on multiple marketplaces. But this comes with its own cataloging challenges. Each marketplace has its own taxonomy and requires the feed in a particular format. That means you need to now translate your data into their Taxonomies and formats.  With the right product cataloging solution, you need to catalog just once, post which you can automatically convert the feed to the different specifications and taxonomies. So instantaneously you can list your products on sales channels such as Groupon, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Flipkart, Myntra and 100 other channels, with just a few clicks. Good cataloging solutions also enable you to translate catalogs to different languages to reach global audiences.  

Consistent Product Information
Technology-enabled cataloging, while simplifying the process, also enables brands to ensure that the product information across multiple touchpoints is complete, accurate, and consistent. This is critical not just for brand image but also for accurate data analytics.

Improved Branding
Brands want consistent brand language to reflect across all touch points and they believe is possible only if trained people work on the content. This is a myth. There are solutions today that can be customised to reflect the brand language. Style tips and product descriptions can be generated as per each brands style guidelines.  

Dramatically improved Search and Discovery
Automated content generation means you can now have an enriched catalog that is also SEO-optimised. With all the relevant attributes and synonyms automatically tagged to the product, shoppers can search for it in multiple ways. Enriched catalogs also enable retailers to add context to the shopping experience allowing shoppers to search by occasion or activity. The filters and fall-back options can be a lot more relevant rather than falling back to “Category”.

In the case of fashion products, Vogue-style product descriptions with style advice and high-quality images, shoppers can visualize the product better, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

Better Organic Lead Generation
SEO-optimized product titles, SEO keywords, alt tags for images, etc. Being updated continuously the chance of your products being discovered on search engines improves dramatically. Doing this manually is not scalable, tech is the only way out.

Image Credit: HubSpot

Reduced Returns
A significant number of returns are attributed to a mismatch in the product description and the actual product. A lot of times it is the colour and print that are incorrectly leading to returns. Detailed descriptions also enable shoppers to visualize products better and only purchase what they truly like.

Reduced loss of sales from no visibility to inventory
By integrating their catalog with their inventory management and warehouse management solutions, salespeople have real-time visibility into stock availability. So, they can share the same with customers, especially B2B partners, retailers and distribution partners, seamlessly.  

Control Over Channel Pricing
Effective cataloging enables you to take control over channel pricing in the multichannel landscape. When product catalog management solutions are integrated with dynamic pricing engines and CRMs, you can test, monitor and optimize continuously across sales channels to boost sales.

Generate Sales Offline
Even before shoppers go to your brick-and-mortar store, they spend lots of time and effort researching products, reading reviews, comparing options, prices etc and have almost made up their minds on what they want to buy. When the online product catalog answers all their questions and is accessible across devices and multiple online touchpoints, you increase the chances of improving offline sales.

Smooth Flow of Information
Technology-enabled eCommerce cataloging helps brands to ensure that there is a frictionless flow of updated product information between internal and external stakeholders, thus breaking down departmental silos. This way, you can reduce business cycles.

Powerful Insights for Data-Driven Decisions and Strategies
Enriched tagging allows for the collection of granular data- at an attribute level.  This in-depth view of a catalog allows management to compare their products with competitors and und understand gaps in their product portfolios and match it to sales data to make data-driven decisions to improve business outcomes.

Training and empowering teams:
Sales teams: Offline retailers typically have a large turnover of their floor sales staff and spend a lot of effort to continuously train their teams. With an enriched catalog, all required information is now at their fingertips. Product recommendations also assist them in finding new opportunities to upsell and cross-sell offline

Marketing teams: Good Product Catalogs enable marketing teams to curate relevant campaigns easily. They can slice and dice the catalog based on market trends to promote the most relevant cluster of products.

Customer support teams:  Equipped with comprehensive product catalogs means they can better resolve customer queries and support requests.

Summing up:
Well-crafted product catalogs with uncluttered product images and complete data that covers all the questions shoppers have, enables shoppers to visualise better leading to a quicker conversion and fewer returns.

When combined with intelligent search and recommendation engines, you can improve discoverability, boost upselling and cross-selling.  

If the catalog images are of high quality, consistent and engaging it leads to a definite increase in sales. Just adding shadows to flat backgrounds to make it more realistic has been shown to positively impact sales.

How To Use Technology to Generate Digital Catalogs?
End-to-end automation in product cataloging is not possible as of date. Human intervention is definitely required, as the accuracy of a catalog needs to be 100% if possible. But technology can certainly boost productivity.

Choose a solution that has the following features.  

  • A system that has automatic tagging capability with accuracies of over 70%+ with a human in the loop to ensure 100% accuracy
  • Self-learning Machine learning system that improves its accuracy as the data set increases.
  • A system that works off a robust taxonomy that captures SEO tags and enriches product attributes.
  • Uses NLP and ML models to understand the text data and attribute it accurately to product images.
  • An AI-powered system that generated SEO-optimised titles and product descriptions. If you are a fashion retailer, a system which generates style tips as per your brand’s style guide.
  • Has the ability to automatically manage product images by removing and replacing backgrounds, Aspect ratio’s, Position of the images etc.
  • Has a built-in translation layer to convert your catalog into different templates for different channels and marketplaces.
  • Allows for a human in the loop to do a quality check
  • APIs for channels and marketplaces

The Way Forward
Even though cataloging products can be challenging, its importance cannot be stressed enough. Delays in cataloging mean money tied up in stocks sitting in warehouses. The faster you list the faster you start selling. Explore solutions like Catalogix, an AI-powered, end-to-end managed service for product cataloging and marketplace listing.

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