Product Management

eCommerce product catalog: common mistakes + how to fix them

Product catalog management needs a hands-on approach. Read on to see common mistakes to avoid and design a product catalog that boosts conversions.

eCommerce product catalog: common mistakes + how to fix them

Did you know that 80% of online product catalogs remain undiscovered? 

This means, 

  • that products don’t come up on the first page of Google  
  • new customers are not familiar with different product ranges, and
  • stocks of products sit in warehouses, gathering dust with nowhere to go  

The bottom line? A huge loss in revenue.     

If your product catalog is not set up properly, all the inconsistencies pile up and create challenges that make it difficult to make a sale.     

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • common product catalog management mistakes 
  • solutions for better online catalog management, and 
  • brands that are nailing product catalog management  

9 eCommerce Catalog Management Mistakes that Every Retailer Needs To Fix

1. You have a confusing site navigation

9 eCommerce Catalog Management Mistakes that Every Retailer Needs To Fix

You walk into your local Walmart and instantly see that the sections have been changed. 

Without proper navigation or signs pointing you to the new sections, you’ll be spending time hunting for the items on your shopping list. 

Similarly, if online customers don’t see a clear path to discover products, it’ll reflect poorly on your sales. 

So even when your catalog is filled with great products, chances are they’d give up on finding that product on your site before getting there. 

It’s therefore important you optimize your site navigation to give shoppers a smooth experience. Now, how do you do this?

  • Use a concise navigation bar; the fewer menus you have on your navigation bar, the better. When menus are few, shoppers will be less distracted.
  • Use breadcrumbs; avoid these common breadcrumb mistakes and take visitors by hand to checkout with this must-have navigation element.
  • Optimize your store navigation for mobile users

While creating your product categories, make sure to:

  • Make the top-level category collapsible into the secondary categories to keep the navigation bar uncluttered
  • Include interactive filters and tags to make catalog category navigation easier for shoppers
  • Use fewer visuals in your category menu bar to keep it simple for viewing
  • Take categories up a notch with thematic categories such as ‘Valentine’s Day Gifting Specials’, ‘Halloween Spooky Deals’, and ‘Thanksgiving Dinner Sale’.

🚀Pro Tip

Instead of drop-down menus, adopt mega menus. They are immediately visible, offer context, link to extra content, and are easier for search engines to crawl. 

2. You don’t have a proper management tool for your product data

9 eCommerce Catalog Management Mistakes that Every Retailer Needs To Fix

Your store uses Excel sheets to manage product inventory and data. Now, there’s a surge in sales and the business needs to restock more than usual. You’re already exhausted just thinking about the time and effort it’ll take to manually update your stock. 

The truth is - you’re human and so your data has a higher chance of becoming disorganized with Excel sheets. It’ll be difficult to manually add those additional SKUs to your product catalog or make changes to product information. 

This is why you need a proper tool that’ll help you segment product information, update prices or product information, easily import data, and export it when need be. You should also be able to filter and sort by categories or a specific product.

When choosing product data management tool for your store look out for;

  • User-friendliness: it should not require a high level of tech-savviness to use and should be able to interpret data in simple forms.
  • Customer experience optimization: does it support guided shopping and intuitive search capabilities for shoppers?
  • Integration: does it integrate seamlessly with your existing tools? 
  • Security: How secure is it? You need reliable software that keeps your company data secure and private

🚀Pro Tip

Increase user efficiency with powerful search & reporting, bulk edits, & validation & enrichment rules.

3. Your products are not getting discovered online

9 eCommerce Catalog Management Mistakes that Every Retailer Needs To Fix

You’re trying to buy something online?

The usual reflex? Google it. 

Don’t you find it convenient when you see the exact item you were looking for on the display results?

Your customers won’t find your products when your product data online is missing a lot of information. And if your customers can’t find it, search engines won’t be able to find them either. Think of the sales you’d have to lose out on. Your store must show up as the number one result when prospective customers search for a similar product.

Customers who search for products online can generate up to 13.8% of your revenue. Shopify shows that when customers searched for a product online, they were 1.8 times more likely to add it to the cart. 

So spend time working on updating your product’s online presence. You can do this by providing accurate product metadata, serializing items, and categorizing them based on variations.

For example, if you Google Search “Asos shoes” the results are clear categories, compelling images of variations, the brand name, and relevant keywords. 

To optimize your product catalog for search engine discovery;

  • Use keywords in all the right places; in your title tag, meta description, H1, and product descriptions
  • Speak directly to what your target audience wants in your title tag and not just use a vague product brand name
  • Use a clear URL structure such as www.yourbrand.com/products/category-name/sub-category-name/product-name 

🚀Pro Tip 

Boost product page SEO with strategic internal linking. Link your bestsellers to blog posts and other related categories on product pages. It boosts your products' discoverability in Google search.

4. Your product information lacks persuasion

9 eCommerce Catalog Management Mistakes that Every Retailer Needs To Fix

You encounter a salesperson who tries to sell you a vacuum cleaner. But instead of trying to persuade you with solid reasons, they simply say their vacuum cleaner is the best and state a price. Wouldn’t you want to slam the door in their face at this point?

This is exactly how your prospective customers feel when there’s no persuasion on your product information. They don’t have a reason to buy from you because ten other brands are more persuasive. 

85% of shoppers said that product information and pictures are important to them when deciding which brand to buy from. So take time to review your current product information and consider rewriting it for better conversions. Think about what makes your brand unique and start from there. 

To make sure your product information is persuasive, ensure that;

  • It is eye-catching and attention-grabbing. Place the information where they’d be likely to read it.
  • It uses descriptive words to show that it is relevant and useful to their needs
  • You use compelling images in your product information
  • It addresses buying objections and concerns about the product that buyers might have

🚀Pro Tip

Run split tests on your product descriptions. Test long copy, copy with bullet points, and a copy that has both. What converts for one site may not necessarily bring in conversions for you. You should find what works for your brand.

5. You’re recommending irrelevant products

9 eCommerce Catalog Management Mistakes that Every Retailer Needs To Fix

When you go shopping, you’d usually see some product recommendations. If a customer comes to search for a phone in your store and they see recommendations for a mouse or a keyboard, that’s not a good shopping experience. It’ll also decrease order value because even if they’d want to make an additional purchase, they wouldn’t at this point.  A mouse is an irrelevant recommendation to the phone they’d want to purchase. 

However, if they see a phone case or even a screen guard, they’ll be more likely to purchase that item because it is relevant to their search. 54% of retailers said that relevant product recommendations are a key driver in the average order value of customer purchases.  

Product attributes are complicated and this is why you should use tags whenever you’re updating your inventory. That way, your store recommendation engine can easily find relevant tags and keywords when displaying recommendations. 

When you want to upsell or cross-sell products;

  • Recommend items that go with their current browsing history
  • Keep it to a few recommendations. You don’t want to give your prospective customers a choice paralysis
  • Study your customer purchases so you can offer “what other customers are buying” to subsequent shoppers
  • When upselling, recommend your most reviewed or sold product. That way people will be more compelled to add that item to their card.
  • When cross-selling, recommend a cheaper add-on that will be easy to miss. For example, when purchasing a stove, you’d want to recommend a lighter.

🚀Pro Tip 

To make a successful sale, don’t upsell or cross-sell an item that is more than 25% of the customer’s original order. For example, you wouldn't try to advertise a Ferrari to someone interested in a Toyota.

6.  Your product list is not updated

9 eCommerce Catalog Management Mistakes that Every Retailer Needs To Fix

If you want to buy a specific piece of jewelry and a store assures you they have it in stock, imagine how disappointed you’d be at the checkout when they say oops they no longer have it. 

An outdated product list disrupts the shopping experience because customers make inaccurate decisions based on the wrong information given. This will bring down your conversion rates when they find out what the truth is.

Your product list in this context is your inventory. Your customers won’t know what you truly have in stock if you don’t show them an updated product list.  

Notify customers with clear labels when there’s a product that’s coming soon, out of stock, new, or about to get a price change. 

We understand that constantly updating product listings can be time-consuming and tasking So when updating your product list; 

  • Use ERPs that can integrate with your web store to auto-update product lists when there are changes
  • Monitor real-time users and update your catalog based on customer interests
  • Use insights from ad campaigns and your organic traffic to create a product catalog likely to convert better
  • Ensure the information on your product pages, filters, ads, and homepages are in sync. For example, you don’t want to have inconsistent prices across your pages. 

🚀Pro Tip 

Not all out-of-stock products require a label. So if a specific product has been out of stock for a while and you’re not sure when you’ll be restocking, take it out from your product list.

7. You are not maintaining lists for different channels

9 eCommerce Catalog Management Mistakes that Every Retailer Needs To Fix

46.7% of product searches start from marketplaces compared to 35% from Google. So when you list on Amazon, eBay, and your online store, you’d have more customers from all channels combined. 

However, to make enough sales from each channel you have to adhere to their specific rules for listing. Because the way Amazon lists its products is different from how eBay lists theirs. 

Take a look at Instagram Shop for example. It’s completely different from how Facebook is. So you cannot use Instagram listing strategies for Facebook and expect positive results. The way you’d list for an online store is also very different from the way you’d list for an offline catalog page. 

So when you choose to use the same list for all channels, your products won’t appear in search results.  This is because when you don’t tailor your lists for each of these different channels, it can lead to messy product updates, incomplete information, and low purchases. So when listing;

  • Take into account what each product tag is across these channels - do they use medium, M, or Medium? You’d want to ensure its consistent
  • Don’t forget units of measurement- they usually come in different variations for each listing. For example, eBay uses US shoe sizes as the default while ASOS merges both US and UK shoe sizes as their default.
  • Use an inventory management system to accurately track information across each sales platform
  • You can use a multi-channel listing software so you can have a centralized dashboard for tracking each channel

🚀Pro Tip 

On marketplaces, you want to prioritize price savings offers and the use of reviews because many customers will be comparing those before choosing a seller. So put your deals and reviews in front. Don’t let them have to get to the product page before they see how unique you are.

8. You face too many delays in a product’s GTM strategy

9 eCommerce Catalog Management Mistakes that Every Retailer Needs To Fix

A lot of retailers are launching new products every month and since the eCommerce sphere is a very competitive one, you might be challenged to do the same. 

Unfortunately, it takes about 30-60 days for a product to go online because new products require new labels, metadata, descriptions and so much more. On fast-paced sites like Amazon and Alibaba, some retailers launch faster than you do- thereby snatching all your potential customers for that product. 

So, to cut out the delays in your go-to-market strategy, you need to focus on a faster, digitized way to launch your products online for immediate purchases. Here are a few tips for mapping out a faster GTM strategy

  • Have a consistent brand voice across all product messaging channels - it may be a different message for each channel but having some sort of template helps you move faster
  • Test pricing strategy by offering launch discounts. Afterward, you can regularize the price based on customer demand
  • Conduct frequent analysis so you can always be on top of customer interests and fill your catalogs with them even before the competition
  • Don’t just focus on being first - let your product be different and the best in the market

🚀Pro Tip 

You don’t have to be an omnichannel business if you can’t afford to take care of different messaging for different social channels. It’s better to skip having a Facebook account than having one that looks bad. 

9. You don’t track any product catalog insights

9 eCommerce Catalog Management Mistakes that Every Retailer Needs To Fix

You’ll truly know what strategy works from what doesn’t if you never track your product catalog insights. Because, how do you know what to even optimize?

Tracking your product catalog identifies your fast-selling products. That way you can increase the quantity you stock. You’d also know who to recommend these fast-selling products. You can also focus on increasing customer satisfaction when people make requests for these products. 

Product catalog insights also identify what products to clear out and how best to bundle them up with a faster-selling product. The insights you get help you determine what products are profitable and which ones aren’t.  

You can also use your insights to offer relevant inventory to your loyal customers, and determine sales projections.  Here are some product catalog insights you can track; 

  • The search queries on your internal search site. It’ll help you know how well you match your prospective customer interests.
  • The clicks on your search suggestions or product recommendations - will help you determine how attractive your products are. 
  • Searches without results 
  • Number of exits after a search
  • You should also track if there are any changes after a product update. It’ll help you know how your customers feel concerning a product, price, or availability.

🚀Pro Tip 

Integrate your listings with analytical tools like Google Analytics so you can review all insights from each marketplace in one place.

After Effects of COVID-19: Online Product Catalog Challenges 

Do you remember shopping online during the pandemic? 

How many times did you get a message that said “Sorry for the inconvenience as we’re experiencing delays in shipping due to COVID-19 restrictions”? 

Sometimes it could be when an item is out of stock or when there’s a similar delivery challenge. 

Every eCommerce brand had similar messages and this didn’t exist before the pandemic.

42% of shoppers surveyed said that there’ll be a significant change in the way they would shop after COVID-19. Comparing the before and after shopping behavior has proved that this is true.

For example, customers now scrutinize products they purchase online to avoid return pickups. In fact, at the start of the pandemic, DHL saw a 20% decrease in weekly return volume. This is because people don’t want to experience the hassle that comes with visiting stores.

However, one thing has remained constant- eCommerce growth significantly increased during and post-COVID-19. 

This is why catalog management is very important in gaining conversions from your eCommerce store. Asides from remaining relevant in the market, you also get to outdo your competition and acquire your long-term customers. 

Ending Thoughts

Managing a product catalog can be quite exhausting and prone to mistakes especially if you have to manually update your product inventory and data online. This can lead to long-term catalog problems like not being discovered online or not getting relevant insights. 

However, the problems with your product catalog might vary from your eCommerce store very similar to yours. So to know what the specific issue might be, we recommend you review your current product catalog for optimization insights. Start by requesting a free demo on ConvertCart.

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