If a portion of your organisations revenue is derived through product sales, having an online product catalogue is a valuable asset and key component of your sales strategy.
Websites providing product catalogues and e-commerce solutions are known to most, and the chances are you yourself have purchased something online. From vouchers and ticket sales to cars and holidays – your weekly grocery shopping even. There are websites selling just about anything and everything you can think of. Here we’ll look at the benefits to both the consumer and the supplier, and what should be considered when approaching the implementation of an online product catalogue. But first – a brief case study:
Case Study – Vi Packaging
Vi Packaging supply packaging materials to the Australian wine and beer industry from their base in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. As a successful organisation they recognise the benefits of providing product information to their existing as well as potential customers. With over 2,000 product combinations the use of an online product catalogue allows customers to view product images, access technical information, drawings, and confirm combinations of related products. Click the image below to view the Vi Packaging Product Catalogue.
Using the catalogue customers can therefore assess the products available and align them to their individual requirements without having to contact the company directly. However, if customers require further information beyond that which is on the site they can submit an enquiry using the online form, which will be processed by the Customer Service team. Customers can see exactly what’s available, how it looks, and suitable related products before they place an order. Convenient and clear information.
Let’s now look at some of the key benefits to both the customer and the supplier.
Benefits to the Customer
- Potential customers have immediate access to information related to products you sell – whether technical specifications, images, popularity, and of course pricing and offers. No need to call the Customer Services, or request posting of a hard-copy catalogue – the catalogue is available 24/7/365.
- With accessibility comes convenience – the ability to place an order or enquiry anytime, anywhere – rather than being constrained by timing or location.
- Tracking the progress of orders is also more convenient. The ability to log into the online store and review the progress of an order can be done anytime.
- The ability to place repeat orders is a time saving feature that also assists with accuracy if orders are complex.
- Many suppliers offer discounts for online sales, which is an incentive and a benefit to the customers.
Benefits to the Supplier
- Aligning to consumer trends and preferred mode of purchase – online – ensures customers are retained rather than lost to competitors offering online services.
- An additional sales channel also increases potential for attracting new customers.
- Reaching new and existing customers can also be increased by promoting the online catalogue via social media.
- Building a database of customers supports newsletter circulars and promotional activities.
- Order generation and payment is processed by the customer, allowing staff to focus on other value-add activities.
- The order system can be integrated to other business systems for greater efficiencies.
We could look more closely at benefits, but the above provides a high-level overview of some compelling reasons to consider implementing an online catalogue.
So, what does it take to display products online?
- Collation of the required information – If you already have business systems supporting your product sales this should be a fairly straightforward exercise of gathering the information you want to display, about all the product you want to advertise and/or sell via the online store.
- Imagery – One of the key benefits of the online catalogue is the ability for customers to see what they’re buying. Good quality images of products will set your site apart from competitors.
- Existing website – We can’t overlook the need to embed the catalogue into the existing site in some shape or form. Newer sites are more likely to be better placed to easily integrate a product catalogue. But even if you’ve had your current site for a while there are no technology barriers to getting products online. However, brand consistency is important so you’ll be looking to ensure your slick new product catalogue reflects the same branding as the other pages on your site.
- Maintenance – Keeping the information current and accurate once it’s live is an important consideration. Deciding who is responsible and how the catalogue will be maintained shouldn’t be an afterthought.
The primary consideration is most likely the quality and volume of product information. If you have a lot of products then there’s a lot of information and imagery to be gathered – and then loaded into the site. A good online catalogue will support automated loading of information – which will require the data to be assembling in a pre-defined, consistent format to minimise import errors. Once the data is loaded customers will expect it to be well structured and easy to navigate – after all they want to locate their desired products quickly and easily – so categorisation and the existence of keywords for searching will improve the product selection process.
Online product catalogues come in many forms and for a variety of products. You may want to provide an ‘information only’ catalogue, or one that provides full purchasing and order processing capability. There are a number of considerations prior to implementation – but once the catalogue is active on your website you’ll be leveraging the benefits in many ways, and your customers will appreciate the service. Consider it an increasingly required component of your sales strategy, and a sound investment.
If you have any questions related to this article or if you’d like to discuss implementing an online product catalogue please contact us.