I recently did a webinar (see webinar here: http://opentext.com/campaigns/better-brand-engagement.htm ) with John Sprouse from Deloitte Consulting, in which we discussed how to bring a product catalog to life with rich media. As “webinar experts” in PCM and Digital Asset Management, we shared brilliant insights about how e-commerce has shifted the product catalog creation and production aspects to the on-line digital world.
Researching those old print catalogs transported me back to a time of great anticipation; waiting for the arrival of the three-inch thick Wards Christmas catalog. Flipping through the pages, I remember spending hours searching for all the latest toys and gadgets to put on my Christmas list. I could imagine riding one of those ultra-cool banana-seat bikes or that Atari thing to play video games. There were pictures, descriptions,
prices – all the information needed to buy. Except you had to go to the store or fill out and send an order form with a check, then wait six to eight weeks.
I wonder what it took to create those catalogs. It must have been a monumental effort, getting the photos or artwork, doing the layout and making sure all the information was accurate. How did they manage all that information in the days before digital? I speculate that these companies and their catalog workflows continuously evolved with the goal to save time and reduce costs so they could be more competitive and increase sales. I also suspect they were thinking about the customer experience with art directors,
photo selection, special offers, all geared to get people to buy more stuff.
Online shopping still has those basic elements – images,
descriptions and prices – but e-commerce has changed the dynamics.
· Paper is fixed, can’t make changes
· Costly production,
printing, shipping and postage
· No way to measure who sees catalog
· Limited data on purchasing behavior
· Delayed ordering by phone or mail
· Dynamic; ability to create interactive, personalized shopping
· More information about products
· Social aspects; like, recommend, reviews, share
· Metrics and analytics
· Order immediately
Today, there is still a great deal of effort to create a product catalog for e-commerce, although companies continue to evolve as the latest technologies help to streamline those efforts. Smarter,
integrated tools provide Master Data Management so all the product IDs and SKUs are tracked and can be searched, including all the associated images, videos and content. Intelligent workflows can automatically customize and personalize experiences on the fly as buyers visit the site, using historical data and patterns. Customer experience is not just tied to the buying process. It is aligned with support and customer service, rewarding return buyers and brand advocates. This doesn’t mean that print catalogs have gone away. Now they are one channel of an Omni-channel customer outreach, whether business-to-business or business-to-customer.
Product catalog management continues to evolve and is now an ecosystem of many workstreams, with information and data flowing in and out of an organization. It is an organic and adaptable process continuously changing based on the environment and other variables.
As complex or simple as today’s technology allows, the ultimate purpose remains the same, get people to buy more stuff. It seems the more things change the more they remain the same.