August 25th, 2022 | 5 MIN READ

Solve Catalog Complexity To Scale Your Retail Business

Written by Sarah Ruiter

Sarah Ruiter is a Market Development Manager at Myplanet.
With an educational background in retail management and a career entirely in tech, she combines her two passions to help retailers navigate the complexity of digital transformations. She learns about the business challenges facing retail leaders, diving deep on the expertise and perspectives their experiences offer, to bring the latest information on the evolving world of retail.
 

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Scaling a modern retail business is difficult. With multiple channels, dynamic operating logistics, location-based specifications, product availability management, multiple business models, and flexible pricing strategies, selling products to consumers is getting more and more complicated. And one of the biggest challenges to overcome in all this complexity is product merchandising. 

Product merchandising refers to all of the information necessary to sell a product: pricing, availability, regional markets, content, technical information, images, etc. When brands only sold products in stores, product merchandising was difficult, but manageable. In a world where brands must compete in-store, online, and across an ever-changing array of channels and touchpoints, product merchandising becomes exponentially more difficult to manage.

One particularly sticky problem rooted in legacy technology and process is catalog management. Often the bottleneck to commerce innovation, it can be a major stumbling block for brands. But understanding the three biggest hurdles—and identifying solutions for overcoming them—can help ensure your brand is ready to scale at the pace your customers demand.

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Take a Look at a Visual Breakdown of Catalog Fatigue

Localization
The first of the three hurdles we see most often is product content. Product content is often contained directly in catalogs, and for many brands, managing this is a manual process. Catalogs typically take the form of spreadsheets, and are replicated and changed every time something impacts the merchandising of products. That means brands have unique catalogs for their core product line, for discounted products, for special events and holidays— the list goes on and on, and each requires its own catalog. (We’ve seen brands with dozens of catalogs for a single region!) 

In and of itself, managing that many catalogs is a challenge. But where it gets even more complicated is when you throw in regional differentiators. Imagine scaling dozens of catalogs across every region your brand operates in, ensuring each catalog reflects unique pricing or tax rules and different SKUs for different regulations, and has the ability to manage unique offers for preferred customers. 

This is high-complexity, through and through. Brands need an effective system in place to manage the challenges of localization to realize the benefits that come from scaling into new regions.

Price Management
The second hurdle? Price management. 

With so many catalogs to oversee, temporary price changes can blow the doors wide open for errors to creep in. Things like holiday sales or discounts on overstocked items aren’t once in a blue moon events, and mistakes in pricing are not an option. 

Since catalogs are the central source of truth for product information, best practice dictates not to make temporary pricing changes directly in catalogs. To work around this challenge, many brands employ other systems, like discounts, to reflect temporary changes to pricing. While this is functional to a point, it’s ultimately not a scalable solution.

When a brand operates across multiple business models—like B2C and B2B—they likely have multiple pricing strategies, and using discounts for B2B account-, volume-, and regionalized-based pricing requires some engineering acrobatics to accomplish. Even if a brand just wants to display strike through pricing for sales, they’ll need to use multiple systems to display an original and discounted price. Once again, a comprehensive management system is key for effective administration of the complexity price management brings to the catalog management picture.

Content Merchandising
The third and final hurdle we see most often is content merchandising. Converting customers in modern commerce often demands some level of personalization, and in many cases that’s accomplished through customer segmentation and product curation. 

Using behaviorally-based metrics is the simplest form of segmentation, but sophisticated brands use data to better target customer experiences. Business users want a code-free way to slice segments and data into curated offerings, but a traditional catalog based product management system requires teams of engineers to manage the creation of new catalogs. Then, of course, there’s the compounding complexity of price management and localization with all of these new catalog segmentations. 

Even looking at just these three hurdles, it’s easy to see how catalog management can quickly become a nightmare for brands.

EP Product Experience Manager(PXM) offers a solution where  brands only have one centralized, low-code environment to manage product data, design and launch merchandising strategies, and compose unlimited catalogs. These catalogs can be deployed to the relevant channel, geography, or account via a set of rules applied by business users. 

“We see Elastic Path customers rapidly creating and launching new catalogs, variations, promotions, pricing strategies, and more,” says Jason Cottrell, CEO of Myplanet. “This is how you innovate and exceed consumer expectations in the digital age.”

With EP PXM, business users can start getting creative with their customer segmentation and offerings and they can offer unique pricing for various accounts or locales. When products need to be discounted, EP PXM allows for node-based pricing. That means that a new, discounted price can be added inline with the rest of the product information, but not override the original pricing, maintaining accuracy and reducing errors. 

 “While competitors are bogged down in custom code and long development cycles, Elastic Path customers can do more and more in a low code / no code environment,” adds Cottrell.

Myplanet, the largest composable commerce consultancy in North America, is already supporting EP PXM within its Pre-Composed-Solution™ for DTC Commerce, one of its Composable.com™ Accelerators, to enable brands to realize the value of EP PXM quickly. The firm recently raised a growth equity round from Tercera and has earmarked funds to continue its alignment with Elastic Path’s Pre-Composed Solutions™.

“Myplanet truly understands the power and flexibility unleashed by composable commerce. They share our commitment to making composable commerce more powerful for business users through functionality like EP PXM, and more accessible to brands via Pre-Composed Solutions. Their recent funding from Tercera is further validation that together we are delivering value for brands.” - Jamus Driscoll, CEO, Elastic Path

 

Myplanet Deminar

In this deminar for EP PXM and Myplanet’s Pre-Composed-Solution™ for DTC Commerce, you can see how easy it is for brands to manage complex catalogs, and apply the solution across a variety of digital contexts so consumers can engage with a brand’s product offerings.

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