Catalogs go digital to help brands

The catalog — that staple of direct-to-consumer (D2C) and business-to-business (B2B) commerce — could benefit from a digital makeover.

We’re about a century from Sears and Roebuck; we are decades into the internet age.

And yet, as Elastic Path CEO Jamus Driscoll told Karen Webster, the experience is clunky and inefficient in its current digital incarnation. Brands are dealing with D2C initiatives, wholesale, a multitude of different channels.

“There are so many different ways you can, and should, market and let customers experience the uniqueness of your products,” Driscoll said.

However, on e-commerce platforms, catalogs have created complexities, which in turn leads to friction.

On the web, brands and businesses only have minutes, if not seconds, to fully engage the end user, whether it’s a consumer or a B2B transaction. In this short window, they must offer the right product, in its context, at an attractive price.

As he said, the digital channel is no longer a destination, it’s the heart of the business.

Working with Workarounds

The catalog experience has remained largely unchanged since the rise of the Internet in the mid-1990s, tied to a rigid, merged database structure, which forced development teams to come up with “workarounds” to make their products digitally presentable. The “generation one” commerce engine has a hierarchy, which is how content relates to one another. When variations are added to the mix, say with a subset of catalogs, that’s when technological complexities arise.

“You may need to run another instance of the platform just to get the level of control you want,” Driscoll said.

The conversation took place in a context where Elastic Path launched EP Product Experience Manager (PXM).

In terms of mechanics, EP PXM centralizes the merchandising of commercial products and the creation of catalogs in one place. Merchants determine how and when they engage online users with their merchandise in an effort to optimize price discovery and conversions across all kinds of touchpoints. Businesses can organize products into unlimited hierarchies and assign multiple price books to products when designing and launching promotions.

At a high level, sales teams can internally design and launch differentiated product experiences across all channels, without having to rely on the heavy technical load provided by IT.

This simplified reinvention of the catalog database itself – using existing infrastructure – allows brands to have more configurable ways to present products to different customers.

“The database itself isn’t changing, but what gives brands the ability to use that database and adapt it is what’s changing,” he said.

Also using the company’s catalog composer, complemented by a merchant-driven rules engine, a merchant can create catalogs on the fly and improve customer engagement.

“Brands want simplified, consolidated, and flexible architectures that allow them to handle the needs of the modern app,” he said.

The new Elastic Path offering allows for links directly from what’s configured in the database to the visual image and pricing data that allows a consumer to quickly go from browsing to buying, he said. declared. The catalog thus becomes a differentiator for brands that results in shopping moments that increase conversions and minimize returns (which can be costly for merchants).

As Driscoll told Webster, “Giving traders the tools they need to quickly move goods exactly the way they want is what drives growth.”

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