The Online Product Catalog, an invaluable asset to the store

December 31st, 2014 by Azur Digital

Whilst retailers have an increasing choice of new technology (augmented reality, beacon, NFC…) and touchpoints (responsive website, wishlist, Tweeter “Buy Now” button…) to boost their multichannel value proposition, they should not forget the foundation of their success lies in the strength and presentation of their product catalog.

Yes, in the new omnichannel retail climate, all merchants should be marketing and technology driven, with most strategic decisions being fuelled by (big) data, consumer behavior and market trends. However, without a strong Online Product Catalog, reaching out to the (connected) consumers and convincing them of the value of your offering will become more and more difficult.

Research Online, Purchase Offline (ROPO) is a worldwide trend: 53% of MENA Internet users research products online before shopping

As consumers increasingly rely on mobile and Internet to guide, or influence, their offline shopping behavior, brick & mortar retailers that do not devote sufficient attention to their Online Product Catalog development might face customer disaffection by not being present where they are expected in the customer journey. Ultimately, they may loose market share.

A major retail asset yielding both online and offline returns

The Online Product Catalog, which can be considered a dematerialized collection made of the offerings of a merchant and its partners, augmented with rich up-to-date product information (including media, prices, stock levels, reviews, cross/up-sell recommendations, shipping and payment options etc.), should always be at the center of your multichannel retail evolution.

This set can virtually be infinite and span across numerous complementary categories and services. It can be leveraged both online (through product pages, online ads, email campaigns etc.) and offline (in store via digital catalogs on tablet, promotion display on digital walls, product scanning… or at the Customer Center). It is consequently an invaluable asset to any retailer.

Argos new Digital Concept Store at Old Street. Bertrand Bodson, Digital Director at Argos, explains how in-store tablets and innovative digital catalog implementations enhance the shopping experience.

A traffic acquisition tool increasing footfall and conversion

From a multichannel retail perspective, the Online Product Catalog is the bread and butter of the e/m-commerce channel, in particular through the product page. Beyond this, it is the cornerstone of online traffic generation. Whether by means of direct, organic or paid search, a strong, complete and up-to-date Online Product Catalog delivering an information-rich experience will attract massive audience. It will provide your brand the needed exposure to acquire new, and retain existing, customers.

A well-implemented Online Product Catalog will push retailers and their brands to the forefront of online search results, automatically translating into both offline footfall and overall sales increase. With the growth of mobile usage, it is obvious the Online Product Catalog requires a strong mobile strategy. It should also be able to guide online audiences to physical stores, harnessing the ROPO effect.

Selfridges website extends the store experience by providing immediate access to most essential product information and service options (store photography: Andrew Meredith).

Marketing teams should leverage this catalog to boost website and store conversion rates through adequate e-CRM and mechandizing technics. By monitoring in-store digital catalog browsing, they could gather valuable insights on customer preferences and shopping behavior, which would allow merchandizers to optimize product placement on aisle and in-store navigation.

Moreover, combining collected data with beacon technology and a loyalty program would enable crafting highly relevant and personalized customer journeys, truly differentiating your brand. Yet, to achieve the conversion objectives, User Experience design expertise is essential in order to deliver a continuous and seamless shopping experience, all the way to purchase.

Bringing the Endless Aisle into the physical store

According to an Accenture survey, 3 out of 4 consumers would like to order out-of-stock goods for home delivery, locate items, scan products or access reviews from their mobile while in store

Implementing a strong Online Product Catalog enables enhancing the shopping experience with new in-store digital touchpoints and new customer-oriented services. By extending the product Long Tail into the physical store, retailers have access to new revenue opportunities.

Consumers can as a result purchase items that are not physically on the store shelves (whether out-of-stock or not part of store’s inventory) and be offered recommendations and complementing products. If offered by the retailer, they could even order these items for home delivery and purchase third-party products, blending the advantages of an online marketplace endless inventory with the convenience and confidence provided by a brick & mortar store.

American Apparel augmented reality app allows customers to access rich product information while in store, including product reviews and videos, and order for home delivery.

The Online Product Catalog therefore is, similarly to mobile, a cornerstone to merge physical and online worlds and maximize their synergies. It enables delivering an enhanced and more complete store experience.


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