How To Create An Online Product Catalog

Digitized information offers vast flexibility for both you and the customer. When deployed correctly, digital information can make the most complex product searches simpler and more efficient. Here’s how the most successful companies sell complex industrial parts: 

  1. By leveraging a well-organized online product catalog 
  2. Through technology-configured complex products
  3. Providing information in the necessary formats for different users. i.e. BIM and CAD files 

By focusing on these three aspects of online selling, manufacturers can create a simpler buying process for even the most complex industrial components.


Advantages Of Having An Online Product Catalog

Does your in-house staff submit product information to distributors and sales channels, spending countless hours gathering data, reformatting it for different systems?

Turn that headache into an advantage by implementing a centralized information system hub.

Online catalogs have many advantages over their printed counterparts, one of the biggest ones being their flexibility. Mistakes can be corrected, products added or removed, designs changed, and features updated without reprinting the catalog. 

Ultimately, your online product catalog should from the back end should be built just for you (the manufacturer) and on the front end (for your buyers and customers) — making both of your jobs easier. 

Advantages online product catalogs for manufacturers:

  • Allows business owners, marketers, and product managers to easily make updates to their catalog as needed
  • Reduce customer service and engineering hours, and increase customer satisfaction

Advantages online product catalogs for your buyers:

  • Ability to configure and select the exact products that meet their project requirements with the most up-to-date information for their projects
  • Easily do product searches and comparisons to quickly make purchases or requests for quote

Designing Your Online Product Catalog

Whether you're creating your first online product catalog or upgrading your existing one, there are a few basic things you have to nail down like who your personas are and a system that can support your online product catalog. 

Quick refresh! Personas represent your ideal client and decision-maker. By understanding your personas' challenges and behaviors, you can create the right type of content (and the right placement!) to engage with them and nurture them to convert to leads.

If your marketing strategy doesn't involve engaging with every type of customer there is in the industrial buying process, download this guide Persona Targeting For Manufacturing Companies.

A System That Can Support Your Online Product Catalog

With a myriad of components, parts, materials, and details that need to be organized, your online product should be secure and strong enough to support the level of quality your customers expect — yet simple enough for all the necessary members of your business to update and navigate through.

The right online product management platform has you in control through backend tools for self-maintenance and allows your customers to be in control too with a self-serve interface to configure and select the exact products that meet their project requirements.

Side note: Maybe you need to upgrade your website first before tweaking or creating your online product catalog. There are a couple of top contenders in this case for manufacturers and small business shops. Take a look at our blog Wordpress vs. Wix: What's The Best Website Platform For Manufacturers?

As you go through the design of your online product catalog, don't forget about your brand, aesthetics, and the role of color theory in marketing — people are more likely to click a link that uses a contrasting color that stands out against your brand colors.


Online product catalog best practices to keep your buyers coming back to you:

  • Allow for the immediate purchase of short-sales cycle commodity products that require less engineering discussion.
  • Consider adding a compare-and-contrast feature to your online product catalog. Users love seeing the side-by-side comparison of products to determine which one best fits their needs and budget. 
  • Give users the ability to submit RFQs using forms to effectively capture their information and ensure your sales team follows up in a timely manner — click here for design tips about creating online forms for lead generation.

Integrate Your Online Product Catalog With Configuration Systems

Complex products can have thousands, or even millions, of different configurations. Does spending many expensive engineering hours helping customers fulfill their exact requirements sound familiar? Are you going above and beyond what can be offered in your catalog — finding correct configurations for complex parts and components?

Configuration systems integrated with your online product catalog vastly simplifies this traditional process, providing complex configurations at a fraction of the time and expense it would take otherwise. Product configurator technology can track the most commonly configured items for inventory control and planning, generating specific part numbers, prices, and SPEC documents as needed. When the configuring process is automated, the prices for engineered products can be instantly validated and confirmed against the buyer's requirements, saving valuable customer support time. 

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Manage Your Online Product Catalog From A Single Platform

Thomas’ Navigator and Connect technologies incorporate all of the above features into a uniform digital customer experience for your customers — while helping to make ongoing catalog maintenance and updates as simple as possible, across all your platforms and channels. The system empowers prospects with rich, up-to-date product information, making the buying process quick and simple.

Contact our team of engineering experts to get started with a custom solution for your online product catalog. Increase conversion rates and deliver the most optimal online experience to your customers with an online product catalog that keeps them coming back. For the full guide on how to build an effective online product catalog, download the eBook here.


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