As a retail furniture store, your digital product catalog is the centerpiece of your online presence. Not only does online product data creates a central location to which you’ll drive customers within your own website. An online product catalog becomes a magnet, drawing customers in through social media, search and the greater web. It enhances product discovery and drives foot traffic into your store And all of this leads to tangible increased sales.
But what is a digital product catalog? And why should you ditch the big printed catalogs collecting dust behind the checkout counter.
What Are Digital Product Catalogs?
Your website is your store’s “always open” location for shoppers. And the digital product catalog online is as important as the furniture in your showroom.
In a nutshell, your product catalog is the core of your furniture website. It houses your collections of furniture. Plus it’s all the elements associated with them. Many retailers may approach digital product catalogs in different ways. Which bucket are you in?
- Doesn’t show products online, only lists brands and directs shoppers to the vendor’s website.
- Shows some products on the website but hasn’t updated the data since their “web guy left in January”.
- Shows all brands and products online but pays more staff to hunt for updated data from the vendors than actual salespeople on the floor.
Did one of these scenarios sound like your store? Every retailer is at a different stage of the journey to build a better online presence. And digital catalogs are the first step to better customer experience. But it can be complicated and time-consuming to do it all right. So we’re going to look at both sides. We’ll break the digital product catalog down into two major parts, product data, and metadata.
Product Data You Can See
These are the things the customer sees when they visit the page. They include things like:
- Product number
- Product name
- Main product picture
- Bread crumb to help customers understand how they got here (e.g. Tables> Dining > Hudson)
- Embellishment or Romance Language
- Price, if shown.
Product Metadata Working Behind the Scenes
Metadata helps both your website search function and search engines more effectively navigate your website to find the best match for the customers’ search. Best match matters. If customers don’t find what they’re looking for quickly, they assume you don’t have what they want.
Without metadata, in a search engine’s eyes and in the eyes of the customers, pages seem disconnected. And it’s harder to find items that may complement each other. But when you employ metadata, you make the search so much more powerful, getting the right items onto the screen faster to make the sale.
Metadata may include things like:
We’ve talked about how important content is. This is another way to improve your local SEO. If you’re showing certain furniture online that is available in one of your stores, you want that product to have the best chances in local search results. Location data is an incredible tool for advanced product data.
If you’re carrying products that are discontinued or out of stock, you want to have the functionality to update your customers who browse online. Availability tags are helpful especially for retailers that want to offer inventory information to entice in-store visits. Plus, if your website is working to attract buyers to your product page, you want to have a realistic availability ready for their research.
Alt Image Title
Photos should have meaningful names that people may search for so that images also appear in image searches.
We’re going deep into technical territory now. Schema markup is a special search engine designed code allows pages to appear in more dynamic ways in search results. For example, you can use schema markup to display a list of features as a numbered list or show the product review stars right on the search results pages. This kind of visual and helpful information earns clicks.
How does going to this length to create a digital product catalog help your furniture store?
Why Are Digital Product Catalogs Important?
The digital product catalog’s purpose is multi-faceted. It benefits customers and in-store sales reps alike. It helps you make more sales not only online but in your showroom. Understanding just how it does these things will help you get the most out of this vital investment in your company.
And it all starts with your people.
Enhance Staff Capabilities
You do everything you can to ensure that your sales and support teams succeed. A digital product catalog isn’t just for customers. It gives your staff the information they need to sell the products more effectively.
Using a tablet in-store, they can easily narrow their search and recommend complementing items or help a customer design a whole living room through an easy-to-navigate catalog.
Customers never feel neglected while employees search for things for them. It’s so easy to find what they’re looking for. So they can stay more engaged with that customer.
Better informed and efficient sales reps make for more delightful customer experience in the store. But this isn’t the only way a digital catalog enhances the showroom experience.
Enhance the In-store Experience
It may sound like science fiction. We have people living in virtual realities. But in today’s marketplace, the online and store experiences are one and the same for most people.
We already know that shoppers begin their searches online, and increasingly on mobile devices. But it doesn’t stop in the store. They do the research through a digital catalog, videos, blog posts, etc. And then they visit the showroom to see it in person.
It’s not just a “Millennial thing”. All generations are increasingly living in a reality augmented by their devices. Your shoppers want to spend time in the store after they’ve narrowed down their preferences online. But in your store, they still want access to the online world. More shoppers are going to your website and even your competitor websites while shopping in your showroom. Not to mention that research shows that about 40% of shoppers say in-store technology enhances their shopping experience. Which is where the dynamic room planning and draping technology comes into play.
A dynamic, easy-to-use, high search engine ranking catalog on your website helps these customers find your local store. And once they are in the store, setup areas and technology to encourage the online browsing and customization experience. If your store isn’t visible in these searches, then your would-be customers find those huge online competitors instead. But it doesn’t have to be that way with you make your products more discoverable in this way.
Product Discovery in Local Searches
Search engines like Google go out of their way to help local customers find local businesses. And Google drives real foot traffic to local stores that leverage search power through local SEO.
Your digital catalog not only provides ample product information. Thanks to that location metadata you added to each page, Google knows that you’re a local site. It gives your site preference over online retail monsters like Amazon and Wayfair.
In your physical store, customers can turn to their phones to look up reviews and product information by finding you through Google search or directly.
And you don’t want them doing this on your competitor’s site. Or you’ll have that “bird in hand” flying out the door. But when you have the easy-to-find and useful product catalog, you keep them engaged with your brand both on-screen and off.
The same applies whether they’re browsing through the armoires in your physical store or while lounging comfortably in their own living room.
You might also consider offering free WiFi and setting up kiosks with tablets for those who want a larger screen to further leverage this powerful tool in the store. Once you start enhancing the customer experience, you’ll find new and better ways to keep taking it to the next level and blowing your local competitors out of the water.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the digital space as we continue to explore this essential tool.
Keeping Digital Product Catalogs Accurate
An accurate and thorough catalog means customers have all the information at their fingertips. So they feel no need to seek out other sources to fill in the gaps. That would inevitably lead them into the arms of a competitor.
A digital product catalog can be automated, receiving data straight from manufacturer partners instantly. So it’s always up-to-date and showing the widest possible representation of the brands you carry and making new arrivals available to your customers faster.
Better selection. Less manual labor and no tedious updates. Sign us up!
But what about customers navigating your site from page to page. How does a digital catalog enhance that experience?
How Good is Your Online Catalog Data?
Your website search is only as good as your digital product catalog. No retail website is really complete without it. When customers visit your site, if they don’t quickly find items that interest them they leave.
Couple your catalog with a smart search function that employs machine learning based on an individual customer’s search, volunteered information, purchase history and website behavior to increase the relevancy of searches.
For example, let’s say that past searches and data indicate that this customer appreciates a French Country style. Then when they search for just “end tables”, you can show them French Country and similar styles first. This increases the chances that they find exactly what they’re looking for faster.
Website search is no longer a one-size-fits-all where a single search always pulls the same thing. It’s personalized and personalization is what customer’s today want in retail.
But you may still be wondering won’t customers just ask questions if they have them? Why do they need so much information online when it’s all in the heads of your exceptional sales reps? Is it really worth it?
Why Do Customers Need More Information About Products Online?
The answer is simple. The Internet, like no tool in history, has put endless information at our fingertips. And customers increasingly expect to find anything they want to know online. By some estimates, 91% of customers today prefer to help themselves if that information is only made available to them. And what does all of this self-service mean for your business? Hint: It’s not a bad thing!
- Customers feel in control of the buying experience.
- Customers can make more informed decisions.
- You build trust with customers who turn to you for information.
- They become loyal to your furniture store.
Self-service has changed what closing a sale means. Increasingly it’s “research today” leads to “purchase tomorrow” rather than going for the hard sell when a customer isn’t ready to buy. This isn’t a cop-out.
When customers feel in control, they spend more and come back more often. You make discovering, exploring and buying easy.
But the benefits don’t stop there. This one is huge for your business.
- Return rates go down. You have fewer buyer’s remorse returns as well as fewer returns because a customer got something they didn’t expect.
Your website is the first point of contact many shoppers have with your brand. If you don’t provide what customers need, they’ve no choice but to go to competitor sites
Digital Product Catalogs: An Essential Element of Your Website
The digital product catalog is the centerpiece of an effective retail website. It’s essential that it stays up-to-date and accurate. Because ultimately you want all of your website traffic to end up here.
An online catalog is more than product pages. It’s certainly not an uploaded PDF. It’s an advanced tool designed to rank high in searches and help customers find what they’re looking for effortlessly. And the best product catalogs are a direct link to the brands you carry. This reduces time spent duplicating efforts, recreating the wheel and falling behind on updates.
All of this information builds customer trust that drives foot traffic and helps you make more online sales.
To learn more about how MicroD can help you design and implement a streamlined digital product catalog, contact us to discuss your business needs.