You’re building in a lot of manual workarounds on your ecommerce site, optimizing on a micro level when you want to go macro. You may have even displayed some incorrect pricing or out-of-stock products a time or two and had to re-upload your entire catalog from scratch.
It sounds like you need to optimize your product catalog.
Your product catalog is your foundation, and if the data there isn’t clean and organized, no tech solution for search and discovery will work as effectively as it could.
In this article, you’ll learn the top product catalog optimization efforts you really need to focus on if you want to increase conversions and reach your business KPIs.
How to Optimize your Ecommerce Product Catalog
Before you can make any effort towards optimizing for KPIs, there are a few questions to answer first:
What is your business strategy or goal? And, does the data in your product catalog support the optimizations that’ll help you reach that goal?
For example, say you’re trying to optimize for revenue. One way to do that is to bury out-of-stock products so they appear lower in a search result set and boost products customers actually convert on.
Sephora does this really well, using inventory data to boost and bury products but also to surface those insights at the store level, and giving shoppers access to that data. If you were a customer, you’d see that the product is in stock online, but that it’s also in stock at YOUR Sephora store.
When inventory might be volatile—such as during the holidays—this gives customers confidence in their shopping ability.
While Sephora took that optimization a step beyond, burying and boosting products is something rather standard across the ecommerce industry.
But you can only do it if your product discovery solution has awareness of which products in your catalog are out of stock, what their margin rate is, and so on.
But any product discovery platform has its limits when the data in your catalog isn’t clean.
You can ensure your data is clean by:
- Using good, clear images
- Optimizing metadata
- Using data tags and categories
- Standardizing product descriptions
If it sounds like a lot of manual work, that’s because it generally is — unless you instill the help of AI-powered Attribute Enrichment.
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Standard, high-quality images
A recent survey of Etsy buyers confirmed that image quality influences 90% of sales—more than the cost of the product, shipping details, and even reviews.
Product images are a visual translation of the purchase. It’s not just about how the product looks, but its dimensions, how it looks on a person or in the area of intended use, and potentially even some of its features.
But how those images appear on your ecommerce site matters just as much. Several techniques can increase conversions with just images alone:
- Larger images. Researchgate ran a study on eBay purchases and found that product images that were three times larger than the standard increased sales by 2x.
- User-generated images. Photoslurp found in their recent study that user-generated photos increased conversion rates by 5x.
12th Tribe does this really well, displaying their photos both on models, then adding a customer photo section (pulling their tags from Instagram) and even adding links with images to other items the customer is wearing.
The evidence goes on, but we’ll summarize it to say your product images should be:
- Larger than average
- Standardized across your website
- Lifestyle images
- Taken from several different angles
- Natural and bright
- Clean, as in no background or a background that applies to the product
“Even simple products should have multiple images showing all angles of a product,” says Erin DeCesaris, Head of Strategy at Fuel Made, an ecommerce growth agency. “Along with lifestyle imagery showing the product in use (if possible). Adding a video is even better!”
Bonus: The above are standard, best-practice optimizations, but you can do more to boost traffic and conversions.
Anirudh Murali, DTC store owner and co-founder and CEO of economize.cloud, says his company saw a boost in conversions and traffic from social media when they switched to Open Graph images, which showcase a thumbnail when someone shares the product link on social media.
When you integrate with a discovery platofrm and upload your catalog, you’ll set up “searchabilities”— essentially defining the fields you want to factor into your product’s metadata.
- Factors that would matter in a search results
- Recall terms
- What terms the product will rank for
- What fields a buyer will be evaluating in a product for optimization efforts
A lot of ecommerce businesses go into metadata creation thinking it’s all about organic searchability—as in SEO (search engine optimization).
In reality, it sets standards across your data, so AI solutions can surface more accurate insights, differentiate and draw links between your products, and enable shoppers to search for products based on their attributes.
If you’re trying to understand whether or not a product truly matches a search for a given term, you have to have the right field levels. Essentially, you need to break the products down and classify them according to brand, key features, colors, dimensions, etc.
This will refine how and where your discovery platform uses that information to recall products that match a user’s query.
Organization with data tags and categories
There are a lot of conversion optimizations that rely on the organization of your catalog.
Take faceting as a great example.
It’s a way for your audience to narrow their search and find exactly what they’re looking for. But if your catalog isn’t organized with attributes and categories, faceting isn’t possible. At the very least, certain items won’t show up in a search.
Interlinking is another example. When your product catalog data notes that certain products come as a set, are meant to go together, or are often purchased together, your discovery platform can ensure that customers will find these products easier across your site.
If you’re in the fashion industry, you might also consider variations— which are another way to link products together by a much smaller set of attributes (their color, size, set name, etc.)
This is essential to ensuring your customers don’t face a search results or category page of the same t-shirt in every shade of color and size you offer.
Standardizing product descriptions
While product descriptions aren’t often made searchable as they can introduce a lot of unnecessary keywords into each discovery platform’s data set, Setting a standard for what you include in product descriptions creates consistent expectations for users on your site, which is an important optimization to make regardless.
“Users in a store can gain information about a product by physically touching it; online, your product details (and imagery) need to create that experience for users,” says DeCesaris.
Most successful product descriptions have a few key elements:
- Relevant details (answering important questions about the product)
- Benefits/use cases
- Emotive language
The types of information and benefits you choose—and the format you deliver that information in—should be the same across all product descriptions on your ecommerce site.
Take Rugs Direct, for example. The two rug pages below are in the same format, delivering the same relevant information with some slight variations in language.
Even the length of content remains consistent across product descriptions.
Consistency like that should apply to other areas in a product description too, such as sizes, and even word choices.
If you’re a clothing retailer, your product catalog should show consistent sizing. Are you listing dress sizes as XS, S, M, or as 0-2, 4-6, etc?
How about color choices? Are you consistently saying “grey” or do you sometimes say “gray”?
All of the information in your catalog has to be consistent, down to the finest details like how you spell certain words. Without this, you might skew any insights you pull for optimization efforts down the line.
Better Catalog = Better Experience
Your customers might not realize there are other pieces that belong with a product, unless you show them. But if your data doesn’t reflect this connectivity, you’ll miss that conversion opportunity.
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