Faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, the retail world faced a new challenge. Due to lockdown, we all felt as if time was moving slower but not everyone realizes that a revolution in the e-commerce world has come with the whisper of empty streets. Many companies realized that they would not survive without moving their business whole or to some extent to the internet. The revolution does not only concern companies already well established in the Internet, it is also a new era for companies such as pharmacy chains, groceries, or discount stores. People come to the internet not only for a good price offer but also for their safety and convenience. E-commerce shopping is not only a well-thought-out choice of a better offer, but often a quick necessity to deal with the most urgent needs
If you are in the traditional retail market and you wonder where to start or expand significantly your e-commerce journey you must have a good foundation. High effective, flexible, and lucid product catalog is something that you should attend with a careful planning. Have you ever wondered what features the retail sales product catalog of a new era should have? Let's look at the selected features together.
Pick up in-store and home delivery seem obvious, but someone must prepare the goods for the shipment or collection. Stock management in a well-planned product catalog may prove useful here. If you share the stock between online and local store sales, you should be able to define the rules on how goods leave the stock and what should happen in case of the lack of ordered product. If a customer orders pick-up products in-store and in the meantime one of them will be sold, you should be able to check if it is available in your defined nearby location. React quickly - if the customer wants to pick-up his order on the same day, in addition to a nearby location, define the rules of giving hints of similar products available in selected location. Similar product - definition is in your hand - same product different manufacturer, another product with a similar composition, products with similar use, etc. Those rules can be handled in a catalog that Hycom can provide.
Multi level price management
An easily expandable pricing module is something you cannot overestimate. Imagine a well-organized retail network - shops scattered around the city, country or even worldwide. Usually, this network is not uniform - own stores may be treated differently than franchise, the same products can be supplied by different vendors, some products may be exclusive to some regions, finally, the prices can depend on many variables. A modern product catalog should handle such a dynamic and flexible price structure. According to company needs - you should be able to manage price lists from one place, give a little more space for the decision about prices to your local stores or just impose the final prices.
The perfect product catalog gives additional options for flexibility in the way you manage pricing:
you can make them seasonal or arrange in time slots (like the special price in the morning for some products group);
you can make them specific because of the quantity of selling goods;
you can make promotional baskets with combined sets of goods;
you can easily coordinate your pricing with, for example, a loyalty program;
prices may depend on the method of delivery;
price lists should support different currencies; etc.
Multi catalogs and hierarchical structure
One of the feature retailers always ask for is possibility to have many product catalogs managed from one central application. Modern commerce should not only offer such possibility but also should allow to assign product catalogs per locations, regions or sales channels. This is important where goods are only offered regionally due to matters of taste, supply or even regulation.
Sometimes it’s also necessary to create a hierarchical structure of the catalog in order to reflect the retail business model of a company. Flexibility in creation of the product catalog structure becomes valid when retailers want to sell their products in multi channels, regions or countries. Following this idea, master products could be assigned in hierarchies which create the data structure for product display on any channel defined by the retailer. Each product catalog could then inherit products from one or more hierarchy. It would be perfect if every product catalog could have a separate price list assigned in case of different price/currency in a store, mobile app, web or even different country.
Bundles and promotions
Grouping products in packages is always a good idea to increase sales. Customers are attracted by a better price for each product in a package. For example, merchandisers could create sets of products like party sets or breakfast sets. Bundles of the same products are also the way when customers buy three or four the same items at lower price.
A modern commerce system with good product catalog should give the possibility to provide products with their configuration and pricing among all the channels by an API. It should be possible to make adaptations of the bundles and prices per each store or any other channel.
Sophisticated bundling and pricing based on multiple factors are the core of merchandising. However, every modern commerce must handle promotions. These promotions must be varied to give multiple options for diverse marketing campaigns for example:
buy one – get one free
buy one – get a second for X% less
buy X – get Y for free
if you buy X items of product A then get Y items of a product from the same category
customer specific promotions and promotion codes
In the context of promotions based on personalized offers, it becomes clear that today's expectations of both retailers and their customers go far beyond, and that AI-driven Customer Engagement solutions come to the fore. They not only improve the customer shopping experience, but also effectively increase conversion rates by continuously analyzing the interactions of customers across different channels and served at different (both physical and digital) touchpoints. A modern Product Catalog cannot ignore the possibilities of new AI technologies. Digital retail has never had so many opportunities to derive value thanks to the personalized presentation of purchase recommendations based on the behavioral analysis of a particular buyer and predictions based on the characteristics of similar customer groups.
A modern product catalog should be a platform that gathers all the product content and allows a unified view for a customer. Having the possibility to add unlimited product attributes and to create additional product default fields is a must.
Retailers can decide to have dedicated PIM (Product Information Management) and Content Management tools. However, for grocery shopping with simple digital asset requirements, it is not necessary to have sophisticated PIM and CM tools. In a simple scenario, product descriptions are managed directly within the Master catalog and can be inherited by Catalogue Hierarchies.
Additional integration with 3rd Party DAM (Digital Assets Management) or utilizing Integrated Digital File Manager will allow for the serving of rich content to each touchpoint. This leads to a reduced content administration overhead allowing time to create a better user experience.
An extra benefit in modern product catalog management is the possibility to create product Attribute Templates. It will essentially speed up the creation of Attributes on Repeatable Product Types, often a common problem with grocery products management.
Product Information and Product Templates contained in downstream systems should be easily integrated and recreated in the Master Product catalogue.
API based catalogue data model creation approach allows applying model changes from downstream systems without any customization in the platform.
Having such capabilities on the API level significantly accelerates the time needed to publish such changes to end customers.
To build or to buy
As a company well used to working in complex, fast moving environments Hycom are very used to the “build vs. buy” question. Especially in the modern world of microservices it is possible to take a core capability and build out complex capabilities as we have described in this paper.
Whilst such an approach may have been necessary in the early days of microservices where capabilities within the various platforms were not well advanced, the cost (not least in elapsed time to market) can be considerable, and the on-going maintenance leads to increasing technical dept. At the same time, developing outside of a core platform may mean that the solution is not covered by vendor SLA’s or support.
We therefore welcome the development of capabilities discussed in this paper being embedded in the core capabilities – this way an SI like us can consume the service API’s quickly and easily sure of the on-going support and SLA’s.
Our world is changing together with retail business models which are changing faster than the legacy systems with their product catalogs can accommodate, for example providing omnichannel customer experience, BOPiS (Buy Online Pick-Up in Store) or products' availability in various locations. Customers demand accurate and real-time information to make their buying choices – anything less than this is a barrier to business and detracts from the brand experience. Therefore, in our opinion a modern product catalog driven by a functional API can face all the future challenges, distinguish the company among the other competitors and allow to be a leader of customer experience on the retail market.
If you would like to get more details about our modern product catalog vision and recommended tools, please contact us directly!