Let’s say one of the following two things is true:
- You’re currently doing things the old school way with a print product catalog and a traditional sales process
- You have an outdated B2B ecommerce platform that does not have digital catalog software functionality
If so, you’ve likely decided that you’re tired of spending money that you don’t have to. Mostly on printing (and re-printing) and distributing (and re-distributing) physical catalogs. But also on troubleshooting all the negatives that come with a dilapidated, hard-to-use website.
Enter digital catalogs.
To get one you gotta make one, and that means digitizing your current product list. There are two ways to do that. One involves using a standalone online catalog maker. The other, using a B2B ecommerce platform with digital catalog capabilities.
But maybe you want to dip your toes into the world of digital catalogs before you fully dive into the benefits of B2B ecommerce. If so, make a digital catalog with an online catalog maker. That’ll familiarize you with their qualities and their benefits.
Just beware, you’ll turn into a digital catalog disciple. It’s hard not to. They drive a ton of positive engagement with your brand, and they drive a ton sales. Welcome to the other side.
What Is an Online Catalog Maker?
An online catalog maker is a website, mobile app, or piece of software that lets you easily create and publish product catalogs.
Online Catalog Maker vs. Manual Publishing
There are a lot of advantages to using product catalog builder software over manually creating and publishing product catalogs. Let’s dig into each one of them.
- Time and talent. Manually creating, managing, and maintaining a product catalog is a remarkably time-consuming process. And it requires in-house creative talent for design, layout, and publishing. A catalog maker relieves you of that burden. Most product catalog builder software comes with built-in design and layout options or templates. Or it uses a singular highly-optimized template across the board.
- Compatibility and accessibility. Manually creating and publishing your product catalog makes you responsible for how well it integrates with different devices, operating systems, and web browsers. And prospects use a dizzying variety of those. But a catalog builder eliminates that risk and ensures your hard work is viewable and shareable by all.
- Low or no software fees. Most manual catalog creation work is done in the Adobe suite of software. Depending on the size of your business and type of license you use, that can cost hundreds—even thousands—of dollars per year. On the flip side, a digital catalog creator can spin up a catalog for you of the same quality for a fraction of the price. In some cases, it’s even free.
- More exposure and sales. Think of a traditional PDF catalog which must be downloaded before it can be viewed. Now think of an online product catalog made with a digital catalog maker. It can be embedded on your website and easily shared with a link through email and social media. The takeaway here is accessibility. Your buyers don’t have to download big files to access and purchase your products. Now that’s how to create a catalog.
How to Create a Catalog
The answer to how to create a product catalog is different depending on what your starting point is. Maybe you already have an existing product catalog and you’d like to digitize it. Maybe you’re starting from nothing and want to know how to make a product catalog from scratch. Either way, read on.
How to Make a Product Catalog from Scratch
- First, gather all the information you want to include in your catalog. Which product categories, brands, and product lines, along with how they’ll be grouped and featured. Make sure you compile information on your company, sales reps, customer support, and website. And that you have instructions on how to request a quote or place an order.
- Next, make sure you have high resolution images and great sales copy for every product in your catalog. Use your historical sales data and customer feedback to guide decisions on what to highlight and what to say about it. For specialty products, think about including source or origin information like country, region, or farm.
- Once you have all the core information down, the last thing you’ll want to focus on is the nice-to-haves. This is where you’ll invest some time in the front and back cover. And maybe even include a letter from the founder or CEO of the company and testimonials from your customers.
- Finally, it’s time for design and layout. Have a vision for what you want your catalog to look like. It helps to be up-to-date on the best practices for creating a product catalog that sells. As well as research what your competitors are doing.
- Once you’re happy with your design, print and review some samples of your catalog with your team. After the review process is completed, and if you’ve incorporated your team’s feedback, your catalog is ready for mass production and distribution.
How to Create an Online Catalog
There’s a reason we discuss creating a catalog from scratch first. Because it’s a necessary step when learning how to create an online catalog.
If you’ve completed steps 1 through 3 above, you already have a product list, information about your products, high resolution imagery, and other nice-to-haves.
Well, there’s something different about using an online catalog maker to make a digital catalog. You don’t have to worry about the design, layout, or printing. Whether you’re using a standalone digital catalog software or a catalog builder built into your B2B ecommerce platform, the software takes care of it. It does so by giving you design templates or automatically generating a catalog based on your product list and information.
And, thankfully, distributing a digital catalog online is as simple as hitting the publish button. Then you either embed the digital catalog on your website or share a link to the catalog via email or social media. No dead trees required.
Best Online Catalog Creator
To sum it all up, there are two types of online catalog creators. The first, standalone catalog builders, give you a digital version of your print catalog. The second, or digital catalog software, is integrated into B2B ecommerce ordering.
But they’re not all created equal. The best online catalog creator is integrated into your B2B ecommerce platform. And the best B2B ecommerce solutions offer robust digital catalog builders. That’s because it turns into a one-stop shop for your customers to browse and research your products to their heart's content. And when they’re ready to make a purchase, they can do it with just one click. No navigating to a different site. No calling a sales rep to place an order.
So look for all-in-one systems that feature both a web storefront, as well as mobile ordering apps. Then sync your digital catalog to both. Then you can manage a consistent, omni-channel experience for your buyers. And you’ll only have to manage one centralized product catalog.
BlueCart is industry-leading, cloud-based B2B ecommerce software with digital catalog functionality that thousands of wholesales, distributors, and retailers across the country rely on. Book a demo and we’ll show you exactly how BlueCart turns product lists into searchable, integrated browsing experiences that increase sales, the buyer experience, and operational efficiency.