|eCatalog - a Key Component of Your eCommerce Initiative
In recent years, Internet virtually has become major driving force of economic and technological growth in many industries. It is fundamentally changing the way companies operate, do their trade and interact with each other and it is giving birth to new processes and business models that were previously unimaginable.
First type of the Internet business models that created a different business method was Business to Consumer (B2C) eCommerce. Business to Business eProcurement systems and web-based storefronts were two other models that emerged next. The eProcurement systems became widely popular instantly due to the factor that Internet-based automated buying solutions are capable of considerable reducing Maintenance, Repair and Operating expenses, which, in turn, makes direct impact on the bottom line of a company. Web-based storefront, on the other hand, provides a low-cost channel for the global marketing and sales of goods and services.
The next business model that changed the perception of doing business online was eMarketplaces. An eMarketplace is an online venue which brings together multiple buyers and sellers and makes it easier for them to communicate, collaborate and trade as members of a large community.
The fourth online business model has combined key aspects of all the above mentioned business methods and is known as Enterprise B2B Portal or Private B2B Exchange. The business world sees enormous changes across industries due to the emergence of this unique solution. Enterprise B2B Portal with supply chain management features is capable of streamlining procurement and sales processes, cutting overhead costs, increasing efficiency, while maximizing profit and helping bottom line savings for companies.
No doubt that B2B eCommerce presents enormous new business opportunities. But to realize these massive opportunities businesses must overcome some significant technical impediments. The most extreme and critical of these challenges involve creating, managing and distributing product content. All four of the above mentioned online business models face this crucial problem.
Product Content and eCatalog
Accurate and complete product content improves quality and speed of purchasing decisions by giving buyers the vital information needed. For sellers content differentiates their products and enables them to participate in multiple eMarketplaces, eProcurement systems and in their very own B2B Portal. The eMarketplaces and eProcurement systems must deliver content, with value added information such as ratings, reviews, regulatory compliances and service information to attract new users, retain the old ones and fulfill the needs of their diverse buyer and supplier communities.
Creating high quality product content is difficult because different suppliers use different descriptions, attributes and parameters to describe the same item. Managing product information becomes even more complex with the addition of value-added content such as editorial articles, service information and third party reviews.
Moreover, Buyers and Sellers have totally different approach and require different functions from a product content management solution. Buyers need a comprehensive content management system which allows them to take conclusive buying decision with minimum of effort and cost. Suppliers want a system that enables them to manage their brand, control their product descriptions, pricing, and discount policies.
The need for an advanced eCatalog
Despite its critical nature, product information management has been grossly underestimated by most of early eCommerce projects, which tend to focus on more high profile technologies, such as transaction engines and user interfaces. However, few of these B2B projects put required emphasize on the management of product content. As a result, many of them are beginning to realize that they have condoned the challenge
of managing product information and that such oversights are hindering the overall effectiveness and scalability of their eCommerce initiatives. Actually, very few of eCommerce initiatives today have the right resources to support the activities required for aggregating, maintaining, and delivering high quality product content. In order to overcome this major hurdle eCommerce initiatives have to improve their ability to acquire, manage and update product content with the help of an advanced eCatalog system.
What is an eCatalog?
An eCatalog is an Online product content management solution with powerful user interface which provides efficient navigation, searching and integration capabilities to organize and publish product information and enable real-time handling of business processes related to buying and selling.
An eCatalog stores product content in a single database and organizes product information under a certain categorized hierarchy. An eCatalog also have sophisticated searching opportunities so that buyers can locate products easily.
Usually product information is acquired from different sources and is often classified under different taxonomies. This makes product indexing difficult and in many cases products end up being listed under several categories. International Harmonized Codes, a taxonomy used by many countries for customs tariff purposes, is one of the example of such systems. Because of this problem, HC and similar taxonomies are not really suitable for eCommerce.
That's why, most advanced eCatalog systems use classification system like The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code� (UNSPSC�), which provides an open, global multi-industry standard for well-organized and precise classification of products and services.
In e-catalogs the product content also has to undergo a normalization procedure to comply with a uniform product naming system. This uniformed nomenclature makes it easier for buyers to compare products and prices, and ensures exact match for relevant product searches. Depending on the quality of product information available, the eCatalog also requires rationalizing abbreviations and acronyms, synchronizing terminologies, converting unit of measurements, etc.
How businesses are loosing opportunities
Early eCatalog adopters made a crucial mistake by assuming that catalog integration is a fairly easy task in comparison to the other parts of eCommerce development. This misapprehension of reality occurred mainly due to lack of practical knowledge in this field and is based on the false assumption that one method fits for describing all similar products and it is possible to constrain product content with finite number of attributes and values. Observation shows that in many cases buyers are unable to take key procurement decisions due to poor content of the product, which results in lost business opportunities for eCommerce companies.
Benefits of using right eCatalog
An advanced eCatalog system similar to Rusbiz.com delivers a compelling value proposition. Using this type of solutions companies can integrate eCatalog capabilities into their business processes rapidly and manage sourcing, classifying, syndicating and publishing product content data effectively.
The return on investment from these solutions is also significant! Companies can expect increased revenue, better customer satisfaction, and shorter sales cycle.
About the Author
Nowshade Kabir is CEO of Rusbiz.com, a global B2B portal for small and midsize companies. Our distinctive web stores along with many outstanding features like e-marketplace, e-catalog,