In a perfect world, getting your products listed online and attracting sales would be a straightforward process.
But as a seasoned ecommerce seller, you know that things are not that simple.
The larger your catalog, the greater the complexity. And the more channels you sell on, the more challenging it is to manage your catalog.
To help you prepare, we’ve come up with a list of the most common catalog management mistakes that sellers face—and what you can do to avoid them. Keep reading for practical tips on how to failproof your approach to catalog management and how to simplify product listing.
1. Inconsistent Product Data
Between categorizing your SKUs and writing your listings, it’s easy to accidentally miss a typo, or to leave incomplete or incorrect data. This problem is so prevalent that 98% of respondents to a consumer survey said that they’ve been dissuaded from completing a purchase because or incomplete or incorrect content.
Each marketplace has its own requirements, hangups and nomenclatures, so even the seemingly basic tasks can cause head scratching. Take, for example, product categorization. A blue “dress shirt” on one channel may be a blue “button down shirt” on another. One channel may nest it under clothing > mens > mens dress shirts, while the other has it under clothing, shoes & jewelry > men > clothing > shirts > dress shirts.
This doesn’t even begin to cover the different data points that these channels may require before you can successfully hit “publish.”
For many sellers, nipping this issue in the bud entails automating and centralizing parts of their workflows through a product management information (PIM) system. A PIM allows for your team to manage listings from one central system and avoid duplicative efforts. It also serves as a single source of information, where data can be updated anytime and communicated to the relevant sales channel(s).
Taking it one step further, a sophisticated software will have baked-in algorithms and automation features to ensure even more quality control. Zentail’s SMART Types is a good example of this. SMART Types automatically maps listings to the right categories on Amazon, eBay, Walmart and more by looking at advanced attributes and accounting for the different browsing pathways on each channel. It also comes packaged with listing error reports (filterable by channel) and management tools that provide full visibility over the health of your online catalog.
2. Wrong UPCs
UPCs are required to list to Walmart, as well as Amazon if you’re not a registered brand. However, it’s not uncommon for UPCs to appear assigned to the wrong or multiple products, especially when many marketplaces work on a first-come-first-serve basis, i.e., the first seller to list a certain UPC to a marketplace will define the product that is associated with it. Any seller afterwards will have to contact the marketplace for assistance or find the “right” UPC for his/her listing if his/her product does not match up.
Mismatches may happen for multiple reasons, including:
- You or another seller purchased a phony UPC from a provider outside of GS1
- You or another seller accidentally assigns a valid UPC to the wrong product from the original listing
- You are trying to list a multipack or kit to a UPC that is being used for a single unit
- A manufacturer intentionally uses multiple or a different UPC to indicate a minor fix in the product
- A manufacturer reused an old UPC for the product you’re reselling
If you encounter a mismatch, ensure that you’ve purchased your UPC from GS1 or attain the right proof of validity from your manufacturer. Then, submit a ticket to your marketplace’s support team to get the issue worked out. If you’re selling a kit, you can either purchase a different UPC for that kit or create an alias SKU through a third-party PIM.
3. Non-Optimized Listings
Every marketplace uses an algorithm to surface the most relevant products depending on a buyer’s search query. Like Google’s search engine, these marketplaces recognize keywords and SEO best practices (in addition to price, fulfillment method and other factors) to curate search results.
While it takes more effort to set up than simply adding the required fields to your product listings, search engine optimization is a low-hanging fruit that could bear the greatest long-term ROI across your entire catalog.
Increase the visibility of your listings by adding relevant keywords to your titles and descriptions. Think about all the related words or synonyms that your customers might be searching to find a product like yours and try to include them somewhere in your listing.
At the same time, avoid overstuffing your content with keywords. Preserve the human voice of your content, keep it easy-to-read and consider the product traits (not just the product name) that customers might be searching for or the questions they may have at point-of-purchase.
For example, imagine you sell home goods. A buyer may be looking for bed sheets that are eco-friendly and moisture-wicking, plus have high thread count. Though these are not required fields on most ecommerce marketplaces, you’ll want to touch on these points in your listing to clinch the sale.
Bonus Tip: You can use alias SKUs to create multiple targeted listings for one SKU. If you’re selling a tote bag that can be used for a variety of purposes, for instance, alias SKUs let you create a listing for each use case (e.g., fashion accessory, travel bag, work bag, etc.).
Read more: The Anatomy of a Strong Amazon Listing
4. Unclear or Few Images
Having high-quality images is a no-brainer in ecommerce. Where buyers lack the option to see and touch your products, images are critical. Not only should they be well-lit and high-res—but they should show your product at multiple angles; in its various colors, sizes or styles; and/or being used in different ways.
It’ll also help to illustrate the relative size of your product by showing dimensions, side-by-side item comparisons (if allowed on the marketplace) or your product in use. This can help prevent false expectations and, in turn, disappointed buyers that may give your brand poor ratings like in the example below.
Here, a buyer likely based purchase off of the first few images. Though the bullet points and fourth picture indicate that these are cake toppers, the product is incorrectly categorized under Patio, Lawn & Garden > Patio Furniture & Accessories > Patio Seating > Chairs > Adirondack Chairs and the first few images, plus the title, don’t make it explicitly clear that these are cake decorations and not outdoor decorative furniture. (It’s also possible that certain details and pictures were added to the listing after the buyer filed a complaint.)
Note that image requirements, such as acceptable backgrounds, image dimensions and customizations, vary by marketplace. And if you’re adding to an existing listing, your image may or may not be accepted depending on the circumstance. Amazon favors information submitted by vendors and brand registered sellers over other third-party sellers. To gain greater control of your product listings in general, you’ll want to apply for the Amazon Brand Registry.
5. Incorrect Quantities
Wrong quantities typically mean that a seller needs a better inventory management system in addition to better catalog management—and they need it fast.
Wrong quantities can quickly lead to overselling, overstock, stockouts and other costly errors. Moreover, one bad customer experience can lead to a scathing customer review that can take up 40 positive reviews to make up for the damage.
To prevent this issue, you need proper automation. Your software partner should be able to communicate your stock counts—as impacted by orders from any sales channel or available units in any of your warehouses—to all your marketplaces in near real-time. It should also offer features like maximum listed quantities or inbound shipment/restock dates that let you create the appearance of scarcity or accept orders while an item’s being restocked, respectively.
If you offer kits and bundles, make sure that your software can track and adjust the quantity of each component SKU in tandem with the master SKU.
Remember that inventory management is as much an offensive play as it a defensive one. You’ll want to have a strong foundation in place before your sales take off and you hit snags in the road. Poor inventory management could lead to a high-order defect rate and eventually get your kicked off a marketplace altogether.
6. Bad Return or Shipping Policy
Free shipping. Free returns. Two-day or next-day delivery.
Consumer expectations are at an all-time high. But the good news is, marketplaces like Walmart and Amazon are hatching various programs to make 2-day shipping possible for more sellers.
Another promising fact: Zappos earned 75% improved customer loyalty/repeat buyers in 2018 after offering free returns, even though they began charging more for their products to compensate for shipping costs.
Consider how you can start to offer free shipping and returns without relying too heavily on FBA or any single source of fulfillment that’s not your own. Walmart, eBay and other marketplaces outside of Amazon won’t accept Amazon logistics as valid tracking. Walmart will even suspend your account if you’re using FBA or Amazon MCF for order fulfillment.
There are proactive steps that you can additionally take to minimize the number of returns you receive while making your policy more flexible. According to a survey by ReadyCloud CRM:
- 23% of returns are due to the wrong item being shipped
- 22% of returns are due to the difference in product appearance
- 20% of returns are due to a damaged item being received
Heed advice provided earlier in this article to improve the quality of your listings and the way that your inventory is managed. Having a well-oiled catalog and inventory machine should inherently reduce the number of errors made when receiving, routing and fulfilling orders.
7. Uncompetitive Price
Whether you’re a brand owner or a reseller, an uncompetitive price can hurt your sales and product visibility.
Walmart, for example, will delist your product entirely if it finds that can be purchased from you at a lower price (including cost of shipping) on any competing marketplace, or if your product can be purchased at a drastically lower price (including cost of shipping) from any seller on Walmart.com or competing site.
The only way to scale this process is with an automatic repricer. We recommend an algorithmic repricer over a rules-based one because it can dynamically adjust prices against buy box owners, as opposed to a limited number of competitors or conditions that you define. Eighty-two percent of Amazon sales go through the buy box, so it’s important that your repricer is specifically designed to win this.
An algorithmic repricer can also test prices and incrementally bring your price back up to increase your profits while protecting your buy box status.
The Bottom Line
Your product listings are the catalyst for your sales. It goes without saying, that they deserve the right attention and setup to keep your business running smoothly,
Fortunately, the most commonly made mistakes can be prevented through a combination of your hard work and automation.
Have any other tips to add to the list or lingering questions? Tweet us @ZentailCommerce or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!