Direct Sales Catalogs: Essential Features to Look For
Direct sales catalogs and the controls that configure them enable you to get more of your products in front of customers. The result is a feature-rich shopping experience that delivers larger orders and more repeat shoppers.
Unfortunately, too many direct selling companies implement product catalog solutions that force limits on the way they do business, rather than having the capacity and flexibility for supporting the ways they want to do business.
We at Thatcher know there can be instances where software actually teaches a company to follow better business practices, but we generally believe that software should support what’s already being done well, rather than forcing change to the software company’s vision.
If you’re interested in offering features and flexibility in your direct sales catalogs, or are already doing so but want to get better results, here are some things to keep in mind.
Can Your Catalog System Do All of This?
A good rule of thumb is that the control systems for direct sales catalogs should make it easier, not harder, to move products.
Take pricing, for example. You may be running a special promotion in which you’re offering deep discounts starting at midnight on the morning of December 26, and ending at 4:00 AM. With most catalog systems, you’d have to have an employee stay up until midnight that night to turn on the special pricing, and then stay up until 4:00 to turn it off. These kinds of settings should be automated.
And then there’s inventory visibility. Your catalog should make it easier for sales reps to see what’s in stock and what they’ll have to back-order when they’re out there selling.
From the customer’s perspective, direct sales catalogs should always help out when a product is out of stock by automatically recommending a similar product to replace it. Good catalog solutions will let you configure alternatives for each of your products. With this approach, you’ll reduce the risk of losing sales entirely just because you ran out of one product.
Do your products fall into categories? Your catalog system should support that. It’s important to have granular yet intuitive features in this area. If you’re selling clothing, a particular shirt may fall into several categories, such as men’s, cotton, casual, long-sleeved, red, and monogrammed. Direct sales catalogs should let you configure products easily for multiple categories so that they’ll show up in a wide variety of searches and streamline the purchase experience.
At the same time, though, your catalog functionality shouldn’t require you to designate a separate SKU for every possible configuration of each product. Instead, you should be able to designate one SKU for, say, your basic men’s cotton casual shirt, with different attributes within the SKU that account for color, size, and so on.
SKU functionality shouldn’t stop there, though. Your catalog system should let you associate one SKU with another, so that the system can automatically recommend similar products to shoppers: “Buying men’s jeans? Other shoppers purchased this casual belt….”
Don’t Get Bogged Down with Custom Programming
We could spend another 1,000 words listing off all the features direct sales catalogs should offer. But we think it’s more important at this point to make one overarching suggestion: make sure your catalog solution doesn’t require custom programming.
All of the features we’ve described so far should come standard. They shouldn’t require you to hire programmers and build the functionality yourself. So if you’re trying to set up your catalog to offer separate retail and wholesale pricing, that should be something you can do with a few clicks.
Got questions about what else to look for in a catalog system? Thatcher can help. We’ve built the functionality you need right into our Prowess platform. Check it out.