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What a Product Catalog Is and How to Create One in 6 Steps

If you're looking for a way to effectively showcase and sell your products and attract more customers, look no further than a product catalog. Whether you're an online retailer or a brick-and-mortar store, having a well-designed and informative product catalog can make all the difference in boosting sales and capturing the attention of potential buyers.

What we'll cover

  1. Product catalog benefits
  2. 4 key elements of an effective product catalog
  3. How to create a product catalog in 6 steps

What is a product catalog?

A product catalog is a compilation of all the products a business has to offer. It's a great way to give potential customers detailed information about each item, such as descriptions, prices, specifications, and images. Think of a product catalog as your virtual storefront that allows customers to browse through your products at their convenience.

online brochures

The benefits of having a product catalog

Your product catalog is much more than a simple list of the products you're selling. When done right, it becomes a powerful tool that can bring numerous benefits to your business, such as:

  • Increasing the chances of making a sale. By providing customers with an organized and visually appealing way to browse your products, a product catalog gives potential buyers all the information they need to make an informed decision.
  • Enhancing your brand image. The consistency in design and branding of your product catalog reflects your company's professionalism and attention to detail. This both inspires trust with potential customers and differentiates you from competitors who might not have the same level of organization.
  • Increasing exposure. A product catalog is an effective marketing tool. By distributing it online, your products can reach a wide audience, increasing your chances for making a sale.
  • Improving sales performance. Using a modern, trackable product catalog allows you to analyze customer behavior through their interactions. By gaining insights into your customers' preferences and trends, you can then refine your offerings based on customer feedback.
better proposals tracking
  • Better inventory management. A product catalog paired with stock availability allows you to have greater control over which products you're currently promoting and selling.
  • Reducing employee onboarding costs. An efficient product catalog can become a reference document for both existing employees and new hires. With all the information available in one place, there's no more need to go back and forth between departments for product updates.

4 key elements of effective product catalogs

The purpose of any product catalog is to simplify the buying process for your customers. With that in mind, there are four key elements all effective product catalogs have in common.

1. Product information

First and foremost, high-quality product images are an essential component to any product catalog. Professional photographs that showcase your products from various angles not only capture the attention of potential buyers, but also help them visualize how the item would function in their lives.

In addition to images, clear and detailed product descriptions are essential for giving customers an accurate understanding of the products you offer. This includes important information such as dimensions, materials used, features, and any other relevant product details.

IKEA does this well in their digital catalogs. Besides including images of their products in real-life spaces, they also added an element of interactivity to keep the customers' focus on the visuals. 

That way, you can imagine what the product would look like in your own space without being overwhelmed with the amount of text on the page. And if you're interested in more product details and the pricing, they're only one click away.

IKEA digital catalogs example

2. Structure and layout

The last thing you want is for your customers to get lost while browsing through your product catalog. That's why it's important to strike a balance between creativity and organization when designing your catalog layout.

Sony decided to do this by using eye-catching visuals on neutral backgrounds and minimal product descriptions. Instead of listing all features, they opted for the use of QR codes instead, keeping their catalog visual-first.

Sony product catalog

3. Compelling product storytelling

When it comes to your product catalog, effective writing and storytelling can transform your products. Instead of being simply items on a page, they become solutions that resonate with your customers on a personal level.

Samsung makes it happen by combining catchy headlines with the most beneficial features for the customer. In addition to that, every headline comes with an image that represents the benefits of using their products, making it even easier for customers to imagine how their lives could change for the better.

Samsung product catalog

4. Conversion elements

Last, but not least, there's no point in creating product catalogs if you don't tell your customers how to actually buy the product. Whether it's strategically placed CTAs, cross-selling or upselling opportunities or simply providing contact information, make sure not to forget to include conversion elements.

For example, the kitchen appliance company Smeg opted for letting their products speak for themselves. Instead of using a noticeable call to action, they include only their website and social media links at the end of their product catalogs.

Smeg online product catalog

6 steps towards creating an effective product catalog

Creating a high-quality product catalog can be a daunting task that involves careful planning, organization, and attention to detail. However, with the right tools and strategies, it can be a very effective way to promote your products and grow your business. Here are the six essential steps to get you started. 

1. Research and plan

Start by identifying which products will be included based on popularity or relevance to your target audience. Gather all relevant data and product information including descriptions, specifications, prices, etc., ensuring accuracy throughout.

2. Take photos

It's called love at first sight for a reason. Once you've decided on the products to include, invest in high-quality photography that shows them in the best light. Clear and visually engaging images can significantly enhance the overall look of your catalog.

3. Invest in impeccable design

Imagine walking into a furniture store with chipped paint on the walls, dirty floors, and a cluttered layout. While it may turn out to have some great-looking pieces, you'll notice them only after you get over the initial shock of taking in the surroundings.

The same goes for your product catalog. Even the best product photos and descriptions can suffer from bad overall design. That's why it's important to make sure the layout seamlessly guides customers from one section to another.

To avoid customer confusion, incorporate navigation elements such as clear headings, subheadings, and page numbers. In addition to that, make sure to maintain consistency in your color scheme, typography, and design elements throughout the catalog.

better proposals online product catalogs

4. Organize for convenience

In order to make your catalog user-friendly, break down your products into logical categories and subcategories. This will make it easier for customers to navigate through the catalog and find what they're looking for. And if you're creating one catalog for different types of products, make sure to include a contents table right after your cover page. That way, customers can instantly find the category they're interested in.

5. Tell a story

When writing out product details, it's easy to get caught up in dry, technical descriptions. However, if you want to get customers to buy your product, getting them emotionally involved works much better. With as much as 70% of customers recommending products based on their emotional connection to them, it's easy to see why simply listing off specifications isn't the best strategy.

Besides addressing the customers' pain points, effective product storytelling also demonstrates how your product serves as a solution. When writing about your products, highlight the benefits and the potential transformation a customer buying them will experience. If you get customers to see how their lives will improve after buying your product, you've successfully made a sale.

6. Optimize for higher conversion rates

Forgetting to tell your customers how to buy from you is the best way to ensure you lose a sale. When creating product catalogs, don't forget to optimize them for conversion. Whether it's a "Buy Now" button after a product description or a "Learn More" link following an inviting image, calls to action (CTAs) should guide customers towards the next step.

better proposals online product catalog template

That said, CTAs aren't the only way to make it easier for customers to buy from you. Social proof in the form of customer reviews, testimonials or ratings instills confidence in hesitant buyers. And if they need even more proof, you can engage them by providing visual demonstrations of your products in action. Use images, videos, or interactive animations to showcase how your products enhance daily routines.

Finally, conversion elements can also include limited-time offers, bundles, or discounts. Encourage the customers to make the purchase decision quickly by highlighting the value they gain by choosing a particular product or package.

Bonus tip: Don't forget to proofread

Before finalizing your catalog, thoroughly review all content for errors in grammar, spelling, and formatting. At the end of the day, if you don't bother to get your product catalog to look and sound professional, your customers might start doubting the overall quality of your company as well.

Final thoughts

An effective product catalog is about more than aesthetics. It significantly influences your customers' perception of your brand, as well as the experience you provide. From the categories you choose to navigation, each element of the catalog creates an environment that encourages exploration and engagement.

Customers are less likely to feel overwhelmed or lost if the path to purchase is simple. That's why it's essential to have a clean, well-organized structure with visually appealing and interesting creative elements. This balance creates a catalog that is not only efficient, but also entices customers to linger, explore, and ultimately purchase.

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Patricija Šobak's profile image
Patricija Šobak puts her talent in spotting questionable grammar and shady syntax to good use by writing about various business-related topics. Besides advocating the use of the Oxford comma, she also likes coffee, dogs, and video games. People find her ability to name classic rock songs only from the intro both shocking and impressive.