Home Virto Commerce blog Effective B2B Catalogs in eCommerce: Explanation and Examples

Effective B2B Catalogs in eCommerce: Explanation and Examples

Feb 17, 2023 • 8 min

Each B2B ecommerce business aims to reach their audiences more and gain as much revenue as possible. B2B ecommerce catalog is one of the trending instruments that can play a crucial role in your clients’ experience and loyalty.

In this article, we will cover the B2B catalog idea, its main features, ideas on implementation, and possible challenges. You will find some B2B catalog examples to see how other companies use B2B catalogs and win from them.

Why B2B Catalogs

McKinsey claims that two-thirds of B2B companies use ecommerce in their processes, and these numbers keep growing. This means businesses need more ecommerce tools that would allow them to work more efficiently, get bigger revenues from their ecommerce activities, and grow.

How B2B sellers prefer to communicate

tatistics on how B2B sellers prefer to communicate

How B2B sellers prefer to communicate. Source: McKinsey & Company

B2B ecommerce catalog can enhance your buyers’ experience as your products are the first and the main thing they care about when they approach you with the intention to buy. 

What Is a B2B Catalog

Just like any other product catalog, the B2B online catalog is the list of items the company sells. This is the way to communicate with buyers, providing all the info they might need in a convenient and efficient way.

B2B catalogs can either be traditional (printed) or digital. As digital B2B catalogs are trending among businesses worldwide, we will cover them in this article as the main type.

Here are the main reasons companies more often choose B2B digital catalogs: 

  • Convenience in a fast-changing world 
  • Data structuring and optimization 
  • Growing sales (straight after the growing quality of UX)

What Is the Difference between B2C and B2B Catalogs

B2B and B2C catalogs are similar, though some differences exist. All of them are related to the fact that B2C catalogs are used to sell the products directly to the customers, while B2B catalogs are created for other businesses that act like buyers. To make it clearer, we’ve put the features of B2C and B2B catalogs in contrast:

B2C catalogs
B2B catalogs
  • For new users mostly, it should be attractive and simple 
  • For new and existing users, must help retain as many clients as possible 
  • Works with a huge load, many small deals 
  • Works with fewer deals but higher volumes and often offers cross-sells
  • Contains general details supported with images 
  • Contains more comprehensive data on the products 
  • Most often exists in the cloud only, with external customer access
  • Can integrate with internal systems or customer systems (see our success story for De Klok Dranken) for more convenience 
  • Offers a simple check-out
  • Offer deeper ordering process and documentation 

What Benefits Does a Business Get from B2B Catalog

B2B Catalogs bring great value to both customers and businesses. As business success highly depends on customers’ happiness, an excellent UX is the first thing to go.

Better buyers’ experience

  1. You can showcase all your products in one place, easily searchable and sorted. This is convenient and even leads to cross-sales sometimes. 
  2. Your clients get the latest data as most of the digital ecommerce catalogs are updated automatically in real-time. 
  3. You can enhance your customers' experience with richer content like photos and videos, add interactivity, and additional searching capabilities. 

Optimized internal processes 

  1. Easy management compared to paper catalogs and online product cards. 
  2. If you need to personalize your prices or some details depending on the customer, digital B2B catalogs are tailored for such tasks. Digital B2B catalogs can connect to any of your internal systems (ERP, PIM, CMS), which makes everything from analysis to management easier. Your clients get the latest data as most of the digital ecommerce catalogs are updated automatically in real-time. 
  3. You can enhance your customers' experience with richer content like photos and videos, add interactivity, and additional searching capabilities. 

More technical capabilities

  1. Digital B2B catalogs can contain many SKUs without duplicates or challenging updating process (unlike ordinary product cards). 
  2. Most of the B2B catalogs are compatible with many devices and exist in the cloud. This means you can apply your catalog to any of your channels — website, email campaign, and more.

B2B Catalog Challenges

When implementing a B2B catalog for your business for the first time, you can find out some of the steps are not that easy to deal with. Here are some examples of the challenges you can overcome with enough experience or a trusted implementation partner. 

Setting up the correct search system 

When you create your first B2B online catalog, you might have many products to include in it. All these products must be systematized and tagged correctly. Pay more attention to building a transparent system of categories and subcategories. It will make your catalog more usable for your clients and more convenient for your internal use.

You can mark each of your products manually, but modern ecommerce platforms often offer features enabling you to rework all your data (both structured and unstructured) automatically.

Transferring your existing data to the new system

If you already have some structured data, you will probably want to transfer them to the new system "as is." If you do it not in the correct way, you may face having some items mixed or even data loss. Choosing your provider to build your B2B catalog with ensure they offer seamless data transfer and support. 

Building complex scenarios and scaling

If you use a B2B catalog, you most possibly have many different clients that expect a personal approach. To build complex personalized scenarios for each of your buyers or to expand your digital catalog, you must choose the software that allows you to build the system in accordance with your unique design and idea. Open-code solutions like Virto are perfect for this.

In reality, these challenges are not so big. However, if most of your clients are individuals, or if you have a small business with not so many items to sell, you can avoid these challenges by just simply choosing B2C solutions that don’t require the features B2B digital catalogs have. 

What Do You Need to Implement B2B Catalog

Once you decide on having your own B2B online catalog, it’s time to choose the vendor and software and start developing your future catalog design. Here are the standard steps to build your B2B e-catalog:

1. Choose the software and a vendor  

The next section will tell you more about B2B catalog software types and their capabilities. Some kinds of catalog software do not require help from any vendor, and others do. To make sure you have chosen the correct software supplier, ask your future partner if they have created B2B catalogs before, which capabilities they are ready to provide, and how scalable the solution is. These three parameters will enable you to choose the expert who can supply high-quality, future-proof software. 

2. Collect and categorize your data 

Collect all the info on items you are going to sell, digitalize them, and create a unified view of all information. Correctly chosen software can help you do this faster, even if your data is really disparate, stored in different systems, or even saved on paper. This step will allow you to make the process faster and get rid of duplicates if any. 

3. Learn what your clients expect 

Track and analyze your buyers’ behavior. By doing this, you can build a full view of what your buyers need and which catalog will be able to satisfy their demands. 

4. Create your catalog 

This is a bit complicated part. Depending on the software chosen, you will have to build your catalog yourself or work with a vendor to create the solution with all the features needed. Working with a vendor, actually, makes it easier as you don’t need to think about the development part anymore and can focus on future catalog positioning and promotion. 

5. Integrate it with all the systems 

This step is important for B2B catalog management, though not every platform can afford a seamless integration with your internal systems. The integration will enable you to speed up your analytics, track warehouse, and logistic processes, and optimize all your processes. 

6. Place your catalog in all your communication channels 

Promoting your B2B digital catalog is half of success. Let your customers know you've made something convenient for them: 

  • Add the link to your freshly made catalog to your weekly emails. 
  • Share it on social media. 
  • Put it on your website's home page. 

Need any help with the steps above? Contact us!

B2B Catalog Software

In general, B2B catalog software can be divided into three main categories: 

  • Simple catalog creators 
  • PIM systems 
  • eCommerce platforms 

Simple catalog creators

These systems let you create simple catalogs visually similar to the printed ones. The UI and design are usually great, and the tools can be used intuitively. However, these tools have limited functionalities and mostly don’t fit B2B businesses. Advised for B2C or businesses who want to try building their first product catalog by themselves. Here are two examples of such simple tools:  

  • Publuu 

Getapp rating: 4.9 

An intuitive tool for creating simple visual catalogs. Offers no API. Supports the use of the catalog on mobile devices. 

  • Flipsnack 

Getapp rating: 4.6 

A simple catalog builder. Doesn’t support API. Integrates with Google Analytics 360 only. 

PIM systems 

Product information management systems offer more capabilities. They fit for B2B commerce and can be implemented at the business of any level. However, these tools usually offer PIM-only functionality, which means B2B catalogs cannot be customized and personalized. 

  • Plytix 

Getapp rating: 4.6 

Designed for small and medium businesses, this B2B catalog creator is a great start for those who want to try product management. However, once your business grows bigger, replatforming might be needed. 

  • Jasper 

Getapp rating: 5.0 

A bigger solution that offers API and a user-friendly interface. However, it lacks many features big B2B enterprises might need. 

eCommerce platforms

All-in-one ecommerce platforms are the best option for the ones who decided to create B2B digital catalog. These solutions enable you to connect all your tools via API seamlessly and build a catalog (B2B or B2C) right with the data from your existing systems and then implement it easily. Here are some examples of such tools: 

  • Prestashop 

Getapp rating: 4.3 

Prestashop offers the creation of B2B catalogs with the existing data and saves it in different formats, including PDF. It has many useful features but lacks mobile compatibility and customization. 

  • Virto Commerce 

Getapp rating: 4.6 

Virto is an open-source platform that allows for building any kind of catalog B2B business needs: from a B2B inventory management software catalog to an apparel listing. The catalog integrates with third-party PIM systems easily and can be customized just as needed. 

Each of the options can offer its own benefits; however, choosing an open-source, easily scalable ecommerce platform to build your B2B catalog can help you save many resources and let your business grow fast. 

B2B Catalog Examples

Usually used for retail, B2B catalogs can be seen in every industry: from healthcare to services and software or manufacturing. Here, we provide four B2B catalog examples that big retail players built for their clients: 

1. NHS B2B catalog  

NHS is a world-known skateboard manufacturer and distributor. The company offers a convenient B2B e-catalog for dealers only. Product data synchronize automatically, letting all distributors momentarily know what is happening with the product stock. 

2. Champion Hanes B2B online catalog 

This is a major USA apparel provider. A convenient B2B catalog is available to all of their partners. The system offers convenient searches from SKUs to apparel details and enables wholesale dealers to buy more with more convenience. 

3. Adidas B2B catalog 

Adidas has created separate catalogs for B2B and B2C users. B2B catalogs can only be accessed by partners. These are highly customizable lists personalized in accordance with the partner’s needs. 

4. Fila B2B catalog 

Fila has built a closed catalog for its B2B partners, where you can easily find whatever you need by SKU or any characteristic. 

All of these enterprises use their B2B catalogs to more easily connect with their partners and optimize internal processes — this allows them to reach bigger ROI and get more revenue. 

Wrapping It Up

Aiming for better CX and brighter results, B2B companies choose digital catalogs more and more often. To reach all your goals, choose a vendor who can provide you with end-to-end solutions that meet your demands.

Virto offers a whole range of services: from consulting to implementation and support. To learn more about how Virto can help you with your B2B catalog implementation, reach out to our experts.

Request a quick demo

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