Catalogs have a rich and varied history from The Sears Catalog, to The Whole Earth Catalog to Amazon.com and Google Search. As product catalogs become the backbone of commerce, there is going to be an acceleration in innovation around product catalogs.
A lot of work still needs to be done in collecting, creating and organizing catalog content – content with the highest quality and depth. Most of the content will continue to come from brands and merchants. But an increasing amount of content from consumers will add more and more value to a catalog – not just reviews and ratings, but also images, videos, tips and tricks, and more. Professional content will become increasingly media-rich – images, videos, 3D views, augmented reality, and VR.
Catalog Management Systems, the catalog back offices, will need to evolve to accommodate distributed content gathering, quality checking and workflows as more and more people and businesses are involved in creating this critical asset.
User experiences will evolve from search, recommendations, and product curation to predictive and adaptive catalogs that provide the user with the most relevant products and product information. Chat bots and speech interfaces, virtual try-before-you-buy technology, AI shopping assistants, and VR will make the shopping experience as productive and pleasurable as brick-and-mortar store experiences.
I hope you’ll agree with me that there is much room for innovation around the humble product catalog. In addition to evolution of the content, where it comes from and how it’s managed, I think a change in mindset as well will be required to let that information flow more openly – from “walled garden” catalogs to and through “catalog platforms.”