By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.
Product Catalog

What is

Product Catalog


Product Catalog Definition

Product catalogs are an essential component of any successful ecommerce store. In simplest terms, a product catalog is a comprehensive list of products that a business has available for purchase. However, it's important to note that a good product catalog offers far more than just a list of items for sale. It should be an engaging and informative resource for customers, providing detailed information about each product, including photos, specifications, and pricing.

Why is your product catalog so important in ecommerce?

A well-designed product catalog is essential to creating a positive shopping experience for customers, as it makes it easy for them to browse and find what they're looking for. Without a clear and organized product catalog, ecommerce stores often struggle to convert visitors into customers.

For example, if a potential customer is searching your site for “blue dress” but the color blue hasn’t been defined properly in the product catalog – that dress won’t show up even though it might be available in your store. That user leaves unsatisfied to shop somewhere else.

Marketplace catalogs are more complicated than in typical ecommerce

Marketplaces' product catalogs are inherently bigger than those of first-party ecommerce stores, and since marketplaces are a way to expand product assortment with less risk, a marketplace catalog can – in theory – grow exponentially. 

Marketplaces therefore run a higher risk of losing control over the design and efficiency of their catalog, and it’s extremely important that operators building an extensive product catalog work from a single source of truth. There should be strict parameters around the data required from vendors that feed the catalog.

What are the features of a good product catalog? 

The information you need in your product catalog will vary depending on your target audience and the needs of your industry. 

For example, while most marketplaces start out with a narrow product catalog and expand from there, Volition had to do things differently. The B2B industrial parts marketplace bills itself as a one-stop shop for manufacturers, and their target audience is specifically looking to buy all of the parts they need in a single order. Volition’s product catalog therefore had to be massive from day one, with thousands of specs and granular product details included for each product. 

This is not necessarily the route that all marketplaces should take. Instead, here are some basic tenets to consider when building your catalog:


Product catalogs need to use consistent product data to make sure that the information across all their listings is uniform and easily searchable. 

For instance, if multiple sellers use different naming conventions or formats for the same product — like using “sneakers” vs. “trainers” in a listing for shoes — customers will struggle to find what’s available. At best, customers won’t notice what’s missing and some vendors will lose sales. At worst, customers will be angry that your marketplace makes it difficult to compare search results (and potentially very different prices).

Comprehensive product data

A good product catalog includes extensive information about each product. This includes any specifications that might help buyers make informed decisions.

To start, all products need to cover the basics:

  • Product name
  • Categories and sub-categories
  • Sizes
  • Color
  • Price
  • Material

Then your vendors will need to get down into the nitty-gritty. For products in the electronics category, for example, the list of required additional product details might be extensive: parts numbers, warranty terms, included batteries, exact product dimensions, compatibility, socket type, etc.

SKU variations

A product in your marketplace may have multiple variants that can each have their own SKU (stock keeping unit) number. For example, a particular brand of AA batteries might be available in 2-packs, 4-packs, or 12-packs, with all of these nestled under the same product listing. To distinguish between them, each pack size should have a different SKU.

SKU variants are very common in certain industries, like apparel where specifications are obvious (shirt sizes and color options are often included under the same product page). However, they might come across as confusing if applied too broadly. Would it make sense to list a toddler’s toothbrush as a variant of an adult’s? Probably not.


High-quality images and videos lend a lot of credibility to your marketplace and make the overall shopping experience more enjoyable for customers. Vendors should be required to include clear images at multiple angles and, when possible, videos that showcase the product in action to help increase buyer confidence. Listings that don’t include any images or include only images of questionable quality are a liability to your marketplace, especially if customers feel misled after buying a product.


Customers want to be able to read product reviews and compare ratings, and they expect — at least to some degree — for those reviews to be legitimate. Reviews are very important tools for gauging not only product quality but the reliability of a particular vendor. Marketplaces that don’t include reviews in their product catalogs therefore run the risk of coming across as somewhat lawless, where the consequences to vendors who sell poor quality products isn’t clear.


Product catalogs should include real-time availability information to help manage buyer expectations and prevent order cancellations due to out-of-stock items. 

Consider the enormous difference between these two buyer experiences: 

1) A customer sees that the product they want is out of stock, but they’re given the option to sign up for an email notification when it next becomes available. 

2) A customer buys a product they want and pays for two-day shipping, only to realize days later (after it fails to arrive) that the product won’t be shipped for another several weeks. 


The presentation of products’ prices needs to be consistent across your marketplace (except in some B2B cases). Customers will have difficulty comparing products if some of your listings include all of the associated fees, such as tax and shipping, while some do not.

To avoid this, consider including several product details in the information vendors provide for the catalog:

  • Taxes: Vendors should always assign a tax code to their product so the operator can apply appropriate tax at checkout.
  • Shipping: If the vendor handles their own inventory and shipping, the cost of shipping should always be provided.

When prices aren’t clear on your marketplace, you might find that customers start using your marketplace just for searching and reading reviews, only to complete their transaction elsewhere. The annoyance of running into hidden fees can drive people to use other platforms, even when those platforms’ prices are higher.

Tools for a better marketplace product catalog

As your marketplace grows and more sellers come on board, you’ll eventually need to integrate some marketplace tools to maintain a basic level of control and consistency over the product catalog. Without these tools, it becomes exponentially more difficult to scale. 

Marketplace platform

Look for a marketplace platform that enables quick and easy catalog ingestion. This can be done a number of ways including Shopify Integrations and spreadsheet uploads. In both cases, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve given clear instructions around the necessary product details for vendors to include in these cases

Product Information Management software (PIM)

PIM (product information management) software allows you to manage all of your product data from one central location, then create and maintain an effective catalog. (And that’s just scratching the surface of why you need a PIM.)

The value of a product catalog

Your marketplace’s product catalog isn’t just a list of items available for sale, it’s an opportunity for you to control how reliable and enjoyable your customers find their buying experience. A well-crafted product catalog should provide comprehensive, consistent, and accurate information about your vendors’ products, making them easily searchable and comparable.

Ready to Get Started?

Nautical Commerce multi-vendor distributor platform example