B2B Catalogs – Are They Right for Your Business?

One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories is flipping through the glossy pages of the now iconic Sears holiday catalog, The Wishbook. Armed with highlighters in hand, I remember circling just about every toy in the magazine…there was nothing it didn’t have (and nothing I didn’t want). While physical product catalogs are much a thing of the past, product catalogs still have a role in sales today and not just in the B2C space.

B2B catalogs are an essential tool for businesses looking to market their products and services to other businesses. These catalogs provide detailed information about the products and services offered by a company, along with pricing, specifications, and other relevant details. They allow businesses to showcase their offerings to potential customers in an organized and efficient manner, making it easier for them to make informed purchasing decisions. B2B catalogs can be in physical or digital formats, however many businesses have taken advantage of digital formats, making catalogs available on websites and through mobile apps to keep up with eCommerce trends. B2B product catalogs are commonly used by wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors across various industries.

B2B vs. B2C Catalogs

B2B product catalogs are not the same as B2C magazine catalogs - well, at least not like catalogs you’re used to seeing. They are assembled more like price lists, and this is mainly because B2B buyers are not looking through every ad and item in your store, instead, they are searching for very specific products and thorough information on those particular products. B2B catalogs contain important purchasing information such as:

  • Product codes
  • Names
  • Descriptions
  • Images
  • Unique customer pricing
  • Available quantities
  • Minimum order quantities etc.

There are a couple of options to generate and distribute product catalogs to your B2B customers - PDFs (which can be printed/mailed or emailed) and digital "e-catalogs" displayed on your eCommerce website or secure B2B online order management portal.  However, when it comes to selling in the B2B world, having real-time information on products in catalogs is key to its effectiveness and better inventory management. The simplest way to manage this information and automate the process of catalog creation, whether it's print, PDF or digital, is to have the right back-end distribution ERP software that can generate catalogs using real-time inventory data stored within the system.

Types of B2B Catalogs

The method you choose to distribute your catalogs depends on your unique business needs. For example, if you're looking to use catalogs as a marketing/promotional tactic for a targeted area, it might be sufficient to print and distribute to potential leads. If you're looking to offer quick quotes or send product information to existing customers, a PDF version can prove efficient, whereas if you're looking to attract more customers and want to automate the ordering process and improve your inventory management- a digital version is likely to work better.

PDF Catalogs

PDF product catalogs fulfil the basic role of a catalog, showcasing products/promotional prices to existing and browsing customers. A true back-end distribution ERP software will allow you to select products to include in the catalog along with customer pricing based on real-time inventory information i.e., how much of the product is in stock. Once the catalog is created, the PDF is automatically sent to a list of customer emails, or you can add email addresses one at a time. The customer then has the option to send back the PDF with their order much like an order form or contact you directly. Keep in mind that the same functionality can be used to create quotes which include specific customer pricing and promotions for specific products.

Electronic Catalogs (eCommerce)

While PDF catalogs are useful, they don't have the same range of interactive features that online product catalogs offer. If you determine that your customers and leads are mostly purchasing online, or would prefer the flexibility to do so, it will prove worthwhile to have an eCommerce site or a secure B2B online order portal integrated with back-end distribution ERP software that has the functionality to create digital catalogs. Benefits of this method include:

  • Products are displayed and arranged on your eCommerce or B2B order portal in multiple categories which increases the chances of a customer clicking on and purchasing that item. Products in the e-catalog are sorted by price, inventory level, type, etc. for quick lookups.
  • Ability to order products directly from the catalog without having to call or email to place orders.
  • Automated order fulfilment through proper back-end distribution ERP software. Automation of back-end processes including picking, packing, and shipping from your warehouse or 3PL.
  • Customers can access historical order information to see their previous orders for fast reordering.
  • E-catalogs can be leveraged for search engine optimization to expand your reach across target markets.

Benefits of B2B Catalogs

As we’ve already discussed, B2B product catalogs provide numerous benefits to businesses, including:

Improved Product Visibility

B2B catalogs allow you to showcase your products to potential customers in an organized and easy-to-navigate format, which can help increase visibility and awareness of your offerings.

Increased Sales

B2B catalogs can help your business generate more sales by providing customers with detailed information about your products and services, including pricing, specifications, and other relevant details. This can make it easier for customers to make informed purchasing decisions, leading to increased sales and revenue.

Improved Order Accuracy

Growing wholesale distribution companies with a high volume of SKUs must balance the fulfilment of thousands of unique SKUs efficiently and accurately while maintaining the highest level of customer service. Having B2B catalogs that you can quickly share with your customers improves order accuracy since customers are provided extensive information/images of products to make the right purchasing decisions.

Cost-Effective Marketing

When done right, B2B catalogs are a cost-effective marketing tool for businesses, as they can be produced and distributed at a relatively low cost compared to other marketing methods.

Improved Customer Experience

B2B catalogs can help improve the customer experience by providing customers with a convenient way to browse and compare products and services, as well as access detailed information about them, without needing to call and speak with a representative.

Fewer Manual Processes

Electronic catalogs reduce the labor costs involved in keying in/confirming order information as the order process is automated through integration with a back-end distribution ERP software. Orders placed through your electronic/online catalog automatically show up in your ERP software for picking, packing, and shipping.