In the fashion industry, people talk about clothes and shoes. In the insurance industry, people talk about quotes and applications. In the travel industry, professionals discuss travel packages, hotel rooms, and airplane tickets. In the Digital Commerce world, everything is a product.
While all products share similar characteristics, several different types require special considerations. This section discusses defining the structure of your catalog and how various kinds of products are modeled in Ecommerce.
A business can sell physical products from clothes to furniture or heavy equipment.
Businesses can also offer services from translation to tutoring, car rental to travel, or bank services.
From the digital commerce perspective, both physical products and services have common characteristics. In the e-commerce catalog, they all need a name, descriptions, attributes, pictures, or videos. This is what we call product information.
A business needs to define its products’ structure, what attributes they must have, what media files need to be provided, etc.
The structure of product information varies based on the type of product. Clothes will have different attributes than medical equipment, and hotel rooms will need different attributes than mobile phones.
A special type of product that is becoming more and more popular is a subscription. You have probably, heard the term Subscription Economy.
Practically any type of service can be sold through subscription: Electricity plans, Telco products like mobile phone plans or Internet access, and, of course, Software as a Service (SaaS).
Subscriptions are also used to sell physical consumable products like shaving kits or toilet paper. Nike has just introduced an innovative way to sell baby shoes using subscriptions.
Different billing cycle (annual, vs monthly) could be used for defining subscription product variants.
In addition to all common aspects of a product (name, description, attributes, images, etc. ), all subscription products have additional characteristics:
Let’s now have a look at more complex products that customers can modify before buying.
That can be as simple as adding a text or image on a t-shirt or configure a kitchen cabinet
Configurable products are special, but, and I want to emphasize this, they are still products in the catalog with name, descriptions, images, etc. The main difference is that before they can be added to the shopping cart, the Ecommerce system needs to call a special configurator so a customer can modify it as required.
Results of the configuration than attached to a cart item. Read more about configurable products, CPQ, and how to implement them in this article.
For very complex configurable products a business can use specially designed CPQ systems (Configure, Price, Quote) that also used to calculate the price of the customized product.
We will discuss more complex scenarios when we are going to talk about custom prices.
There are types of services or products that cannot be sold separately but only together with other products. Let’s call them Product Options.
The most common examples will be offering an additional warranty or a gift-wrapping option.
Product option is a regular product in the merchant’s catalog with a special constraint – it cannot be sold separately, only together with selected products it is associated with.
A gift card is a curious entity in Ecommerce as it is both a product and a payment method.
A gift card is a curious entity in Ecommerce as it is both a product and a payment method. When a customer buys a gift card, the Ecommerce system needs to register it as a payment method, another customer who receives the gift will use.
Main products and product variants
Availability and quite often the price is associated with a variant.
When a customer is browsing a catalog, she sees the main products, but when she adds the selected product to the cart is it always a variant.
Let’s take t-shirts, for example, they can be in different sizes and colors. Your main product is a t-shirt, but a variant will be a white t-shirt size medium.
In the case of mobile phones, it will be a color and storage size, so you are going to buy a blue iPhone with 128gb storage.
Variants are not limited to physical products. For example, an airplane ticket to the same flight can have several variants – Economy, Premium, or Business class.
When designing your digital commerce business, the decision needs to be made what types of variant products there are in each category and its variant dimensions (color, size, level of service, etc.).
It is important to remember that while product information is associated with the main product, stock, and, quite often, price is defined per variant.
The term “Taxonomy” comes from Greek and means “arrangement.” It is the logical way of categorizing, grouping and organizing the products. Proper naming and categorization, a well-defined set of searchable attributes, minimize the amount of work a customer must do to find what they need. Well done taxonomy improves customers’ product discovery experience (See Product Discovery Section) and eventually increases revenue. You need to develop a deep understanding of the products and form a logical way to present them.
In addition to creating a category structure, you need to decide what attributes to use to describe different types of products and which of them should be searchable and used as filters. Products in the same categories usually have the same set of attributes to allow product comparison. Some attributes can be hidden and used to implement internal business logic.