April 20, 2015

IDEA Dictionary: What is a Catalog Description?

When dealing with data, and all related terminology, you may feel like you’re trying to speak a foreign language. In the interest of keeping things clear and simple, we will introduce commonly used terms in each newsletter that will help you navigate the data shorthand and learn the lingo. This issue, we bring you: Catalog Description.

A manufacturer uses the Product Descriptor Database (PDD) as a guide for uploading product data into the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW). The PDD is the original set of transaction fields on which the IDW was built, and continues to provide a standardized template to define all product-centric data fields in the IDW today. Within the PDD are several description fields, including concatenated, invoice, and catalog descriptions. 

The catalog description field has the largest text limit of 3,072 characters, which allows manufacturers to provide longer, more descriptive information about their product.

The catalog description’s main objective is to clearly identify and explain what a product is and does. Through text alone, this description must paint a picture of the product for a potential end-user. These descriptions are especially important for web stores and keyword searches, to steer end-users in the right direction as they browse for their next purchase.

Some do’s and don’ts while writing your catalog descriptions: 

DO: Keep the end-user in mind.

Write a description as though you are introducing your product to someone for the first time.

Just because you have been working with a certain trading partner, who knows your products inside and out, does not mean that your trading partner’s customers will know your products. Even within distributor locations, staff changes and new buyers are hired – if they don’t understand your product, and you don’t describe it well, your product will get passed over.

DON’T: Substitute with an invoice description or list of attributes.

Invoice descriptions identify what a product is but, they provide minimal additional context for the product and are not useful for a customer browsing online or in a catalog. Lists of attributes, on the other hand, often describe the product without ever explicitly identifying what the actual product is.

The preference, instead, is for manufacturers to provide a marketing-based description that clearly identifies and explains what the product is and does. If a distributor wants a list of product attributes, that list can be downloaded separately through the IDW.

DO: Place the most important descriptors first.

Remember, catalog descriptions are ultimately used to assist purchasing decisions. When the most important descriptors appear first, customers can quickly and easily find the right product for the job.

DON’T: Place features and benefits statements first.

Features and benefits statements are short and contain sales-centric language (e.g. “consistently picked as one of the best by experienced contractors,” or “saves time and hassle on the job site”). Such statements, while great in advertising, are not as helpful when a customer is trying to determine the function of a product. If including these statements, place them at the end of the description (again, remember to place the most important descriptors first).

DO: Use standard abbreviations.

Widely used acronyms for products are permissible (e.g. LID or HID). Unit of measure abbreviations are also usable (e.g. A, W, V, IN, FT, LB), but any abbreviations used must be consistent.  

DON’T: Use internal abbreviations.

For all other attributes (e.g. color, brand, or other product features), do not use abbreviations. For example, use the word “black” instead of abbreviating to “BLK,” “BLACK,” or any other variation.

DO: Provide all the necessary and relevant information an end-user would search for.

Catalog descriptions are helpful in the creation of keywords for web store search engines. Include key attributes and descriptors within your catalog descriptions that clearly describe what your product is and does. Trademark or copyright symbols may be included, but might not yield results in the search engine. Additionally, these symbols may be rejected in some distributor ERP systems.

DON’T: Include catalog number, brand, or any other notes.

This type of information should be contained in other dedicated PDD fields, which a distributor can easily pull into their business systems separately.

For more on catalog descriptions or related information, please contact your Data Management Specialist. IDW customers may also reference the “IDW Product Catalog Number and Description Fields Best Practice Guideline” document found in the IDW.

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