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What is an eCatalogue?

An eCatalogue is an electronic version of a company's paper catalogue, which describes its products and services. If a company has an eCatalogue, this usually also implies that a company's customers can access this electronic content using some form of eCommerce tool, such as EDI [Short for Electronic Data Interchange, the transfer of data between different companies using networks, such as the Internet. As more and more companies get connected to the Internet, EDI is becoming increasingly important as an easy mechanism for companies to buy, sell, and trade information. ANSI has approved a set of EDI standards known as the X12 standards.] or an eMarket (private or public) or directly via the company's web site. The information an eCatalogue may contain includes:

Article or part numbers of the products a company produces or sells
Description of product
Quantities available
Prices per unit, prices per order size, prices for different customers etc
Images (possibly also video and sound)
Links to web sites for related information

What have eCatalogues got to do with eMarkets?

eMarkets facilitate the process of allowing many buyers to transact with many suppliers. One of the tools eMarkets use to do this the eCatalogue. This provides an eMarket with structure and a way to offer many to many transactions between buyers and suppliers rather than just being facilitators of one to one transactions.

Many eMarkets provide a service to build eCatalogues for suppliers. In some cases, these will be hosted on the eMarket's server and in other cases the supplier can host the eCatalogue on its own server (behind its corporate firewall) but still use the eMarket to receive and execute orders. Some eMarkets offer their members a choice of options.

Why would a supplier choose to develop an eCatalogue?

Any company who has a paper catalogue needs to consider at some point developing an electronic catalogue if they wish to make eCommerce a part of their business strategy. By choosing not to do so, a supplier risks being excluded from trading with large buyers in the future as buyers increasingly move their purchasing online, via public and/or private eMarkets. Indeed, some customers are already encouraging their suppliers to join an eMarket if they wish to continue to do business with them.

What are the advantages of using an eCatalogue in the context of an eMarket?

The advantage for a supplier of having his catalogue built and represented in an eMarket is that he avoids the difficult and costly task of building it himself and then trying to integrate it with his buyers on a one to one basis. For small and medium sized companies this is a bigger issue than for large manufacturers or distributors. Trying to decide on issues like taxonomy and structure is very difficult without the guidance of other major industry players. A company who does this in isolation or only with a few of his existing customers, risks developing a system that is difficult to integrate with an eMarket or with new customers.

Having an eCatalogue hosted on an eMarket makes it easier for (who have committed to using an eMarket) key customers to buy from a supplier and it can increase a customer's compliance with the frame agreements they have with their suppliers.

Another advantage of using an eCatalogue via an eMarket is that sometimes the eMarket will also provide the application for companies to not only track the history of their transactions but also to analyse their sales data, by product and customer, eg in terms of frequency of purchase and volume purchased.

What features are desirable in an eCatalogue?

Should be compatible with the standards that are evolving in the supplier's industry
Should be built so that the supplier can distribute it to multiple destinations. For example, a supplier may want his eCatalogue to be submitted to other eMarket in his industry as well as a general MRO eMarket and possibly also other customers' solutions.
Should allow the supplier to present multiple product attributes and allow the supplier to maintain control over how his products are differentiated on attributes other than just price. Other attributes include: brand recognition, specifications, contract terms, warranties, and delivery options.
Should allow the supplier to have multiple pricing models (for different customers and volumes) and link contract terms to specific items
Should be easy to update, i.e. that it comes with a good content management tool for additions, deletions and changes. It should also support different levels of user access.
Should be based on a flexible, extensible platform (so that it can grow with you).


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