Outlining Your Catalog

Defining your Brands

The term Brand is typically interchangeable with the term Manufacture in the eCommerce world. A Brand is how your customers identify the products, examples are Nike, Apple, Ralph Lauren. These are all Brands in the eye of the customer. However, as a business owner you will think of your Brands as Manufactures from whom you order products from. Within WSM we identify the Manufacture of a product as a Brand.

Brands are used on your website for a variety of reasons.

  • Helps customers find products on front-end of your website
  • Helps you find products in the back-end of your website
  • Helps your SEO efforts by listing the Brand on the product page
  • Helps your product feeds get accepted by different shopping sites as many of them require a Brand assigned to every product

As you can see, Brands play an important part of your website development. If you are a manufacture yourself then you will typically only have one Brand on your site, your Brand. If you a reseller, then you will most likely have many Brands that you sell. Make sure to plan out what Brands you will be carrying so that you can prep your site to be ready to add product pages that are complete and help you and your customers. 

Defining your Categories

Defining your categories is one of the most important steps of planning your website. Determining how you would like to categorize your products will make your product development go smoother and get completed faster! A great way to determine how you would like your products categorized is to look at other websites who have been doing this for a while. How does Google Shopping categorize products, how about Amazon.com or eBay? In addition to the big 3, try reviewing how some of your smaller competitors categorize products. The goal here is to not re-teach people how to shop! If there is already some common understanding of how products should be categorized, then just go with it.  

Similarly to Brands, Categories can help in the following ways with your website…

  • Helps customers find products on front-end of your website
  • Helps you find products in the back-end of your website
  • Helps your SEO efforts by listing the Categories on the product page

Multiple Category Levels, when to have them?

Category levels aka Category Tree or Category Path, are the terms used to describe a multi leveled category path that customers have to follow in order to find the products they are looking for. The goal of a Category Tree is so that customers can navigate through ‘groupings’ of products to find a smaller subset of products that are relevant to them. Our favorite example at WSMU is our fictitious Party Supply Store, see the category tree below.

  • Balloons
    • Latex Balloons
      • Red Balloons
      • Blue Balloons
      • Green Balloons
    • Special Occasion
      • Baby Shower
      • Graduation
      • Birthday
        • 1st Birthday
        • Kids Birthday
        • Over the Hill Birthday
    • Balloon Accessories
      • Helium Tanks
        • Rentals
        • To Purchase
      • Ribbon
      • Balloon Weights

The above example is just one “branch” of the category tree. As you can see, it guides customers to find more specific products that they are looking for. If you think about the alternative, all of the above product types belonging to one category, you can predict the frustration that your customers will probably face trying to find products. Think your category structure through and adding products will be easy & finding products will be easy for your customers. 

Product Information

Prior to adding product information to your site, you will first need to determine where your product data will come from! Most Manufactures can supply a product sheet that may have some useful information such as product name & MSRP. However, there are many other elements of a good product page. A good eCommerce product page will include...

  • Product Name
  • Price
  • Image
  • Description
  • Brand
  • Weight (for shipping to be calculated)


There are additional fields that you can use to improve your page even more, such as extended description, installation guides, videos, and much more. The key idea here, is where will this data come from?

Adding Products to your Site

Once it is determined where you will get your product information from, the next decision is how will you get your product data into your website. There are two choices, manually add products or import products. Both are easy in their own ways and both have their limitations.