Electronic Catalogs for Retailers

In today’s hyper-competitive market, retailers must have accurate product information for planning, display on-line and in stores, purchasing, and logistics. Paper catalogs do not work for businesses anymore. They’re slow, prone to causing errors and are not able to keep pace with the way that business is done today.

Electronic catalogs make it easier for businesses to conduct efficient transactions. A standardized electronic format means that the retailer creating an order can match their purchase order to the catalog. This ensures the correct items are ordered and subsequently delivered.

Because all the information comes in a standard format, discrepancies are easy to identify and correct. From start to finish, the process is faster and more accurate, benefitting everyone in the supply chain.

The data included in electronic catalogs for retailers is the most important information that would be contained in a paper catalog and includes:

  • Information regarding the seller and their contact information
  • Item identification number, product name and corresponding description
  • Pricing and terms of sale including, if needed, discounts, minimum quantity, etc.
  • Each item will have additional attributes such as dimensions, weight, unit of measure, color, style, packaging etc.

Electronic Catalog Formats

Several format are used for retail electronic catalogs:

  • EDI 832 transactions
  • Retailer specific portal
  • Third party catalog service
  • Spreadsheet

It is not usual for a retailer to accept more than one format. Let’s take a look at each one.

EDI 832 Price/Sales Catalog

The EDI 832 provides a standard for transmitting price and sales catalog information.
The format for the EDI 832 contains specific information in a standardized format, but each retailer will have somewhat varying data requirements and business rules.

The EDI 832 Price/Sales catalog does not have the capability to transmit product images.

Retailer Specific Portal

Some retailers have a web-based portal into which the supplier enters their catalog information. An example of a retailer who uses this method is Amazon. Naturally, the form varies by retailer.

Third Party Catalog

Some retailers use a third party catalog service. Some suppliers, especially suppliers with a large number of SKU’s (Shop Keeping Unit) may be required to use it. Only about 10% of all retail suppliers use a third party catalog provider. Typically the service will include the ability to transmit product images.

The advantage of a third party catalog service is that the supplier can enter their information once and then the retailers who use the service can access it. However, not all retailers use such a service. For example, Amazon and Wal-Mart do not.

A common misunderstanding is that a supplier has to buy third party catalog service and EDI service from the same company. This is not the case with any of the retailers.


Many retailers receive catalog information from their suppliers via a spreadsheet that the supplier fills out. This is common method, especially for suppliers who have relatively few SKU’s. Each retailer has a different spreadsheet layout. Some retailers charge per SKU submitted via spreadsheet instead of one of the other methods.

Suppliers and retailers are heavy users of electronic catalogs. They make it easier for retailers to stay stocked with the correct items and for manufacturers to keep their customers supplied.

Electronic Catalogs for Retailers by

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