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Lesson 3 – Part 1 – Organize Product Categories

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Types of Products at Mental Management Online Store

Rick: Tonight, we are going to talk about setting up our product catalog and then setting up products and product categories and that sort of stuff. And I hope that we’ll have a lively discussion about how to organize and set up product categories.

I’ve asked Fran Fox of Main Clinic Supply to join us tonight. He’s setting up an online store using Shopp as well. He has a completely different product set than Lanny does. And so I think it will be useful to have a conversation about different ways of organizing product categories.

Lanny, I’m going to unmute your microphone here. Lanny, are you with us tonight?

Lanny:  Yes sir.

Rick:  Let’s talk about your products again for just a minute to refresh everybody’s memory on the kinds of products you have.

Lanny:  Well, we have books, audio CDs, downloads, and primarily, those are the 3 kinds of products that we have. We occasionally will have another type of hardware but it’s basically hard back books, soft back books and audios and audio CDs and downloads.

Rick:  And how do you see your customers searching your site for your products?

Lanny:  Well, I would think that they would probably search the store based on application. If they’re a golfer, they would like to look at golf products, what would be applicable to them. You can certainly search by the type of product but I would think that because we’re hoping that we’ll develop our online websites for maybe applications like golf and shooting that the application from that website would go back to the store, I think they’re going to be looking for products that will be applicable to the applicable application.

Product Categories at Mental Management Online Store

Rick:  And that’s why we’ve chosen to categorize your products not by sort of the format of the product. That is, we’re not organizing by books and CDs and downloads but we’re organizing products by activity. So we’ll have a category for golf and a category for archery and a category for each of the different activity areas that you have specialty products in. And then a category for the products that apply to everybody cross activities. And so it’s essentially a subject-based organization. So that sounds okay to you at this point?

Lanny:  Yes.

Types of Products at Main Clinic Supply Online Store

Rick:  I’m going to open it up to Fran again because Fran has a completely different kind of product type and because of that he’s going to organize his products in an entirely different manner but nevertheless still use Shopp. So talk about your kind of products.

Fran:  We’re a medical supply store right across the street from Mayo Clinic here in Rochester, Minnesota. So we specialize in… for the past year, primarily in oxygen and CPAP and VPAPs, things to treat sleep apnea. We are branching out and just wanting to start selling and develop products for bariatric patients.

Product Categories at Main Clinic Supply Online Store

So I kind of visualize that we would have a category perhaps for oxygen, a category for PAP therapy and then perhaps bariatric equipment. I sure need some help and guidance to make sure that I’m thoughtful about how I go about categorizing the products. It seems like it makes a big difference to make sure that you started out the correct way.

Rick:  Yeah and so, having said that, it sounds like you’ve just about described 3 different product groups. Let’s not call them categories yet but… is that right?

Fran:  I think so. I guess the complexity of it and it’s inside of the category of PAP therapy, there’s CPAP, BIPAP, VPAP so I’m not sure. Are those subcategories or… so making sure I get you know, to the top of the menu and then the thought process on how to drill down and subcategorize.

Rick:  Okay so how are your customers going to look for your products? When they come to the Main Clinic Supply, how are they going to try and find stuff to buy from you?

Fran:  Well, my thoughts are they’re going to be doing a Google search perhaps for the specific product they’re looking for or some other kind of search engine search. I always think Google. But I think developing this ecommerce site, they’re not going to come to Main Clinic Supply. They’re going to be looking for a specific product. Now, if they’re buying locally, lots of people come into town and I’m hoping to direct some of that traffic. They very well may come to But my thoughts are, big picture, this ecommerce site would come you know, from a much wider area.

Rick:  And so what they’ve done is they’ve searched for something specific and they found an article about that thing on your blog with a link to a product or they found your blog or they found this product specifically described on a product page. So they’re not necessarily coming to your store…

Fran:  First.

Rick:  Yeah. They’re not necessarily coming to your main catalog page first.

Fran:  No. I envisioned that 95% of the people would be searching you know, they’ll have an organic search or… then I’ll probably describe some of the Google Shopping and maybe even some of the adwords to get traffic.

Rick:  And so then what do they have in mind when they’re searching?

Fran:  So if you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea for example, the doctor’s going to prescribe most likely a specific machine. So as an example, VPAP V Auto 25 ResMed might be a specific… and if you brought that up on the internet, you would see you know, there will be all types of stuff that would come up. So those people will be searching specifically for a product that their doctor had prescribed to them.

Rick:  So they’re not necessarily getting a general understanding of the business first. They’ve got a specific thing that they’re looking for and then they happen to find you with it.

Fran:  In that case, yes. Now, you’re right. You know, you’re leading to the… some people may have to educate themselves and that might be true with the bariatric line where… my thoughts are there are that most of that traffic’s going to come from hospitals and clinics and healthcare institutions and they’re going to want to see what’s available before they buy. So what I said originally in what will lead them to there, both scenarios.

Rick:  And in any case, they start off with a product in mind already.

Fran:  Yeah. In the broader sense, if they’re not already coming for a specific item, like if it was coming off from prescription, that’s a patient who’s been told what to get and they’re going to go after that specific product. But there’s also some of the market we’re going after is like a nursing home or hopefully, even a hospital. If they have been told they need to buy a new bariatric lift, they’re going to have to go research the bariatric lift and that’s where my blog would educate them a little bit about bariatric lifts and then I might perhaps, recommend one or two at the end that I would recommend. And then send them off, a link to the shop.

Rick:  And what kind of products do you sell that don’t fit into those 3 neat categories?

Fran:  You mean, something that would just be rogue and… well you know, eventually, I want to probably have another category for mobility which will be your crutches, your walkers, your canes. That’s referred to as mobility. But I can’t think of anything that just totally from left field that I’d have a hard time putting into those categories or a category that we might generate. Does that answer your question?

Rick:  Yeah. So in your case then what you’re doing is you’ve picked the…the area of health interest as the main category and then you have various types of devices within that main health interest. So if you’ve got the bariatric medicine and then you’re talking… I think you said something about lifts and commodes and…

Fran:  Yeah, commodes, wheelchairs. Yeah, even bariatric crutches. You know, everything that’s built more heavy duty, wider, stronger would be considered bariatric.

Rick:  Sounds like a good place I could get a new recliner then is what you’re saying.

Fran:  Yeah right, one that you can really jump in.

Rick:  Okay.

Fran:  But I think my industry does a pretty good job of already kind of categorizing so I don’t really have to reinvent some of that. It’s kind of naturally categorized.

Rick:  So once you’ve decided that you’re splitting it up into those big groups then you can start using industry standard grouping for the various devices inside those categories.

Fran:  Yeah, for the top level. Where my confusion is in the subcategories, how far should you keep subcategorizing until you hit the product?

Rick:  Well, if you imagine your catalog is full, you probably don’t want a category that has only one product in it.

Fran:  Okay, right.

Rick:  So once you’ve built your catalog out and you find that your categories have only 1 or 2 products in them then you… well, either you’re very specialized and maybe you don’t need that small degradation of categories. So maybe, you can get rid of one level of categories instead of having that subcategory. That can just be that one product can be part of its parent category instead. I think that’s probably how you figure it out… give me an example.

Fran:  Well, I guess a CPAP mask, there will be different brands which, I guess that’s another question in itself. Is that a category? Because you’re going to have… you could conceivably have 8 different brands and one would maybe be a nasal mask, a full face mask so you’ll have different masks that fit a different area of your face. Then you might have one that takes humidity, does take humidity. So you know, I guess, I’ll think about what you just told me. As you start getting down, the only one or two you know, that maybe have gone too far you know, maybe you stop.

Rick:  I think probably, it makes sense. You know, in terms of brands, unless the brand is the most important part of the conversation, I think it makes sense not have brands as categories but instead, to use the tag system for brands. So that you could still limit the product displayed by brand if you wanted.

Fran:  And how would you… through utilizing the tags, is that what you’re saying?

Rick:  Yeah or utilizing the specifications. We can talk about that later, how to use the drill down menus essentially. That’s what we’d really talk about, how to use a drill down menu to say, “I want to look at all of the CPAP masks that have humidifying, that are by this specific manufacturer.” And that’s a drill down in the first place but then it’s a combination really of a product category and then some kind of an attribute. And the attribute in this case, one of the attributes may be the fact that it can accommodate humidification and the other attribute being its brand. But we’ll look at that as we go along here and see how to include that in this as well.

Fran:  Okay. I’m anxious to see that.

Rick:  Shopp can accommodate that.

Fran:  Okay.

Rick:  Okay well so thanks. Probably come back to here later on, Fran because what I’m going to do now is talk about how you start a category and create a category template and then go from there. And we’ll compare what I’m doing to what you’ve done so we can take a look at all of that.

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