What is a Catalog?
A catalog represents a collection of products that you group into categories. You can then use this information to create, within a Commerce Server-enabled Web site, Web pages that let your customers browse your collection of products. The categories in your catalogs can have sub-categories, and products may appear in multiple categories. You can define a product with variations, for example, the same shirt can have different colors. These are called a product variants. You can also create catalogs that display on your Web site in different languages and different currencies. You can link two products together, so that when one is viewed, the other appears somewhere on your Web site page as an alternate suggestion. You can export your catalogs to XML, which is a textual format that is computer-friendly and can be consumed easily by technological partners. You can also import catalogs in XML format.
Catalogs contain hierarchies and relationships that you use to organize the products in the catalog to make it easier for customers to navigate to the products that they want to buy. You can create category hierarchies and relationships among categories and products that are in the same catalog or in different catalogs. For example, if you have a large catalog, you can create a parent category that includes several other categories, known as child categories. When customers navigate to the parent category, the child categories appear; enabling customers to navigate quickly to the category that contains the products they want. For example, you could define an "alternate" relationship so that when one product is viewed, another appears somewhere on your Web site page as an alternate suggestion.
You can use different types of Commerce Server catalogs to meet your specific business needs. In addition to traditional transactional catalogs that you use to sell goods in a business-to-consumer or business-to-business scenario, you can also create self-service and eGovernment catalogs. In this kind of catalog, customers pay for the information that you provide. Tourism sites use self-service catalogs, which provide a customer-facing information portal. You can also create inventory catalogs that contain inventory information for your product catalogs. You can share inventory catalogs between product catalogs, or you can create individual inventory catalogs for each product catalog.
To create a new catalog, you must first define the catalog by creating a catalog schema. For information about how to create a catalog schema, see Managing Catalog and Inventory Schema.