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Maryna Postrelko
Written by
Maryna Tarasenko
Head of Marketing at Gepard
product taxonomy taxonomy

Product Taxonomy Definition And 7 Steps To Develop It In An Understandable Way

7 min read
Published: February 1, 2021
Updated: January 26, 2023

Product taxonomy definition, its functions, and challenges are key elements for both brick-and-mortar and online stores.

After years of grocery shopping you can’t expect to find steak or parmesan in the toiletries section of a supermarket, right? Online shopping is the same: buyers want to find what they need easily and as quickly as possible.

Here’s where you need a well-developed product taxonomy. Let’s dig into its essence, review product taxonomy best practices, and find out what challenges you might face.

Product Taxonomy Definition

Product taxonomy definition originates from the Greek language. The word “taxis” means “organization” or “arrangement”. In a digital world, taxonomy is no more limited to libraries or science sections. For online retailers, product taxonomy (product categorization) is a hierarchical and logical structure of classifying and organizing your products that aims to facilitate the comfortable navigation of products. 

Product taxonomy in eCommerce consists of two main elements: categories and attributes. Common products are grouped into categories, while attributes are applied to products of each category.

E.g. If we browse the Maybelline online shop, we can find “curling mascara” in the “Eyes” category and “Mascara” subcategory. In the product description, we will find “Ingredients” or “How to use/apply” attributes that can be applied to many other cosmetic products on the website.

A well-crafted product hierarchy helps buyers to find what they want in the blink of an eye. As a result, your customers get an excellent buyer experience, and your sales increase.

What Is Retail Taxonomy?

Product data and product taxonomy in eCommerce are interrelated. Taxonomy is not just a hierarchy of products but the whole product taxonomy framework that guarantees high product data quality and significantly improves product information management processes.

A product taxonomy database is equally useful for both searchers and browsers of your website. Customers who search for a product on your website, go directly to a search bar and type the name of a product they want to find, using the keywords (e.g. Christmas costume, Lenovo laptop, etc). If your taxonomy structure does not use the specific keywords typed in by a customer, it can showcase the related product, which will help a potential buyer to find an alternative product, as close to a desired one, as possible.

The browsers benefit the most from a well-established product taxonomy. These customers are excited to explore categories and subcategories, and the more structured it is, the more likely they will find something they might buy. Hamburger menus, headers, and easy-to-spot navigation bars draw the attention of browsers and increase the chances of turning them into buyers.

Product taxonomy benefits your personnel and your business’s online visibility. Clear hierarchy helps to avoid data duplicates and errors, as instead of manual reviews and cleaning, a well-built taxonomy management software is doing it automatically. It sets your staff free from boring manual work and enhances your SEO performance. Valid and structured product data helps you get deeper insights & analytics and find secret opportunities for your business.

For those brands who want to stay omnipresent, the main challenge is adjusting to the product categorization of various sales channels. Different retail platforms can require delivering the product data accordingly with their own product taxonomy classification and templates. Implementing automated product taxonomy software solves this problem and enables you to showcase your products on various sales channels.

Product Taxonomy For Omnichannel Business Strategy

Why is Product Taxonomy Important?

Product taxonomy benefits your personnel and your business’s online visibility. Clear product hierarchy helps to avoid data duplicates and errors, as instead of manual reviews and cleaning, a well-built taxonomy management software is doing it automatically. It sets your staff free from boring manual work and enhances your SEO performance. Valid and structured product data helps you get deeper insights & analytics and find secret opportunities for your business.

Google Product Categorization

According to  Google product taxonomy 2020, it’s not obligatory to place your product under a certain category, except for some item types where using the category is required (Media & Software, Clothing & Accessories). Though choosing the category is highly recommended, as Google will identify your product and match it with your potential buyer’s search. Google recommends choosing the most precise category to boost the campaign and your account performance.

Here’s the Google product taxonomy sheet with the full list of categories.

Facebook Product Taxonomy

The Facebook sales platform offers to add product collections to your page shop. You can also display a product set, which is a group of products that can be featured in your shop or advertisements.

Here you can read more about the Facebook sales platform and its product taxonomy.

Amazon Product Hierarchy

Amazon offers more than ten thousand categories. There are 20 open listing categories, and also categories that need approval. The sellers who upgrade to Professional Selling Plan can assign their products to non-open categories. Amazon’s product taxonomy has a hierarchical structure. Basically, Amazon taxonomies are organized by terms (e.g. Apps & Games), and then all those terms are related or connected to each other.

Here you can find a full list of Amazon product categories.

Here in Gepard’s research, we prepared an extended guide on leading retailers’ taxonomy requirements.

Ask Us How To Automatically Adapt Your Product Taxonomy For Various Retailers

Challenges with Product Categorization

Apart from adjusting to product taxonomy rules of various sales platforms, here are some other top challenges with establishing product taxonomy:

  1. Standard settings for taxonomies. In order to make product data compliant with the demands of different marketplaces, the company is advised to set a standard data structure like GS1 product taxonomy, which is difficult without involving experienced eCommerce experts. You can learn more about this challenge in the Gepard GS1 case study.
  2. Local differences. If vendors operate in different countries and create special categorizations for a particular country or locale, it confuses a customer. Also delivering and transforming data becomes more challenging because of the local discrepancies.
  3. Different terminology. One very common problem occurs when businesses and their customers use different terminology to explain the same product. It depends on the level of expertise of customers and their preferences. However, it poses problems when it comes to creating a structured data hierarchy.
  4. Ambiguous and complex data. Product data complexity and ambiguity bring about the situation when the same products are shown under different categories. Not only the information becomes less consistent, but also the customers cannot use all the potential of browsing and filtering.
  5. Duplicate categories. The tool which is used to manage the company’s product taxonomy defines how challenging it can be to manage duplicate categories. For example, finding redundant categories is easier with a PIM system. Sometimes its governance functions allow it to check for potential duplicate categories in the process of creating them.
  6. An excess of categories. While you may think that offering your potential buyers to choose from a two-page list of categories enriches their shopping experience. On the flip side, it can confuse and discourage them.
  7. Having doubts between a category and an attribute. Sometimes it is hard to decide if a certain feature is related to a category or attribute. Also, it can be difficult to find the relation between categories and subcategories.

8. Choosing the default sort orders for categories. Creating a product taxonomy template requires setting the default sort orders. It’s always a question of whether it should be alphabetical, dynamic, or logical, and how consistent it should be.

Challenges With Product Taxonomy

Product Taxonomy Best Practices: 7 Steps to Design an Effective Product Hierarchy

Given all the above challenges, how to create a product taxonomy that benefits your business? Here are some steps to follow.

  1. Define who in your team is responsible for product information structure and its delivery to external points of sales.

Detailed team planning will help you define the company members who have comprehensive knowledge and experience in the sphere of product taxonomy, content creation, and product information management.

  1. Identify product categories that you are interested in.

Analyze the way your clients shop and assign the most proper categories, subcategories, and attributes. The deeper research you will conduct, the better you will understand which product categories and attributes are the most relevant for your audience. 

  1. Make a list of marketplaces/retailers where you want to sell, and gather their requirements. 

Knowing the product taxonomy rules of the selected marketplaces will help you work on product taxonomy mapping for the selected sales platforms. By discovering the diversity of sales channels and their requirements you will estimate the amount of time, human and financial resources you need to establish product taxonomy

  1. Prepare the product data on your own or integrate with the content services providers to get the data from them.

Determine the product data “owners” in your company who can be responsible for the product information preparation and can describe the products in a compelling to a customer way. Compare competitors’ descriptions of similar products, and try to bring them to the next level.

  1. Focus on rich content creation.

Rich product data goes above and beyond product specifications. The product pages enriched with bullets, images & videos, and comparison graphs give a full idea of your products and immensely enhance the customer experience. 

  1. Adapt the GS1, ETIM classification, or other international data exchange standards.

GS1 is a system of global data standards, developed to simplify product data adjustment and delivery to various points of sales. ETIM (European Technical Information Model) is a product information exchange standard, widely used in the electronic industry. Adopting this classification will ease the data transfer process and help to avoid data ambiguity.

  1. Check whether your taxonomy aligns with the Master Data Recommendations from Gepard’s team. 

Do not neglect to fill in the basic product info (MPN and GTIN, product model name, product pictures, and management summary). Your marketing message should include a brief marketing description, texts, condition and warranty notes, and a management summary. Prepare an extensive list of product specifications and make sure you have rich content to keep up with basic product info. Gather information on upsells and related products to help your customers find an alternative to the desired product. You can find more details about essential elements of the product data model here.

How To Develop Product Taxonomy

Consult With Gepard on How to Automatically Adapt Your Product Taxonomy Database for Various Retailers

Having great product information is not nearly enough anymore. To stay competitive in the eCommerce world, you should adopt and deliver this information to a variety of sales platforms. Entrust this task to Gepard – a professional team of over 150 skilled marketers and developers, assisting the major eCommerce players in the EMEA market for more than 15 years.

If you are still unsure whether automated taxonomy management software can help you increase your time-to-market, don’t think twice – contact Gepard for help.

How To Adapt Your Product Taxonomy To Different Retailers

Maryna Postrelko
Written by Maryna Tarasenko
Head of Marketing at Gepard
A passionate professional with solid expertise in Content Marketing, External Communications, Email Marketing, and Social Media. Head of Marketing at Gepard, the product information management & syndication platform, helping to centralize diverse product data and deliver complying content to sales channels.

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