Catalog automation

The solution to optimize your publishing process

The publishing workflow

The publishing process is an activity that involves all the companies that want to create a commercial document, such as a catalog, price list, or multilingual brochure, that can be printed and digitally distributed. The classic publishing process can be very time-consuming and requires a lot of effort by human resources because it consists of three different activities:

  1. Data enrichment;
  2. Publication of data in a layout;
  3. Layout finishing.


When you start creating a catalog, you probably have a deadline to meet. At the same time, you’re likely unable to estimate the amount of time the process will require. If you want to save time, improve accuracy, and simplify the creation process, the best approach is to manage it using catalog automation software.

Let’s take a look at the main activities you have to deal with during the publishing process, whether you use an automatic publishing solution or a manual approach.

Data enrichment

Data enrichment includes all the tasks that improve, integrate, and correct raw data to make them usable for data-driven activities. Data are easily structured and enhanced to be published in the desired document. Typically, a firm’s sales and marketing teams are the most involved in this task. They must take care of determining the prices in all accepted currencies, writing the appropriate descriptions, selecting the right products to insert in the catalog, associating the products with specific promotions, handling multiple languages, and more.

Data publication into a layout (manual and automatic)

The step after data enrichment consists of inserting the product information (data) into the publication’s layout. This step can be done manually or with catalog automation software. Let’s first examine how the manual process works, and then how the workflow can be made faster and easier with an automated process.

“Handmade” publishing

The manual process is usually done by graphic designers and takes a lot of time and effort. The copy-paste activity (from the spreadsheet to the catalog) must be accurate, as any inaccuracies can cause very serious errors, especially if they are present in sensitive fields such as the price section.

Below is a step-by-step outline of the activities related to a manual publishing workflow:

  • The product marketing and graphics departments plan a framework for the product layout and content.
  • Product marketing submits all the product information that needs to be inserted in the catalog call-by-call to the graphics department in all the conceivable ways (initial Excel files, emails, Post-it Notes, PDF revisions, photocopies of paper-based revisions, midnight phone calls).
  • The graphics department is in charge of fitting this information into a coherent and intelligible document. Given their control over the “last mile” of catalog production, they are often called in to fill in random voids of information at the last minute.
  • Revision approval cycles follow, new products and lines are added, and the cycle repeats itself all over again.

> The workflow of the manual publishing process

Automatic publishing with a catalog automation solution

The automatic process is driven by catalog automation software. These tools allow you to automatically create catalogs by extracting data from ERP, PIM, e-commerce, or spreadsheets and inserting them into a layout following your industry-specific publishing rules.

Below are the activities related to publishing a document using a catalog automation solution or InDesign catalog automation software.

  • The marketing team and graphics department create the document layout they want to automate. This layout, usually an InDesign file, is implemented in the cloud database publishing software.
  • Each time an updated version of the document is required, it’s only necessary to upload the new related data file to the cloud; the new document is automatically created in both InDesign and PDF formats in a few seconds. A real-time preview (PDF) is easily viewable directly on the browser:
    • The static parts of the documents—usually the ones that are not being updated often—remain hand-made and are uploaded to the Cloud. These include the front and back covers, introduction pages, advertisement pages, terms and conditions, and so on. These parts are automatically assembled along with the dynamic parts that are created after pulling the information from the data files.
    • The dynamic parts include the catalog’s table of contents, product pages, and chapter separators.

When using the automatic approach, documents are 100% complete and always ready to publish both online or as hard copies.

This is the workflow Pagination’s cloud database publishing service follows.

> The workflow with a catalog automation solution

Layout finishing

The layout finishing process consists of fine-tuning the layout and a final review of the publication before it is published. The sales and marketing teams, along with the design department, are involved in this process to check:

  • The consistency of the product information;
  • Make the last graphics tweaks, such as image resizing;
  • Add new icons/symbols; and
  • All the parts/sections that were not previously designed.

After the layout is finished, the document is done and ready to be distributed via the desired channels.

A process that can be optimized with the right catalog automation solution

The three activities described above (data enrichment, publication of data in a layout, and layout finishing) are all mandatory for creating a catalog. Your workflow can, however, vary widely in terms of time and costs during the data publication phase, depending on whether you use a manual or automatic publishing process. A catalog automation solution optimizes this phase, enabling you to save time, improve accuracy, and simplify even the most complex publishing project.

Catalog automation?

Publishing documents is a challenging task that can put pressure on even the best marketing teams.

You can use Pagination InDesign Catalog Automation software to automatically create beautiful documents in just a few seconds that are always ready for print or digital distribution.

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