Nowadays, when we think about buying something, our first instinct is often to search online for the product’s price, availability, and competitive brands. The market has shifted, and customers expect businesses to have an online presence. Ecommerce is no longer optional, while having a physical store can be. This change has presented numerous opportunities and challenges for large corporations with vast product portfolios.
Having a digital presence means establishing multilevel touchpoints. For example, you can have your own ecommerce website or sell through platforms like Amazon FBA or Etsy GSP. Having a multi-touchpoint presence online gives you business a higher chance of converting customers and making sales.
Maintaining an online presence across multiple channels requires a central, consistent source of product information that can be easily shared across teams. Without a proper information management strategy, you’ll end up with several disparate channels of manual control, increasing dependencies and potential for human error.
Table of contents
- What is product information management?
- Product information management example
- Advantages of implementing a PIM system
- Selecting a PIM system
What is product information management?
In simple terms, product information management (PIM) is a central process for compiling, storing, and distributing product data across channels. Advanced PIM processes also facilitate real-time evaluation, identification, and collaboration on product information.
The main goal of a PIM process is to create a consistent data hub that can be easily updated from various systems and shared instantly across channels.
The range of applications for product information management vary from company to company. For example, depending on the organization’s needs, the processes may include evaluating data with advanced machine learning mechanisms or facilitating collaboration at particular product lifecycle stages.
A robust PIM system serves as a centralized hub where product data from various sources, like manufacturers, suppliers, and internal departments, are gathered and harmonized. These systems provide a structured framework to store and manage product attributes, specifications, descriptions, images, pricing, inventory levels, and other relevant information.
Product information management example
Let’s look at an example to illustrate the concept of product information management.
Consider a multinational retailer operating physical stores in several countries and an ecommerce website. The retailer offers various products from different brands, including electronic devices and home goods. Managing and distributing accurate and consistent product information becomes a complex task with thousands of products and numerous suppliers.
In this example, the retailer needs to fetch detailed information about the product, such as warranty, installation, etc., from various brands and distribute it across all channels. The retailer also needs to address the need to translate the information into multiple languages to cater to local demographics.
During seasonal discounts and promotions, retailers must ensure consistent information about pricing, terms and conditions, etc., across campaigns running in various channels and follow the thread into its own sales unit, ecommerce website, and customer care service.
To effectively manage all these extensive information management needs, the retailer must have a PIM system and a central process in place. Without a PIM system, the retailer would experience higher costs for manual routines, errors due to communication gaps, dissatisfied customers due to a lack of knowledge within the organization (as customer care centers and sales people at retail counters do not have consistent information about product offerings), and potential lawsuits due to misinformation.
Implementing a PIM system streamlines product data management by gathering all information in one repository. The retailer can then integrate its existing systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and ecommerce platforms, with the PIM system. As a result, the PIM system becomes the central repository for all product information.
Suppose the retailer receives product data from multiple suppliers in different formats, e.g., spreadsheets, PDFs, or XML files. In that case, the PIM system allows them to import and normalize this data while ensuring consistency across all products. They define standardized attributes for each product category, such as brand, model, color, size, weight, SKU (stock keeping unit), and more.
The PIM system provides a user-friendly interface where the retailer’s product managers can access and enrich the product data. For example, they can add product descriptions, optimize images, update pricing information, and manage translations for international markets. The system also allows them to define relationships between related products, such as microwaves and heat-resistant containers.
Once the product data is enriched and validated within the PIM system, it can be automatically synchronized with the retailer’s ERP system, ecommerce platform, point-of-sale (POS) systems in physical stores, and other sales channels. This ensures that consistent and accurate product information is available to customers regardless of which touchpoint they interact with.
Advantages of implementing a PIM system
Implementing a product information management system in your organization can yield the following benefits:
- Data accuracy and consistency — PIM systems provide a centralized repository for product information, ensuring that data is accurate, up-to-date, and consistent across all channels and platforms. With standardized attributes and validation rules, PIM helps eliminate data discrepancies and errors that can occur when managing product data manually or through disparate systems
- Efficient data management — PIM systems streamline the process of collecting, organizing, and enriching product data. They provide a structured framework to store and manage product attributes, specifications, pricing, images, etc., enabling efficient data management while reducing duplication of efforts and manual data entry errors
- Improved productivity and time savings — By automating manual data management tasks, PIM systems free up valuable time for product managers and marketers. They can focus on enriching and optimizing product data rather than spending hours on data entry and verification. This improved productivity leads to faster time-to-market for new products and updates
- Omnichannel consistency — PIM ensures that consistent and accurate product information is available across all channels and touchpoints, including ecommerce websites, mobile apps, marketplaces, physical stores, and catalogs. This consistency enhances the customer experience as shoppers receive the same reliable information regardless of their chosen channel, increasing trust and customer satisfaction
- Personalization and localization — PIM systems enable organizations to tailor product information to specific customer segments and geographical regions. With the ability to manage translations, regional pricing, and localized descriptions within the PIM system, companies can efficiently cater to diverse markets, expanding their global reach and driving sales
- Improved customer experience — Accurate and comprehensive product information helps customers make informed purchasing decisions. By providing rich and consistent product data, PIM systems contribute to a positive customer experience. Customers can easily find the information they need, compare products, and confidently make purchases, reducing product returns and increasing customer loyalty
- Agility and scalability — PIM systems offer flexibility and scalability to accommodate changing business needs and growing product catalogs. As new products are introduced or existing ones are updated, PIM systems enable organizations to quickly adapt and distribute changes across channels, ensuring agility in the marketplace
- Integration with other systems — PIM systems can integrate with business systems such as ERP, customer relationship management (CRM), ecommerce platforms, etc., allowing seamless data flow between systems while minimizing manual data transfers and improving overall operational efficiency
Selecting a PIM system
There are numerous PIM systems on the market, and selecting a PIM system that works best for your needs within your budget is no easy task. If you have a complex business model, you might need to pay an additional cost for more complex product information management strategies.
Criteria to evaluate
When selecting a product information management (PIM) system to improve your digital omnichannel presence, consider the following three criteria:
Data quality control
- Data validation — Look for a PIM system that provides validation rules to ensure data accuracy, consistency, and adherence to defined standards during data entry and import processes
- Data cleansing — Identifying and removing duplicate or inconsistent data entries is crucial for maintaining high-quality product information
- Data enrichment — Features that allow for easy enrichment of product data, such as adding descriptions, images, and specifications, are essential for enhancing the quality and completeness of your product information
Integrations with other systems
- Ecommerce platforms — Ensure that the PIM system seamlessly integrates with your e-commerce platform(s) to enable efficient data synchronization, automatic updates, and streamlined omnichannel management
- ERP and CRM systems — Integration with your ERP and CRM systems allows for smooth data flow between different departments and ensures consistency across sales, marketing, and operational processes
- Digital asset management (DAM) — Look for integrations with DAM systems to efficiently manage and distribute product images, videos, and other rich media assets across various channels
- Flexible data modeling — Choose a PIM system that allows you to define and customize data models, attributes, and classifications according to your specific business requirements and product catalog structure
- Workflow customization — Look for a PIM system that enables you to design and customize workflows to match your organization’s processes and approval hierarchies
- Customizable user interface — Consider a PIM system that offers a user-friendly and customizable interface, allowing users to personalize their working environment and access relevant data quickly
How to choose the best PIM system for your business
- Assess your requirements — Start by clearly defining your organization’s current requirements, objectives, and priorities for a PIM system. Consider factors such as the size of your product catalog, the number of channels you operate on, and the specific data management challenges you face
- Involve stakeholders — Include key stakeholders from different departments such as marketing, sales, IT, and operations in the evaluation process. Identify their inputs on features and capabilities they require to meet their specific needs
- Conduct a gap analysis — Identify existing systems and processes in place, including manual processes used to fill gaps temporarily, and evaluate how a PIM system can fill these gaps while addressing your pain points. Look for features that directly address your specific challenges, such as data consistency across channels, automated data synchronization, or efficient collaboration workflows
- Evaluate vendor offerings — Research and evaluate a range of PIM system vendors to understand their features, capabilities, and track records. Request demonstrations and proofs-of-concept (POCs) to assess how well the systems align with your requirements
- Request references and case studies — Ask vendors for customer references and case studies to understand how the PIM system has performed for similar organizations in terms of data quality control, integrations, way of working, and customization options
- Consider scalability and future growth — Ensure that the selected PIM system can scale with your business growth and accommodate future needs. Evaluate its ability to handle increasing product volumes, additional channels, and changing data management requirements
Product information management is a crucial process that serves as the foundation for having a streamlined, efficient digital presence across channels. It helps with operations while reducing manual process costs in the long run. Automation also reduces the probability of error occurrence and mishaps. At the same time, it’s a long-running process for identification, implementation, maintenance, and upgrades.
By selecting and implementing a suitable PIM system with the right features and capabilities for your product and business, you can efficiently manage your product information, maintain data accuracy, enhance the customer experience, and successfully navigate the challenges of establishing and maintaining a digital omnichannel presence.
Featured image source: IconScout
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