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.
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.
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.
Implementing a product information management system in your organization can yield the following benefits:
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.
When selecting a product information management (PIM) system to improve your digital omnichannel presence, consider the following three criteria:
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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