Product Information Management Best Practices

Enterprise spending on customer loyalty and retention marketing is set to take a 30% leap according to Forrester’s Predictions 2021, as businesses want to fix fragmented experiences that cost them their customers and millions of dollars. A Product Information Management (PIM) system can empower enterprises to tell compelling product stories across a constellation of customer touchpoints. But only if they follow PIM’s best practices!

  1. PIM Best Practices: To Succeed in Product Information Management
  2. Four Pillars for PIM’s Best Practices
  3. Defining the Scope of Your PIM Project
  4. Keeping Your PIM Vision in Check With ‘Data Governance’ 
  5. Build your own PIM Specialization Center 
  6. Looking to Implement PIM Keeping the Best Practices in Mind?
  7. Pimcore Can Do It for You!
     

1. PIM Best Practices: To Succeed in Product Information Management

Apart from deep-diving into—the scope, business needs, the impact of implementation on vendors, partners, other external entities, and how it cascades to the end customer—PIM needs to be approached from three major standpoints: a technology platform, a way of working, and as a business enabler. In case enterprises miss even one of these perspectives, they stand to lose their direction. Product Information Management is a strategic decision that takes monetary commitment to abide by a continuous growth and progress philosophy.

The best practices in PIM must also be motivated by achieving some or all of the following:

  • Improving customer experience
  • Enhancing marketing productivity
  • Expanding quickly into new markets and regions 
  • Evolving team collaboration
  • Speeding up product launches
  • Omnichannel enablement 
  • Faster time-to-market
  • Higher ROI and growth
     

2. Four Pillars for PIM’s Best Practices

Getting the Top Management onboard– Need Generation
Introducing a PIM starts with a need that often emanates from the sales and marketing departments, triggered by data discrepancies, delays in product campaign launches, inability to scale, frequent miscommunication with other departments, or reliance on legacy applications that do not match the market demands. Therefore, the marketing, sales, product management, and IT must be brought on the same page with the C-Suite executives. It should be clear to all how PIM achieves targeted business goals and how those goals associate with broader business objectives.
Capture and Communicate your PIM vision
PIM is all about business evolution. It is to do with taking significant steps such as scaling, adapting, expanding, and sometimes taking some even bolder decisions. It may be an enterprise-wide data quality building (and clean-up) drive, re-imagining or redesigning key business processes, bringing in new assortment strategies, and expanding into new syndication channels. All these initiatives must be translated into a strategic plan in order to easily communicate a tangible, time-bound, manageable vision to the workforce.
Cultural Transformation
Across the organization’s length and breadth, there are employees, contract workers, vendors engaged with operations who are either not aware or are not so keen on knowing the bigger business picture. They must be gently influenced about how transforming outdated workflows and internal barriers to collaboration and communication affect their way of working, speed, and accuracy. Leaders must prioritize on required pieces of training, induction, and workshops for the existing workforce.
Putting the Customer Experience in Context
Attaching all the importance with ‘products’ and not with product information is a mistake that brands make. It is the product information that forms the building blocks of good customer experiences. Off late, customer journeys have become complicated, unpredictable, and are managed in real-time. This puts customers at the very heart of not just marketing and sales but every single department making “customer-first” the motto behind everything, from financial rewards, business growth, beating the competition, as well as future-proofing.

3. Defining the Scope of Your PIM Project

i) Defining Your PIM Strategy

A ‘strategy’ is the middle part between you are and where you want to be. Your entire team, including your PIM implementation experts, and internal team members, should be on it with you. Strategies vary from enterprise to enterprise. They are tethered to goals like “building the best customer experience among your contemporaries” (if you’re a retailer) or “having the best data quality so that no retailer leaves you out of their assortment” (if you’re a manufacturer/CPG business). Steps to a sound PIM strategy:

  • Establish a PIM business case
  • Rethink your current business model to include a PIM system
  • Evaluate the costs for a PIM business case
  • Work out the contours of bringing in automation 
  • Develop a technology integration plan 
  • Tie all loose ends to achieve faster time-to-market
  • Put omnichannel enablement plan in place to aid customer experience
  • Set up a PIM implementation schedule 
     

ii) Laying the PIM Foundation

It is essential to lay down the right foundation for a PIM system. Any department that sees the need for a PIM must make sure those needs are met. Merely conveying your demands and leaving them in the hands of IT to fulfill might not result in your desired outcome. As the configuration of an operations-focused PIM is slightly different from a PIM that is marketing or sales oriented, the foundation of a PIM matters a great deal in realizing the desired outcomes. Enterprises must carefully:

  • Select a software
  • Plan data management
  • Bring in relevant product information management processes
  • Implement a pilot of high-quality data
  • Let first use cases take shape
     

iii) Setting a PIM in Motion

Getting the ball rolling when it comes to a PIM may require you to slice your project into manageable chunks. Scoring quick wins by giving priority to processes that need urgent fixing must be considered. Defining a timeline for your project and a stepwise break up will help you go from one accomplishment to another and keep the progress visible and transparent. You may break up the project into the following:

4. Keeping Your PIM Vision in Check With ‘Data Governance’

 

i) Building a Cross-Functional Data Governance Structure

Aspiring to have perfect quality product data in place is one thing, and making it happen through enforcing standards is quite the other. Organizations need to create a concrete plan for teams to abide by rules by designating roles and delegating responsibilities demarcated as plainly as possible. A data governance program comprising of standard practices, rules, and policies for PIM implementation must be created, applicable across regions, divisions, brands, and countries. Data stewards must be identified and made in-charge to execute policies and guidelines of data governance.

A data governance plan must be created around:

  • Data Quality Standards
  • Robust Workflow Policies
  • Data Accountability and Authorization 
  • Risk Management
  • Compliance

ii) A Three-Pronged Check-list for Sound Data Governance

Identify Priorities

  • How will PIM solution be used across the enterprise?
  • Can you create a hierarchy of PIM stakeholders?
  • What will be the processes and roles that exist within PIM?
  • Whose requests and in what order should be entertained? Would exist within PIM?
  • Requests in what order and by whom must be fulfilled?

Create Duties

  • Is there a team or individual that guides PIM within the organization? Who are they?
  • Are there any individuals responsible for data quality?
  • Who are the individuals  liable for implementing changes?
     

Manage Processes

  • Who has access to workflow changes?
  • Who is responsible for product data maintenance and onboarding, supply chain enrichment, image ingestion, and other such things?
     

iii) Involve Your Supplier and Vendors in Your Governance Efforts

Apart from your organization, external entities such as product suppliers, data suppliers, global data pools such as GDSN, other outside agencies hired for translations and photography serve as product data sources. Earlier the practice was to have these entities provide data in the condition they had it in; many-a-times, it wasn’t always up to the mark. Hence, enterprises ended up spending time and resources on fixing the data themselves. A PIM led data governance program, processes, and policies applied to internal data can be applied to all external data agencies as well. You must, therefore, ensure to:

  • Explain to them the advantages of maintaining product data standards and how it lends itself to the successful selling of products. 
  • Insist upon them to improve their data quality to be assimilated into your PIM system with minimum effort.
  • Automate data validation and standardization from external agencies 
  • Work alongside them, so they offer you incremental data when required and rectify data discrepancies that have been pointed out by you  
  • Etch-out product data rules and attributes for every category of products, so it’s easy to govern and achieve the desired product data quality  
     

5. Build your own PIM Specialization Center

Once your goals are in sight, you know how your product information, workflows, and processes must look; you must ensure that your employees are well-equipped to handle it; Your team will oversee that a “PIM Specialization Center” is developed and is looked after. They are the ones who are responsible, enabled, and authorized to send quality product data to every department that needs it. Let your enterprise be prepared to adapt with:

  • New job descriptions and designations
  • Have PIM specialists on board to train your existing staff
  • Alterations in certain prevailing roles in terms of scope and expertise 
  • New protocols and guidelines pertaining to PIM the Specialization Center 

How Changes in Roles and Responsibilities Look Like Post PIM Implementation?

Job Who was responsible? (Pre PIM) Who is responsible? (Post PIM)


Integrating supplier/vendor data

Product supervisor/manager Data specialist who imports, converts, enhances and enriches supplier/vendor data
Product data authorization Team for product/category management Content experts (who work with product and category management teams)
Product data quality and enrichment No specific system or department Consolidation, cleansing, and enriching of data happen in a PIM system. PIM content experts check for discrepancies across assortments and categories. Completed datasets are then cascaded to other departments.
Product data publishing Every channel needs manual, separate publication, e.g., on marketplaces, mobile apps, kiosks, native apps, print catalogs, etc. Appointed PIM experts oversee automated publishing and omnichannel enablement
Product copywriting Copywriters responsible for specific channels (e.g., marketplaces, social media, mobile apps) Copies are automated for every channel and region

6. Looking to Implement PIM Keeping the Best Practices in Mind? Pimcore Can Do It for You!

Pimcore can provide you with a product information management keeping the best practices in mind. We would first thoroughly comprehend your motivation to get a PIM. Whether data discrepancies are holding back your efficiency, brand/customer experience isn’t uniform, time-to-market is excessive, data managing costs are skyrocketing, adapting to new channels is getting complicated, processes and business agility are suffering, or are your competitors chewing up your market share by adapting faster than you—we’ll guide you with a plan that suits you the best.

It’s important to realize that your product information is your actual ‘asset’ and this asset’s ultimate test takes place on sales channels. In other words, your product information is as useful as your products themselves. And PIM’s best practices ensures that.

Pimcore would go into the depths of what would be the best route by putting in place an actionable strategy backed not only by conventions, attitudes, but enthusiasm.

Lastly, as product information management is an ongoing process that needs constant observation, we’ll ensure that you consistently keep assessing your PIM progress against your expectations, examine employee acceptance, and are open to trying techniques suitable to your needs.

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