Product Information Management: What, When, Why, Who, Where & How

The concept of Product Information Management systems came into being when the need of a centralized repository that provided a single view of information started gaining ground. Soon, it became evident to sellers that managing product information effectively is pivotal to multiple channel marketing and omnichannel selling.
 

What You’ll Learn From This Insight:

 

I. PIM: A Historical Perspective

II. What Is Product Information Management? And What is a Product Information Management 'System'?

  •  What Makes It Unique?
  •  How Product Information Management Can Help?
  • What Are the Core Functions of PIM?

III. When does the need of PIM arise?

IV. Why Need a PIM? And Why Need a PIM Now?

V. Who Needs a PIM?

  • Which Industries Stand to Gain the Most?
  • Whose Life Gets Easier?

VI. Where does a PIM fit in the entire system?

VII. How to Choose the Right PIM Solution?

VIII. Final Word: Making Customers Happy With Product Information Management

I. PIM: A Brief Historical Perspective

Product information in the form of printed catalogs, with their distinct history, has always been an integral part of shopping. It has aided analysis, has made buying decisions easier, and are still around.

The idea of product information management (PIM) emerged in the early 1990s when companies were still heavily dependent on printed catalogs to sell.

With the emergence of the internet, every industry underwent a paradigm shift, including merchandising. Products started being bought and sold online. And once they did, they never stopped. Then came a time when product data was maintained, and attributes were managed in (Enterprise Resource Planning) ERP systems’ ‘item master’ to meet the requirements of ERP systems users.

But it turned out that ERP item master wasn’t the best place to store product data. That’s because ERPs are used to manage business transactions like sales orders, inventory adjustments, and purchase orders, and store necessary product information like inventory and pricing.

The Journey from ERP to PIM

Since ERP couldn’t store all the product information required to fuel the needs of eCommerce, for instance, taxonomies, attributes and digital assets, it wasn’t the best fit. Also, it didn’t offer any help in data governance, and neither it could confirm that data in it is dependable and up-to-the-minute.

In the meantime, the industry evolved into a “multi-channel” environment.

The concept of PIM gained more ground in the mid-2000s. PIM systems came into being as new, centralized repositories, and provided a single view of all information. Soon, it became evident to sellers that managing product information effectively is pivotal to multiple channel marketing and omnichannel selling.

Journey from ERP to Product Information Management (PIM) - Pimcore

II. What Is Product Information Management? 

  • What Makes It Unique?
  • How Product Information Management Can Help?
  • What Are the Core Functions of PIM?

According to Wikipedia, “Product information management (PIM) means managing the information required to market and sell products through distribution channels.”

Product information management refers to a set of business practices that assist in managing information needed for marketing and selling of products through organization's distribution channels, so that relevant, accurate, complete product information (like product specifications, technical specifications, sales statements, product lifecycle information, product metadata information, collected from almost every department of a company) could be delivered consistently to any customer touchpoint. It helps organizations in becoming quicker, more compliant and consistent by allowing efficient and easy flow of product information from supply chain to commerce and finally to consumers.

What is a Product Information Management 'System'?

A product information management system is the one that collects, consolidates, enriches, and manages product information in a single place, to create product catalogs, disseminate, standardize, and manage the delivery of your product information to different selling channels. 

A PIM system is used to ingest and store all product content, right from product descriptions, pricing details, SKUs, digital assets (including product images or PDFs).

By managing all the product information within a PIM system, organizations get to quickly sync syndicated product content with their associated channel, trading partner, storefront system, or marketplace. In this way, a PIM system can create as well as deliver compelling product experiences required to facilitate excellent customer engagement, enhance sales conversion, cover more market ground, as well as take leverage of new sales channels.

What Makes It Unique?

Broadly speaking, product information management, which is a subcategory of the comprehensive Master Data Management (MDM) domain, helps you to create a master copy of the product information. Software such as enterprise resource planning (ERPs), supply chain management systems (SCMs), product lifecycle management (PLMs), and most certainly, spreadsheets, do not offer the kind of scalability, extensibility required to manage, govern or syndicate enriched product information. Besides, a PIM software can be integrated with any homegrown or legacy software through flexible RESTful APIs. This unique API-led connectivity makes PIM the go-to software.

How PIM Can Help?

A good PIM system centralizes, synchronizes, and integrates product information with every component of a commerce technology stack such as order management system (OMS), eCommerce software, 3rd party software etc., thereby allowing each department to exchange data smoothly. While the back offices are able to manage every unique product detail in one single place based on this high-quality data, marketing teams can design targeted campaigns quicker, optimize content according to customers’ taste, push them into multiple marketplaces, and effortlessly support local as well as global marketing needs. 

What Are the Core Functions of PIM?

Being a database application, PIM software synchronizes, manages, enriches, and centralizes product-associated information in an organization. A PIM software, thus, forms the basis of customer-oriented product communication as well as associated marketing services. The core functions of PIM are:

III. When Does the Need of PIM Arise?

In a broader sense, signs can emanate from overdependence on legacy or homegrown systems (that can’t handle: growing product SKUs, data collection from multiple suppliers, and growing sales channels), absence of collaboration across internal and external departments, lack of omnichannel enablement which makes product experiences suffer, inefficient processes, inaccurate and error-prone product updates, erroneous orders, increased returns, etc., that impact the bottom line, resulting in higher costs. Even a noticeable drifting away of buyers from making purchase decisions, can be a signal.

IV. Why Need a PIM? And Why Need a PIM 'Now'?


The biggest driver for PIM implementation is to match up with the breakneck pace brought forth by technology, especially as we move forward in the age of digital transformation. 
By implementing a PIM, organizations become centered around a single version of product data (i.e., a single version of truth) while the back-end workflows get streamlined. This directly impacts the organizations’ operational efficiency and time-to-market. 
Here are some more triggers to understand how a business realizes it needs product information management software: 

Why need Product Information Management (PIM)? - Pimcore

Omnichannel powered perpetual growth

With unprecedented omnichannel growth, businesses are staring at generating content for multitudes of touchpoints. Seeking growth across newer channels and marketplaces has become a necessity. A product information management system helps organizations to scale their catalogs effortlessly in no time, by disseminating product information to newer channels.

Glocalization along with Customization

Product customizations on a global scale can only be effective when it can offer a tailored product experience for customers at every geography and location. A sound product information management can facilitate global teams to generate extremely targeted product experiences, customized as per numerous channels, languages, and milieus.

Faster-time-to-market

Success in today’s environment is undoubtedly dictated by who gets to the market first. It’s no more about who’s a more prominent name. Adaptability, flexibility and being at the right place at the right time matters like never before. With a PIM system, your processes can be streamlined, letting you bring your products to the table in no time by upping the productivity, automating catalog creation and maintenance.

Why Need a PIM 'Now'?

 

According to marketsandmarkets.com by the year 2021, PIM market will be worth USD 15.78 billion. Therefore, the need for a PIM is now more than.

Product experience is directly linked to data quality

Customers are buying online all the time. It’s not just a competitive price, but great product experience that’s become one of the key differentiators for customers in making a buying decision. Enterprises are slowly, but surely coming to terms with this fact. That’s the reason they’re choosing PIM solutions to make it quick and easy to collect and disseminate accurate, consistent product information.

Data governance is another critical need

A PIM system is highly recommended to build data governance around robust workflow capabilities and to control access to attributes as per the exclusive requirement of organizations. For instance, an organization may not prefer just about anyone in the company’s hierarchy to update data pertaining to compliance of a product, as it might create legal complications.

Improved ROI driven by productivity and cost-cutting

A PIM solution lays the foundation of improved, automated workflows by reducing manual, repetitive tasks to a great extent. It makes businesses function faster, reduces manual dependence and ensures that right product information is sent to downstream channels. This directly impacts sales through faster conversion, reduced product returns and better customer loyalty. And if it’s an open-source PIM software, businesses not only get the high flexibility and scalability but a low total cost of ownership (TCO).

V. Who Needs a PIM?

 

  • Whose Life Gets Easier?
  • Which Industries Stand to Gain the Most?

A PIM solution has several users. As a matter of fact, no department in the value chain stays untouched from a product information management system, and many out of them are its active users. In a broad sense, they are:
 

Marketing and Sales

It's crucial for marketing teams to manage, produce & sell products through effective marketing at every touchpoint, needed for omnichannel sales.

R&D division

There’s a significant probability that either the design or the research & development division uses the PIM system to store technical drawings, documentation or specifications essential for the product development process.

Suppliers

They make use of their customer’s (i.e., the organization’s) PIM system by adding or updating further details about their products, right from price to inventory volume.

Customer care

This department  includes customer complaints, frequently asked questions, and special requests to enhance product-related information or its documentation.

Procurement department

It is also used by the procurement department to store collected product information, like prices, product quality criteria as well as contracts details, decided upon with suppliers.

Customers

They might add their own product reviews, including photos or videos of their experience with the products.

Which Industries Stand to Gain the Most?

(1) Retail
For the retail industry, correct product content holds the utmost importance, to rollout great quality, customer-centric offers in real-time. Conversely speaking, managing product information and syncing it across channels is central to success in omnichannel retailing. The scalability, flexibility and speed PIM provides ensure automated updates, new product introduction through personalized consumer offering.

(2) Manufacturing
For manufacturers, a single version of information, efficient data governance, uncomplicated access to information and tools are pivotal to success. A PIM system can, therefore, boost operational efficiency, transform coordination and communication with suppliers, boost time-to-market, improve data accuracy, and enhance the customer experience to accelerate business growth and revenue.

(3) Distribution
With an explosion in the number of marketing channels, distributors with a huge variety of SKUs have realized there’s no alternative to consistent customer experience across channels. And to ensure it, creating a single repository of information is vital. With a PIM solution in place, distributors can reduce the time-to-market of their products, integrate new point of sale, enable omnichannel, and increase revenue.

(4) Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)
To adapt to the increasing data variety and volume, as well as challenging demands of the digital customer, CPG businesses must establish a deeper level of interaction with not only their customers but retailers too. A PIM solution can help them track raw materials, eliminate data silos, manage new product introductions, achieve operational excellence, reduce risks, drive business growth and carry out brand management and optimization initiatives.

Although, a PIM system renders data collection almost effortless by automating manual data processes, impacting the entire value chain right down do the end customer there are direct beneficiaries of a PIM system, whose jobs get tremendously simple, such as:
 

Sales & Marketing personnel

Sales and marketing people are the ones who truly realize the difference a PIM solution brings into their lives. Earlier, they had to look for product information by wading through a web of inter-departmental co-ordinations (which couldn’t even guarantee foolproof accuracy of data) to plan their strategy. With PIM, they can lay their hands on the most accurate, up-to-the-minute data and go live faster than their competitors.

E-commerce Managers

PIM manages the master catalog of product information by consolidating data from every location into one centralized place. A PIM system can manage a large amount of SKUs, frequently introduce new products, update existing product descriptions, handle products with complicated combinations, and integration with other systems effortlessly. It lets you scale operations, bring in automation, streamline workflows, make inroads into newer markets and across multiple channels faster.

CIOs/ CTOs

For CIOs and CTOs who are continually looking to implement best-of-breed technologies, PIM comes as a blessing. It manages product information, boosts automation, provides seamless integration— in order to drive the overall efficiency, reduce costs, at the same time enhance customer experience, increase overall revenue and future-proof their organization’s IT.

VI. Where does a PIM fit in the entire system?

Enterprises functioning with different tools across divisions, brands and global locations can face a slew of organizational, systemic, and technological issues.

Therefore, PIM must be tied together with business applications and product information providing sources like CRM, OMS, ERP, eCommerce, manufacturers, suppliers, etc.

PIM serves as a link between different sources of product information and distribution channels while performing the crucial role of being a data reservoir feeding information into every important system.

Where does product information reside?

Internal Data & Procurement Systems
Internal Data is the one that's stored in various individual applications, systems, spreadsheets, and in several different formats. Procurement Systems hold data of generated purchase orders, sent purchase requisitions, supplier data, reviewed invoices, et.al., which is then sent to a PIM system
ERPs
Every organization into wholesale, production or retail has got at least one ERP system to handle its organization-wide financial as well as logistical processes. The product IDs used in ERPs are usually their exclusive identifiers in a PIM system too. For instance, ERP contains the pricing data that often vary from country to country and among different customer segments as well
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)/Point-of-Sale (POS) Systems
These systems keep track of the actual, local inventory in warehouses. This exact number of the local inventory is then fed into a PIM system so that it can become a part of the centralized information.
Data Suppliers
Several product manufacturers and industries refrain from disseminating product information themselves and employ 3rd party data suppliers for the job. Such data suppliers provide very rich and valuable information, that can be quite useful for the end consumer.
Product Suppliers
Suppliers do not just supply the retailers or wholesalers with the products, but also provides them with information about the products. It can sometimes be just basic information (such as weight or size measurements), and sometimes it can have marketable information such as product features and pics. Since suppliers can be many, this data can be humongous.
External Agencies
Often, external agencies are hired for activities such as translation of product descriptions and for photography. These external agencies generally supply data in a PIM system externally or through file uploading or web-based means.

Output Channels of Product Information Management

As customers begin to expect continuity across touchpoints, businesses are devising smarter strategies for unified omnichannel engagement, for instance, a transaction initiated on an IoT device might see some engagement on a mobile app, before turning into a finalized order on a native app or marketplace.

Therefore, when it comes to output channels for communication, distribution, and sales, the number of devices continue to grow. A PIM solution, therefore, makes sure consistent, updated, accurate and enriched information reaches the entire B2B2C information value chain.

VII. How to Choose the Right PIM Solution?

The foremost thing is to get a high-level buy-in from your senior business executives, who are responsible for your organization’s cost and revenue management. This buy-in will typically depend on cost reduction and facilitating the efficiency of executives to meet your larger business goals. The amount and dependence on product master data in your organization will determine the need for clean, accurate, consistent and quality data.

Ask yourself a few basic questions:

  • Do your products have several variants in terms of physical or technical dimensions?
  • Do you sell your products to a global audience, and your business depends on localizing your product content accordingly?
  • Does your product assortment changes frequently, for instance, according to seasons, industry trends or rapidly changing technology?
  • In what way do you procure data from suppliers and external or 3rd party agencies? Does that have any bearing on your efficiency and final performance?
  • Is your product data scattered across systems and applications, and you feel you could do better with improved integration and synchronization of systems?
  • Do you sell in an omnichannel environment?

As a general rule, you can depend on a few broad factors to choose the right PIM software, such as:

Interoperability
Your chosen PIM must be able to interoperate with your present and future information sources, homegrown, and legacy software. It must effortlessly connect with all your systems such as ERP, suppliers, product data systems and all your output channels like websites, mobiles, online-stores, social media apps, IoT devices, etc.
Automation
Find out if the PIM you’re considering is just a place to enrich information, fill up empty fields or can it automate repetitive work and streamline processes too? Can it implement best practices in content integration and data flow across multiple applications, enterprises, and sources? Can it bring in data governance (including data quality, stewardship, taxonomy, naming convention) to handle complicated processes and show the flow of activities graphically?
Ecosystem
 The size and robustness of your PIM ecosystem are central to the long-standing feasibility of your entire solution. PIM solutions don’t just rely on one-time development; instead, they are required to continually adapt in order to support evolving interlinked technologies and systems. A vast community of contributors can go a long way in choosing a PIM.
Customizability
 There are organizations that have very complicated systems and processes for acquiring, organizing and selling of their products. A PIM solution should be able to back your existing processes and systems, along with those you might use in the future. It is vital that your PIM adapts to your processes and systems, instead of your organization’s systems and processes adapting to the PIM.
Glocalization
 If you’re conducting your business across several countries, locations, regions, where language, time-zones, and cultures are diverse, then your PIM should be able to adapt to it. This will boost your go-to-market capability by quickly adjusting to the needs of all the channels where your audience is.

VIII. Final Word about Product Information Management

 

And this brings us to the next crucial and often debated question: Whether to go for proprietary or an open-source PIM platform?


There are excellent proprietary as well as open-source options available for a PIM system. Organizations must recognize which one fits their needs suitably.

For the sake of placing a few facts, here are at least four critical differences in proprietary and open-source product information management solutions that you must consider before making a choice between them.

Making Customers Happy With PIM

Today’s customer journeys seldom follow a linear path. In a multifaceted commerce environment where touchpoints are continuously proliferating, customers are sifting through products on websites, social platforms, marketplaces, native apps, mobile apps, kiosks, IoT devices, conversational interfaces and even leaflets, print catalogs, and physical stores, before deciding to purchase. More than anything else, they care for the experience they get.

Revenue growth with Product Information Management (PIM) - Pimcore

Get Better Growth, Higher ROI and Improved Customer Satisfaction

It has become amply clear to sellers that customers would engage with their products (let alone buy them) only when they offer high-quality product information, i.e., clear and accurate product details, which are consistent on every touchpoint. Simply put, there’s an obvious need for offering superior product experiences fueled by omnichannel enablement to increase conversion rates and enhance product assortment for not only expanding into new markets quickly but get to there faster than their competitors. That’s where a product information management (PIM) software comes in.

A PIM software consolidates all your product data by eliminating silos to create one centralized repository which acts as a single source of truth. This minimizes errors and redundancies and paves the way for rich, consistent, readily accessible content, optimized for all your channels.

By creating one single database, PIM helps in: enriching product descriptions and specifications; categorizing products and files; creating and publishing product catalogs; building custom product feeds; linking images, media, and documents to products; managing relationships between products; automating catalog creation and maintenance; and formatting product data for multichannel syndication.

And all this finally contributes in increasing sales conversion rates, reducing product returns, enabling newer technologies, boosting overall productivity, leveraging omnichannel marketing, and expanding into fresh markets and increasing personalization.

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