What is a Product Information Management system (PIM)?

PIM does exactly what its name suggests—manage product information.

It is essentially a solution that provides you a single place through which all information about the products in your catalog are collected and managed before being distributed to the various channels that you work with.

The key point of a PIM solution is to consolidate all of the processes involved in managing product information into a single, central system.

If you are an omnichannel brand selling through different channels—physical stores, webshops, mobile apps, third-party platforms, and marketplace listings—then you most likely have to juggle different variations of your product information. This information is probably stored in multiple spreadsheets, with each team member from marketing to sales to customer service each having their own copy. This leads to a lot of documents that can easily get unwieldy when you have to launch a new product or even just update a piece of information for an existing one.

PIM solves this problem by simplifying the entire process:

Collection

Product information comes from different internal or third party sources—ERP systems, suppliers, manufacturers, translators, etc. PIM enables you to collect all this information and consolidate them in one place.

Aside from having a single repository of information, PIM also makes the collection process itself easier by letting you give your suppliers access to an onboarding portal within the system, where they can enter information in specific formats and values that you yourself have defined. This way, the product information that enters the system is in a structure that is already compatible and aligned with your existing one. You then no longer have to worry about incompatible data formats and re-entry of thousands of information to organize them into your own structure.

Enrichment

In this digital age, the information needed to sell a product no longer consists of just the basics such as name, model, colors, and sizes. While these are obviously still important, ‘richer’ data such as product stories, images and videos, testimonials, etc., often have more impact on your customers’ buying decisions. As such, the raw information that you receive from manufacturers and suppliers need to be edited and enriched to set your products apart from the competition.

With all the product information conveniently gathered in the PIM system, your copywriters and marketers have easy access to the resources that they will need to do their magic and make your product content more appealing to your target market.

Hassle-free support and maintenance

Get a reliable support setup for daily maintenance tasks or enhancement of features and functionalities of your existing webshop.

Customization

Targeting your market in this omnichannel world is no longer simply casting a wide net and hoping to capture all types of your desired audiences.

Your customers are probably segmented into different personas and groups across various e-commerce channels. To be able to sell your product, you will need to tailor your content into something that appeals to these different groups of customers. Your product information will have to be tweaked to be localized for a specific customer group, or translated to different languages for different countries or locations. If you operate multiple webshops selling the same products, you may also need to write unique content for each in order to avoid hurting your SEO with duplicate content.

Just as PIM enables you to enrich product information, it also helps you customize it even further for your customers. With PIM, you can group your platforms into different channels—your physical store and webshop in one, and mobile app and Google shopping in another. You can also set up different fields depending on the requirements of each channel (e.g., mobile-specific description or Google categories). PIM then acts as the “single source of truth” where you can find all information as needed for your various platforms, without double-checking with separate records or documents. This way, you can create customized copy for your products and easily distribute them to the appropriate channels.

Management

PIM enables you to have the complete control over your product information that may be hard to achieve with manual processes and various spreadsheets.

Firstly, with all the data in one place, you have a solid overview of all your products and the information connected to them. You can easily pinpoint when Product A is missing a specification that is present on a similar Product B, without painstakingly cross-referencing each one of your spreadsheets. This makes it easier for you to ensure that the product information you publish is correct and complete, and on the other end, makes it easier for your customers as well to search and compare your products.

Secondly, PIM allows you to have administrative controls over each stage of your product information management. You can easily assign roles to team members who can view, create, edit, and validate the information that are distributed to your channels. Instead of having product data managed within separate spreadsheets and across different departments, your teams can simply collaborate in the PIM according to the functions that you have assigned. This leads to a hassle-free workflow and gets rid of bottlenecks that usually arise in inter-departmental processes.

Let’s talk about pricing: should this be managed in the PIM system?

Theoretically, you can manage your pricing structure within the PIM just as you could with any other product information. Ideally, though… not so much.

If you are a purely online B2C seller who operates only one webshop (but also sells in other platforms such as Facebook or Amazon), caters to one customer group, and have a single pricing structure, you could probably get away with managing pricing in the PIM system.

However, as your pricing structure gets more complex, it can also get more complicated for you to manage it on the PIM system. If you have different pricing structures for your different customer groups, not to mention for your B2B and B2C segments, your pricing is probably better off managed in your ERP system, for two main reasons:

  1. Managing a complicated pricing structure within PIM will require you to create and manage separate channels for each different pricing system that you have, which can be quite time-consuming.
  2. Your customer groups, segments, and discounts, are all managed in your ERP—it only makes sense that your pricing structures that vary according to these specific variables should be managed in the same system.

The ERP system can be integrated with your webshop, so that the pricing setup can be displayed accordingly to the respective customer group or segment viewing your products—although this might be a topic for another day.

Distribution

Product information collected from different sources and enriched within the PIM system can be efficiently distributed to various channels: your webshop, mobile app, catalogs, brochures, e-commerce platforms like Amazon, or third-party integrations with Facebook or Google Shopping. PIM also works with most e-commerce platforms—so whether you use Magento, WordPress, or Umbraco, the PIM system can be used to distribute product information to your webshop.

This is especially useful when launching new products that have to get to the market fast, but also when editing incorrect information that appears in all your channels. Having the PIM system as the single source for this distribution ensures consistency which is very important in multi-channel commerce, as inconsistent or outdated information can easily hurt conversions, customer loyalty, and brand reputation.

Integration

PIM can be integrated with your existing systems such as ERP systems, point-of-sale systems, warehouse management, or inventory systems. Aside from distributing product information to external publishing channels, data created or edited in the PIM can also be synchronized to your internal systems, ensuring an always up-to-date product information wherever they may be stored.

Next: Does my business need PIM? >>

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