Customer expectations of how online merchants present information are evolving as consumers spend more time researching product purchases across various eCommerce websites, marketplaces and review sites.
As a result, the importance of high quality, accurate and varied product content presented consistently becomes paramount for retailers, manufacturers and distributors alike. This might explain why, of all the enhanced Management Systems available to retailers a good number are exploring how Product Information Management (PIM) can deliver more detailed and rich media content.
What is PIM?
Product Information Management systems provide a centralized location for product information that all your other channels and departments can source from. Well-implemented PIM provides a massive advantage to a business by standardizing your product data and streamlining the process of pushing it out to all channels.
A robust PIM system will significantly reduce the workload involved in adding, updating, and distributing product information across multiple channels. Some PIM systems include a degree of automation that also allows you to push updates to your other channels as they occur, or otherwise on a regular schedule.
PIM in relation to other systems ERP and Excel
PIM sits between the back office accounts systems and the go-to-market front-facing activities of selling products and fulfilling orders. Even where the eCommerce CMS upload process is relatively simple someone still needs to prepare the data and Excel has been a popular intermediary tool for that.
Some firms have tried to expand an accounting or ERP system to deliver the “one source of truth” but that works only up to a point as these systems were not designed for selling products and very often they simply don’t have sufficient fields or character limits to do the job well.
Do I need PIM to run eCommerce?
Entering data for a single product on a single channel is usually easy, so if your business is still on the smaller side, a PIM is unlikely to make such a difference compared to a company involved in updating thousands of products across multiple platforms and keeping them all consistent.
So, the answer to the question is: “No, a PIM is not fundamentally necessary for running an eCommerce webshop.” And it’s a no because many eCommerce platforms will have a more than adequate content management system (CMS) that allows for an effective upload and ongoing management of product information.
If your range doesn’t change very often then having a single place to add new product information means a CMS won’t be too complicated or difficult, especially if you’re running the very latest eCommerce platform.
However, in some cases you might find a PIM is just what you need because things will be very different if say your ranges are seasonal, you have multiple language websites to publish to, or if your products have multiple variants like size or colour.
For example, a seasonal range will require product category teams to be working on curating data for multiple seasons at any one time. At least four seasons worth of apparel products can be on one person’s desk at any one time. There’s the current season being sold to consumers, the next season pre-selling into wholesalers, the season about to be finalised by the product development teams, clearance lines from last season.
With this level of complexity, you may find you need more than a website CMS or an Excel sheet. Many businesses now purchase a Unified Commerce platform as an all-in-one solution.
Seven things PIM can do for you
- By gathering product data in one central location you only need to maintain one database which saves time on manually updating information in several places. If you can import data directly from your suppliers this will save even more time.
- Omnichannel sales are supported as product data can easily be tailored and exported to other eCommerce websites and marketplaces including your Facebook or Instagram Business Page, Google Shopping, Amazon etc.
- Consistent precise information is achieved by easily eliminating outdated information from your online catalogue listing and other sales channels. This can improve fulfilment and logistics with fewer returns and reduces negative customer experiences.
- Enriching your product information with better descriptions and richer media like video, 360°or 3D images makes your product listings stand out and connect more quickly with customers looking to make a purchase.
- Simplify the production of written material and catalogues. Large and small catalogues, printed advertising and much more can be output to suitable print formats in just a few clicks.
- More flexibility on categorising your products will improve your ability to improve SEO.
- Outside of webshops and eCommerce marketplaces product information is used by all sorts of stakeholders, from internal business operations through to suppliers and wholesalers, and customers.
By using PIM to streamline the production and maintenance of large quantities of product information, an omnichannel business saves valuable time when selling via a number of channels.
Many companies consider a PIM when they have thousands of products to manage, but even stores with a limited number of products may invest in a PIM system. Despite a seemingly limited product count, they might for example have a high set of variables and customizations which make it worthwhile.
Successful PIM implementation requires a careful rethinking of how your company manages information flow. But a PIM reaches its full potential when it’s used not just as a supply chain function, but as an asset to drive business performance.