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The definitive guide to Product Information Management

What is PIM and why use a PIM system?

PIM is the abbreviation for Product Information Management. A PIM system’s most important task is to help a company manage large amounts of complex product information and distribute all of this information efficiently on the relevant channels.

Table of contents
Chapter 1

What is PIM?

PIM is the abbreviation for Product Information Management. A PIM system’s most important task is to help a company manage large amounts of complex product information and distribute all of this information efficiently on the relevant channels.

A good PIM system provides a company with a “single source of truth”. In other words, a central system where you have easy access to all of the company’s product information, secure in the knowledge the data is valid.

In a PIM system, you collect all of the product information, enrich it and distribute it quickly and efficiently to all of the channels, digitally to online stores, websites and marketing channels, such as Amazon, eBay and PriceRunner, and in printed catalogs, data sheets, brochures, etc.

The need for a PIM system often arises when a company’s product data requirements increase, and the old way of managing data is no longer adequate. The company’s ERP system has become too inflexible, unable to deal with the increasing complexity of the product data, and a chaos of Excel sheets and databases makes finding the correct information and feeding it to the important marketing channels difficult.

The PIM system is integrated into the company’s other systems. It is placed between the company’s sources for product information on the one side (ERP, PLM, supplier data, etc.) and the external information distribution channels on the other (online store, CMS, catalogs, data sheets, etc.).

 

A PIM system is a central system for Product Information Management

Chapter 2

How does a PIM system create value?

A PIM system creates a great deal of value in two ways:

  1. It prepares the company’s marketing and sales efforts, thus helping to increase revenue.
  2. It streamlines the company’s internal processes.


PIM systems support Sales, Marketing and internal company processes

Chapter 3

PIM optimizes marketing and sales

PIM’s impact on marketing and sales is evident in several different ways.

Product information is crucial to purchasing decisions

The battle for the modern consumer – in both B2B and B2C – is for the most part a battle about information. The modern consumer does a lot of researching online before making a purchasing decision, and the more and better product information available, for example in your online store, the greater the likelihood that the consumer will become your customer.

A PIM system makes it easy to create and maintain all of the types of product information, so that you can provide the purchaser with a full description of the product, its precise specifications, all of the necessary images and videos, relevant datasheet, etc.

All of this is combined with user- focused descriptions instead of internal product numbers and other terms that the ERP system typically uses.

Product descriptions are crucial for several reasons:

  • In consideration of SEO, the product is generally found online.
  • For user experience, customers feel that they want to make a purchase and feel secure when they do make a purchase.
  • To avoid items being returned – the more customers know about a product beforehand, the lower the risk that they become disappointed and return it.

Cohesive user experience across channels

Modern consumers switch between different channels, so the company must be on all of those channels.

Call it an omnichannel or multichannel marketing – the point is that the company needs to be able to efficiently manage several channels and servers to ensure a cohesive brand and message for customers across the channels – both in digital and physical form.

This requires a strong data basis and a data management system in order to present uniform product information to customers with the flexibility and speed that they expect.

Faster and more targeted information to potential customers

PIM strengthens the work of sales staff by giving them access to the information they need in order to advise potential customers in a targeted fashion and at speed.

Rather than wait on the marketing department to produce presentation material, the salesperson can generate unique brochures and price lists, adapted to specific customer’s needs. All of the data is accessible in the PIM system. The salesperson simply chooses which visual template to use and which products to present.

The PIM system also makes it easy to work with differentiated prices. It automatically puts the prices that match individual customers price agreements into the marketing materials.

The great benefit of a PIM system is that you can be sure you are working with valid, updated data. The salesperson avoids running the risk of making an offer that is full of errors with outdated specifications or incorrect prices, which otherwise embarrasses the salesperson and makes the company look unprofessional.

 

A PIM solution ensures that you are working with valid, updated data

 

Makes international growth possible

Growth can be achieved in several ways, but for many companies, an expansion into several markets is – often through e-commerce – the obvious way to scale-up.

Globalization also often means that you need to work in several languages, and each time a language layer is added, an extra layer of complexity is added to the marketing work. In practice, it is impossible to conduct efficient e-commerce in multiple languages manually.

This is where the PIM system shows its value. It enables clear processes for translating, updating and publishing data, so that you can have products on several markets just as quickly as you do when working in a single language.

A larger range without increasing stock

A PIM system allows you to let the company’s product range grow without having to increase inventory or having an unnecessary number of products in the ERP system.

By creating the products in the PIM system and allowing them to stay there, you can market them on an equal footing with all of the other products and only transfer them to the ERP system once they are sold.

This is relevant to wholesalers in particular, but also to other companies with a large product range. For example, DIY centers will often benefit from being able to market more products than they keep in stock.

A PIM system allows you to grow your product range, without increasing stock

Chapter 4

A PIM system optimizes the company’s internal processes

Shorter time to market

The majority of companies operate in a dynamic market where both development and customers move quickly, so time-to-market is a crucial competitive parameter. PIM optimizes time-to-market by streamlining the product’s path, from development to production to marketing and sales.

The process of releasing a product from development to marketing unnecessarily lengthens time- to-market. A PIM system optimizes the process significantly.

In a PIM system, employees from several departments can work on the product at the same time, and marketing can thus begin catalog production, etc., even though all of the product details have not yet been finalized. When the production department updates the information in the central database, the information is also updated in the respective catalog.

The PIM system also automates part of the collaboration with translation agencies, so that it becomes easy to maintain an overview of which product texts have been sent for translation and their status.

The translations can then be delivered directly into the PIM system. In the same way, the PIM system streamlines a number of manual tasks which otherwise would slow down the process of getting a new product to market.

 

PIM systems optimize time-to-market

Easier to sell via other channels

When you have structured your product data in a PIM system, it becomes much easier to find your products for sale on Amazon and other marketing sites or to send your product data to price- comparison sites.

If your data is saved in an unstructured form, spread across databases, you first need to find the relevant data, have it transformed into a structure, e.g. that Amazon can process, and lastly, save your data in the correct groups in Amazon.

On the other hand, when you have your products in a PIM system, it helps you model your data, so that they can be delivered to other channels fast. You can even use a third party service to deliver product information to the relevant sites.

 

 

A PIM system helps you model your data for other channels fast

 

 

Greater efficiency through less manual work

“Who knows if there should be a 5 or a 7 here?” “Are we sure that the price is correct?” “I need to get an answer back from the product department about what colors we supply it in.”

When a new product is to be launched on the market, a lot of questions can easily arise, which take a long time to clarify if you do not have a tightly controlled process for this. When you structure your data in a PIM system, you eliminate all the back-and-forth communication between departments.

It becomes easier to delegate responsibility, and the individual departments can simply focus on their own core tasks and be sure that the rest of the company will do the same.

Maintain overview of the process

Efficiency is often linked with having an overview, but an overview can be difficult to maintain when you are in the middle of launching a new collection, product series or another complex product launch. Which products are approved? Which products are missing pictures? Which texts have been sent for translation? Which products are ready to go live?

Typically, a PIM system can help you get the answers, and quickly. In Perfion PIM, for example, you can build up workflows that provide a visual overview of how far the different elements in the process have progressed, so nothing will be lost in the hectic activity.

Fewer product data errors

One of the primary reasons for introducing a PIM system is to eliminate the chaos of Excel sheets that many companies use to store their product information.

Excel is great for many things but it is also inextricably linked to a number of manual processes that increases the risk of error and uncertainty about which version applies when a document is sent around an organization.

A PIM system eliminates errors by replacing the Excel sheets with a central database, which ensures that all of the information is correctly updated on all of the channels.

In other words, the PIM system provides you with an overview and a structure that ensures the most secure route without errors. It also applies to approval procedures, so you are ensured that the products are not issued until they are ready.

Enrich your products with extra information

Many online stores sell products where customers can find identical products on other websites, so it is important that you are able to enrich product information sent to you from the supplier.

Otherwise, you and your competitors are presenting the exact same product in the exact same way. In a PIM system, you can easily enrich your products with extra information, thus distinguishing yourself from the competitors.

Modern consumers increasingly do online research, focusing on the products they are interested in, making comprehensive product information a strong competitive parameter.

 

A PIM system makes it easy to enrich your products with extra information

 

Learn here how product data can improve customer experience on your website.

Product data consistency

If you work with your product data in several decentralized systems, it is highly likely there is less than 100% consistency in the way that data is specified.

At one location, a dimension might be given as “20 millimeters”, while at another it is given as “20 mm” and at a third, perhaps just as “20”. This results in special problems, when you categorize your products in an online store and enable users to filter using such parameters as units of measurements, color, descriptions, etc.

If the relevant terms are not managed properly, the relevant products will not be shown. For example, if a user searches for “red” and you do not have a system to ensure that all variants of red appear in the search, the relevant products will not be shown – which can mean a lost sale.

However, it is not so much a matter of control as consistency. The PIM system ensures differentiation of descriptions from channel to channel when it is relevant. For example, in connection with products that must be described in a particular way for B2C sales and another way for B2B.

Better campaign management

Fundamentally, a campaign consists of a collection of products to be presented to the market in a specific way. This is precisely what a PIM system is able to do.

Using a PIM system, you can model your product groups and control which data will be shown and in what context – for example, varying points of emphasis targeted to different countries.

This makes setting up and running a campaign much faster. It also makes it easy to make changes along the way, because you only have to update the data in a single location.

 

A PIM system makes setting up and running a campaign much faster

Faster product catalog production

Even though the digital world accounts for a large part of companies’ communication, a traditional printed catalog is still legitimate in many industries and sectors.

However, as a genre, the catalog is challenged by the ever increasing pace of the market, making the traditional process of spending several months devising an annual catalog obsolete because the catalog is outdated before it reaches potential customers.

A PIM system optimizes the work process relating to the creation of a product catalog and makes it possible, for example, for the marketing department to begin to set up the products in the catalog even though not all of the information has been finalized.

 

PIM solutions optimize the work process relating to product catalog creation

Chapter 5

How does a PIM system function?

A PIM system is a central database of product data

In essence, a PIM system is a central database of product data. For example, Perfion PIM has a Windows client and a user specific browser client, which is based on data from an SQL server. The users link to the database, where they can create new products and fields and add or edit information, which can be distributed from the database to a number of different channels.

The PIM system can deal with all types of product data – text, images, video, sound and all document types.

PIM and integration with ERP and other systems

One of the great strengths of a PIM system is its ability to exchange data with other programs, and therefore it is important that the PIM system has an open API that does not impose limitations on the readability of all of the data and metadata or its writability to other systems, for example.

Some of the most important systems that the PIM system can integrate with are listed below.

Data into PIM:

ERP. – A good PIM system should be able to integrate with most ERP systems, and a system like Perfion PIM for example, comes with “out-of-the-box” integration with Dynamics AX,  NAV and D365.

PLM – (Product Lifecycle Management). Both PIM and PLM systems focus on helping companies in optimizing their processes relating to products, but from different angles and therefore an integration between the two systems could support the processes even more.

Supplier portals – or similar systems, where the supplier enters data. By integrating with a PIM system, you have the option to import and process supplier data efficiently.

Data out from PIM:

ERP. – When you have placed supplier data in the PIM system, it must also be read over into the ERP system.

Business Intelligence (BI) Platforms. – By integrating PIM with BI platforms, you will be able to make detailed and insightful reports about your products.

CRM – See which products the customer has purchased and use the knowledge to make targeted marketing based on the relationships between products, which the PIM system contains.

Adobe InDesign. – By being able to extract data directly from the PIM system, the production of brochures, catalogs and other printed material can be optimized significantly better.

Microsoft Office. – Use data from the PIM system in all of the documents you are used to working with.

CMS. – Keep your website up to date with fresh, valid product data without time-consuming manual work.

E-commerce. – A PIM solution is difficult not to have if you want to use e-commerce as a sales channel.

Read more below

Best-of-breed PIM or integrated PIM – which solution will you choose?

If you work with e-commerce, and are considering investing in a PIM solution, you will at some point, probably have to consider choosing between two options:

  • An integrated PIM solution, which is a module that can be added to your existing e- commerce platform or ERP system.
  • A best-of-breed PIM system, which is a stand-alone solution that can be integrated into a large number of systems.

Obviously, by the very nature of its intended purpose, the integrated solution is often based on the system it is being integrate into, and in relation to the functions, it will be smaller than a best- of-breed. This solution is ideal for companies who solely sell through an online store.

If you require several channels, and want a system created to function as a collection point for a number of systems, the best-of-breed solution will be preferable. It will provide you with several options and more flexibility in the way you can work with your product data.

Another benefit is the independence between the PIM system and your other systems. For example, you will be able to change or upgrade the ERP system or e-commerce platform without affecting the PIM system.

Chapter 6

E-commerce becomes simpler with a PIM system

PIM is often named in the same breath as e-commerce, and there are many good reasons why. When a company adds e-commerce to its other sales channels, the marketing effort immediately becomes much more complex and demanding. E-commerce by its very nature is the digital exchange of information, which makes PIM relevant. But it is the multichannel dimension that is especially crucial: if you sell solely through an online store, it will often only be possible by managing the products in your e-commerce platform alone.

E-commerce is a discipline that requires high speed and thus a system that can efficiently support the creation and enrichment of the data for individual products. Informative and selling product information makes the difference for an online store.

If you sell to several countries, in several languages, having a central location to manage all of the product information becomes even more important. Having to edit manually in fragmented systems will be far too much work.

Example of how a PIM system can support e-commerce:

  • Rapid importing and processing of supplier data.
  • Enrichment of product information from the suppliers.
  • Easy language versioning of product texts.
  • Control of how the information is categorized and displayed in relation to advanced searching and filtering.
  • Efficient handling of product images, videos and other types of media.

E-commerce becomes simpler with a PIM system

Chapter 7

What type of companies achieve the greatest value using PIM?

If you can identify with one or more of the following descriptions, it is very likely that your company will quickly achieve a positive ROI on an investment in a PIM system.

- You promote your products on several different channels. If e-commerce is one of them, then you are just strengthening the business case.

- You operate in several markets and communicate in several languages. Every new language layer adds complexity, which makes it difficult to manage the marketing manually in a cost-effective way.

- You pursue growth targets, which make it necessary to increase the marketing activities to new markets, several websites, several catalogs and similar. High activity means in all simplicity that there are several activities to optimize and therefore, the PIM system will quickly demonstrate a high ROI.

- Your product information is complex. This may be due to, for example, a large amount of information and descriptions, use metadata or complex relationships between data. An example of a simple product with a high level of complexity is wine, because in addition to the information on the specific wine, it is connected with a lot of interesting metadata for the product – this can be information about the type of grape, the wine region, the winery, etc. Learn more here: How to sell a good bottle of wine with a PIM system.

- You want to have more product data from suppliers – or enrich the data that you receive. Without a PIM system to support the process, handling the importation of information from several suppliers is a resource-demanding task, and the data is often supplied in different formats, with inconsistent quality.

Another even more basic rule of thumb is that the more times you have to copy and paste information and send it from one system to another, the greater the need for a PIM system to automate some of the manual processes.

 

What kind of companies are not suited to PIM?

A PIM system is an investment and not all companies can achieve enough value from a PIM system to justify such an investment. For example, companies that produce only a few, unique products on order – e.g., large manufacturing machines – will not derive enough benefit from a PIM system.

The same applies to small companies, where there are only a few people involved in the product work. The value created by a PIM system will often be in its process streamlining, so if there are only a few processes to optimize, the costs will probably exceed the rewards.

Chapter 8

Who in the company works with a PIM system?

There are primarily three functions in a company that will benefit from the introduction of a PIM system.

Marketing

PIM solutions help Marketing save many resources

The marketing department must move quickly and supply creative solutions, but it is difficult when time is spent finding, validating and editing product information across several channels.

Therefore, the marketing department will save many resources and better use their energy with a PIM system.

Learn more about three important problems that a PIM system solves for the marketing manager.

Product Management

A PIM system helps the Product Manager streamline processes

For the product manager and others involved in the product’s journey through the company, the PIM system will be an important tool. The goal for them is to streamline processes and eradicate errors that arise from manual processing.

Learn more about three important problems that a PIM system solves for the product manager.

IT

A PIM solution simplifies the IT infrastructure

For the IT manager, a PIM system simplifies the IT infrastructure since it becomes possible to do away with a number of decentralized systems that were previously used to store product data. In addition, the PIM system solves an important problem in relation to scalability in the business, which will be difficult to control with fragmented systems.

Learn more about three important problems that a PIM system solves for the IT manager.

 

Chapter 9

What do you need to know before you choose PIM?

If you are considering investing in a PIM system, there are a number of questions that you need to answer before you can choose the correct system that meets your needs. That is why we have written a guide that you can download below.

It will help you determine which requirements you should specify for your future PIM supplier.

Based on our experience with hundreds of customers, we have selected five key themes aligned with a series of questions, which you should consider and find answers to.

For example, you will gain:

  • An overview of all of the channels you need to make decisions about.
  • Insight into how your processes can be supported by PIM.
  • Clarity about how your ERP shall work with PIM
  • An overview of all of the questions you should ask yourself in order to identify the right solution for you.