Product Information Management (PIM) is a technology that automates and orchestrates the tasks and data associated with creating and maintaining a retailer’s assortment, then publishing it to a variety of channels in various formats. PIM – or the need for a PIM – is a topic we are discussing in more and more of our engagements as multichannel selling, complex assortments, customer requirements, ecommerce and other challenges reveal requirements that a modern PIM is designed to address. Why might your company need a PIM? Read on.
If you’re like many companies your product information and content is tucked away in this legacy system, that Access database, a spreadsheet on someone’s laptop, a file share, maybe a vendor’s system and in a database which only can be accessed by your website. You have a team of diligent colleagues that collaborate in a series of meetings and procedures to prepare an assortment update for your selling channels. And at random times during the year, you will learn that a salesperson has promised a customer a custom catalog using a proprietary taxonomy with the customer’s product nomenclature overriding your standard SKU identifier. Thank goodness for Excel and Access because you’re going to need them. You also may need a PIM. A PIM will:
- Consolidate product facts and attributes in a single database as well as associating with your products multiple hierarchies or taxonomies, localizations such as language or measurements, unstructured data like PDFs or images and business rules that ensure assortment consistency and data quality.
- Allow addition of product attributes that are meaningful to your business or your customers.
- Provide functionality for assortment maintenance including automatic updates that transform and normalize data to your corporate standards (e.g. “Blue” is a color attribute, not “BL” or “BLU” or “BE”).
- Manage product update tasks across your enterprise using automated workflow so that the accountable departments in your organization are alerted to a task (e.g. “Need product image”) and exceptions are raised systematically.
- Publish your assortment data in a variety of formats or to different interfaces (e.g. XML, flat file, Adobe’s InDesign for print channels).
Moreover, as your company expands its assortment or begins to experiment with the Endless Aisle and drop shipments you will find that PIM systems simplify and accelerate product on-boarding:
- Ingesting product detail from your suppliers in a variety of formats (e.g. XML, CSV, flat file, etc).
- Automatic validation and normalization of supplier-provider data.
- Outsourcing of product updates to suppliers via vendor portals.
- Aggregation and synchronization of product information from data pools such as those supported on the GSDN network.
Modern PIM systems will address many of your product information life cycle pain points. FitForCommerce has a number of whitepapers on this subject and expertise to guide your company through a PIM selection. Let us know if we can help!
3 HOT TIPS:
- Don’t confuse PIM and CMS: CMS is especially good at managing web site content such as images, page templates, blogs, about pages, etc. CMS doesn’t support managing structured data, like Product Data, as well as a PIM.
- Implementation of a PIM is a technical project as it requires new infrastructure, new interfaces, project teams and testing. However, deploying a PIM will also impact your company’s organization as well. Product data is managed across your company and many find that a PIM deployment is a catalyst for new org structures and new areas of accountability.
- PIM is an instance of a class of products that address Master Data Management. Many PIM providers have extended this technology into other master data domains, such as Customer, Supplier, Location, etc.