If you are in the eCommerce space, you likely know the difficulty of continually maintaining an ever-expanding stock keeping unit (SKU) list. As your company grows, so too does the list of prices, labels and product descriptions.
This product data has the potential to grow unmanageable very quickly. For example, when a brand pursues new engagement channels or target demographics, they often need to adapt product messaging and pricing. And as new suppliers are onboarded, they also update product catalogues and descriptions.
Manually organising product information is a tedious, expensive process. Without a cohesive system to co-ordinate the exchange of data between your sales, marketing and customer success teams, it can be a struggle to pace product changes. You also face the real risk of sharing incorrect or outdated information with consumers.
Many eCommerce brands are now turning to product information management tools to facilitate a seamless customer and employee experience. In this guide, you'll learn what these tools are and the benefits they may offer to your eCommerce business.
Product information management (PIM) systems let users store, enrich and manage complex product information. PIM tools centralise product-related data, streamlining the process of updating and managing accurate information throughout multiple sales and marketing channels.
PIM tools integrate with most eCommerce platforms, customer relationship management (CRM) systems and enterprise resource management (ERP) software, ensuring up to date product information is accessible across your organisation. PIM systems are particularly valuable for eCommerce businesses whose product catalogue, sales strategy and marketing messaging are continually changing.
PIM systems are sometimes confused with other product-related software, such as master data management (MDM) tools, product experience management (PXM) solutions, product data management (PDM) platforms and content management systems (CMS):
- MDM vs. PIM
MDM systems house datasets that are more universal than those of PIM tools, such as employee, accounting, supply chain and other company information.
- PXM & PDM vs. PIM
PXM focuses on developing and iterating engaging customer experiences while PDM is an internal communication tool used by engineers and product designers.
- CMS vs. PIM
PIM systems are large, relational databases which store product-specific data. CMS software usually has less capacity and stores general content for internal use or for a company's website.
What Information Does a PIM System Manage
Strong information architecture is essential for managing an extensive catalogue of product data and SKUs. A PIM solution addresses this complexity by efficiently tracking cross-functional product information like the following:
- Basic data
Perhaps the most obvious information PIM systems capture is data directly related to the products themselves. This data may include universal product codes (UPCs), SKUs and article numbers, as well as product names, titles and miscellaneous information such as suggested usage.
Most consumers will not purchase a physical product without seeing a picture or video of it in use first. PIM software can store digital images, videos, gifs and any other assets which communicate how products look or are used.
- Technical information
Think about the last time you bought a t-shirt. Before adding it to your basket, you probably considered its fabric and materials, size and colour. All three of these characteristics could be stored in a PIM system, as could more complex information such as weight, measurements and warranties.
- Marketing information
Marketing data may include customer personas, keywords and other SEO-related data such as Google categories, mobile-friendly descriptions and Amazon titles. This data often needs to be updated over time, which is much simpler with a PIM.
- Sales information
Product pricing is one thing salespeople should never have trouble finding. PIM systems store pricing information, customer reviews and testimonials which can be used during the sale process or promoted on a company's website.
- Localised information
Companies operate locally, regionally and globally. As a result, they need product language and descriptors tailored to specific locations. PIM systems house multilingual copy, regional currency systems and anything else that can help to ensure a consistent, seamless customer experience.
Products are often purchased together and they may even be complementary. PIM software catalogues variations, relationships and categories that make up a company's product structure.
- Design information
Much of what appeals to consumers is how a product is displayed and how it fits in with the rest of the company's branding. PIM systems contain style guides and designer notes to ensure any marketing campaigns have relevant creative direction.
- Emotional information
A personalised experience should forge an emotional connection with the customer. PIM solutions can store content which resonates with certain customer personas, including imagery, product descriptions and other targeted assets that foster emotional bonds with buyers.
Why Use PIM?
PIM software acts as a centralised hub for all product information, benefiting your brand in many ways. It shortens the time to onboard employees, co-ordinate product launches, design marketing campaigns and open new business channels. This gives employees more time to brainstorm innovative ways to engage consumers.
Many brands use an omnichannel approach to engage their customers across channels. Establishing a cohesive brand across hundreds of channels can present a huge challenge for product marketers. With PIM, managing physical and digital product content for each channel is much more manageable. PIM system administrators can assign assets to a hierarchy of catalogues which can be matched with campaigns. PIM also enables product marketers to make on-demand changes and launch new content quickly.
Normally, salespeople have to wait for product and marketing teams to provide them with the necessary sales materials. These presentations are usually geared towards the average consumer instead of targeting specific prospects. With PIM, sales reps can choose from approved product information and design a customised sales proposal. All the salesperson has to do is select a template, products and the pricing structure they feel is a good fit for their prospect.
Data coming into a PIM system is assigned a category, de-duped and added to the right spot within the PIM catalogue. PIM administrators can dictate priorities among various data sources, with said data refreshed on a recurring basis to ensure PIM users are working with the latest product information. This lowers the risk of using outdated or inaccurate information in the creation of marketing materials or creating offers with obsolete specifications, incorrect prices or deprecated products.
Centralised Product Information
PIM organises disparate data within a business system while ensuring the quality and accuracy of product information throughout its lifecycle. Centralised product information also enhances the efficiency of sales and marketing teams while helping companies grow their product catalogue without creating unnecessary SKUs which clutter your ERP system.
PIM gives marketers the opportunity to combine product data so they can build more effective commercial campaigns. Brands can use technical specs to craft messaging with greater detail, use targeted information to develop personalised campaigns and leverage customer data more efficiently. With a host of digital media at their fingertips, marketing teams can A/B test countless combinations of images, videos and documentation to determine what performs best.
You Need to Use PIM If You're...
Anyone who runs an eCommerce store, leads a marketing or sales department or sells across multiple channels can benefit from using product information management. PIM systems empower sales teams to assemble accurate product data and material whenever they need to. In turn, eCommerce managers can track how sales teams and prospects are interacting with product data and find ways to improve conversion rates and personalisation.
A PIM helps modify and refresh hundreds of campaigns across multiple channels as soon as new product data arrives. Marketers can also collaborate with translation agencies to automatically translate product information as they open new global markets. What's more, all stakeholders can use the PIM system simultaneously, which streamlines workflows. Teams can begin working on new product messaging before a product is officially released so it can be finalised, updated in appropriate catalogues and ready to go before launch day.
How PIM Works
PIM solutions integrate data from ERPs, CRMs and nearly every other product-related business platform you can think of. Once integrated, shared data is processed and de-duped. All of this happens simultaneously, eliminating the need to enter or update any data manually, reducing the potential for redundancy and error.
Once data is aggregated, PIM users can organise product information into catalogues and link those catalogues to channels. PIM administrators can arrange data in a way which can be easily digested by multiple parties, helping them quickly obtain the needed information. This increases productivity by limiting roadblocks and avoiding data silos.
With a complete PIM set-up, product marketing teams can produce more engaging content. Sales teams can sell more successfully and product teams can use data to expand product offerings which reflect changes in consumer behaviours and other market trends. In turn, customers will feel more connected to the products they buy, generating a greater sense of loyalty and satisfaction.
PIM and Your eCommerce Business
PIM systems can benefit any brand and they're especially necessary for companies with complex product relationships, a high number of SKUs or an omnichannel selling strategy. PIM solutions democratise product data so supply chain, marketing, sales and customer service teams are equipped with the data they need to interact with prospects and customers. To dramatically increase receptiveness to your products and decrease your time to market, you need a platform which integrates with premier PIM solutions.
Magento Commerce is a comprehensive eCommerce solution which supports many B2B and B2C businesses and has been recognised as an industry leader by Forrester and Gartner. IT integrates with most ERP systems and maintains partnerships with Akeneo and Jasper, powerful PIM platforms which enables a seamless flow of eCommerce data across your commerce systems. Magento Commerce is also partnered with trusted consulting and technology brands to address your businesses particular needs.
Try a free demo of Magento Commerce today to experience this seamless systems integration first-hand.