Table of Contents
- PIM system definition
- Why is PIM software becoming more popular?
- How does a PIM system work?
- Which Tasks Does a Product Information Management System Solve?
- What are the main features of a PIM?
- Which Businesses are using PIM?
- Why do You need a PIM and what Problems does It Solve?
- Which PIM Solutions are there?
- What advantages does a PIM system create?
- Why do PIM Tools Increase the efficiency of information exchange?
- Which Systems can a PIM be used with?
- Does It Pay off?
PIM which stands for Product Information Management, helps businesses ensure the quality of their product data, market and sell products through different distribution channels. This data must fulfill specific requirements such as accuracy, consistency, relevance, and up-to-dateness.
These requirements as well as the amount of product data are consistently increasing. As a result, more businesses are opting for PIM software solutions to meet the demands of a competitive market. 2024 will not be an exception. PIM systems themselves are also undergoing evolution. The future of PIM involves advancements like AI-driven insights and automation.
In this article, we will provide you with valuable information on what is a PIM system, how it works and solves acute problems of businesses, and how companies could benefit from implementing it in 2024.
A PIM system is software that helps to collect, process, unify, store, manage centrally, and distribute all the product information to sales channels such as e-commerce websites, print catalogs, and marketplaces to support a multichannel marketing strategy.
This solution helps create and maintain unified, high-quality, accurate product information and automates all the related processes to make product communication unique overall distributing channels.
PIM is an interface of communication and a structured database within a company, which is aimed at getting up-to-date information about the entire product range. Such information is then transmitted to the customers, wholesalers, and retailers.
PIM is a central repository for storing all kinds of possible product information, needed by different departments of a company:
- Master Data (Name, SKU, ID, Weight, etc.)
- Marketing Data (marketing descriptions, marketing features, keywords, metadata)
- Technical Data (technical specifications)
- Sales Information (prices, customer reviews)
- Channel specific information
- Digital Assets (not always)
- Taxonomies (categories, catalogs, labels, tags, etc.)
- Localized information (translations, country-specific data, etc.).
The main characteristics of PIM solution are the following:
-Elaborateness – a well-structured PIM database can contain any number of structured data about a product. Thanks to the structuring, your product information is ordered rather than chaotic – the necessary information can be found easily and quickly. -Actuality – storing all data in a specific place means it's quick and easy to update. You are always able to distinguish the most recent state of the data. -Centralization – the information is immediately accessible to all relevant parties in appropriate formats. It is no longer necessary to manually create new documents and files and keep them up-to-date.
Thus, the PIM software ensures the collection, unification, enrichment, storage, and maintenance of product information and provides that information through various channels and media. Efficient product data management is one of the key components to the success of the marketing strategy for any manufacturer or vendor.
There are also alternative terms for PIM, which are more country specific. These are Product Resource Management (PRM) and Product Content Management (PCM). In some cases, the term Product Data Management (PDM) is used. Nevertheless, PIM is the most popular term all over the world.
Since customers around the globe are becoming more and more sophisticated and demanding, the popularity of PIM is increasing. People are actively buying online, and they want to choose wisely. According to research, conducted by Forrester Research, 80% of online shoppers expect retailers to provide detailed product information and 82% want to be able to refine their search process by product attributes such as price, brand, style, etc. They want detailed, accurate information served consistently over multiple channels. Including customer ratings and reviews, visualizations, real-time inventory information, configurations, comparison tools, high-quality images, and, preferably, video has also become a must.
To provide high-quality product information, you need efficient tools which PIM provides. This is especially relevant for companies that offer thousands of product items, or hundreds of items in countless variations, languages, and locations.
Thus, PIM solutions are invaluable for companies that must organize, control, and improve the process of creating product information and distributing it.
- At first, product data is collected from various sources such as:
- ERPs (Enterprise resource planning systems),
- PLMs (Product lifecycle management systems),
- Suppliers' sources.
2.Then, data is consolidated and enriched in the PIM System. For example:
- duplicated items are merged,
- all mandatory fields are completed,
- high-quality pictures are added,
- items are categorized and classified,
- relevant technical or marketing-oriented details are included, etc.
3.The prepared high-quality product information is exported from the PIM System to distribution channels which can be
- company websites,
- e-commerce stores (Amazon, Shopify, Google Shopping, etc.),
- mobile apps,
- print catalogs or brochures, etc.
A PIM system helps to increase the data exchange effectiveness in three specific directions:
- collaboration between departments within own company,
- B2B – relation to wholesale and retail partners,
- B2C – interaction between sellers and private customers.
- Collection of all product-related information in a central repository.
- Data exchange between partners in different formats is ensured – like csv, json, xml, xlsx, docx etc.
- Updating and transferring product information to wholesalers and other sellers is accelerated.
- All necessary product-related information is easier to manage – product descriptions, product attributes, media content, technical information, other data required by law, brochures, manuals, etc.
- Integration of the product information into enterprise systems (e.g., ERP, MDM, and others) to ensure consistency of statements about the products.
- Managing your partners' access to your product catalogs becomes easier – you decide which products and what related information your partners see (e.g., various prices, availability, etc.).
The presence of a single repository, containing all product information will not only facilitate the collaboration of different departments in a company but also foster cooperation with the partners who need this information to sell the products faster and more efficiently.
PIM has many features, from collection and enrichment of product information to distribution and publishing.
The most important features of a PIM system are:
As the essence of PIM is having one single source of truth, its most important feature is the ability to import data from a variety of sources, internal and external. A proper PIM solution should be able to integrate with all the platforms and applications from which you receive product information such as Excel or CSV files, ERP, a media server or MAM, the systems of your suppliers, etc.
A PIM also allows the definition of business rules for import, to consolidate the data better. In this way, you can avoid unnecessary manual labor. For example, it can, by default, use photos from one supplier and detailed technical product information from the other.
Many parties can be involved in this process - product managers, copywriters, technical specialists, photographers, agencies, and many others. PIM allows you to save all collected data in one place for later processing.
The collected data are merged and processed to increase their quality. Marketing-relevant texts are written and added, the technical characteristics are recorded and checked for correctness. The necessary photos and other media data are added. The necessary brochures and other documents are attached for the relevant products.
In addition, a PIM supports you in your international marketing strategy - here it is not only possible to create translations of all content but also to provide country-specific information about your products.
Any PIM platform offers a means to improve product data. Here are a few examples of how you can do it:
- create relationships between products (to offer upsell, cross-sell, a replacement for an out-of-stock product or spare parts),
- define, which mandatory fields are to be filled in,
- unify the spelling of the measurement units (e.g., mm or MM or millimeters), and automatically convert units when localizing the description (say, kg to pounds).
As with data import, look for automation. Bulk editing options will help you eliminate repetitive tasks.
The PIM system helps to ensure that product data meet the standards. You can define your standards or use existing internationally accepted standards, such as BMEcat, ETIN, etc. This makes it easier for all involved parties - manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, and retailers - to process such uniform data formats.
Before publishing information through different distribution channels, a user has to ensure that all data are reviewed and validated. This can be done manually or automatically. Within a PIM, it is possible to define which product features are to be filled in for certain products, which fields are mandatory, and which should be optional. Thus, the new data set is checked directly while inputting for compliance with the previously defined rule.
A PIM system can be connected with other systems for both import and export purposes. The data exchange can take place manually, semi-automatically, or fully automatically. Fully automatic integration ensures smooth business processes within a company and minimizes error probability. Thus, every system is used for the intended purpose. A PIM system, in this case, as a data hub would take over the collection and publishing of the product information.
PIM AI integration is a recent trend that enables the generation of detailed product descriptions, processing of customer reviews, and mapping attributes quicker and better. Many PIM solutions offer chatGPT integration as a separate module or as functionality of their existing modules. The potential of the PIM AI combination is endless but describing content quicker and better through its attributes has been the most applicable advantage by the end of 2023.
PIM enables delivering consistent and detailed product information to everybody who needs it, either to your employees (e.g., sales team, marketing team, customer support team) or your customers, on any online or offline channel. You should be able to publish the content on the company website, mobile apps, email newsletter, e-commerce platforms, marketplaces, etc. Information from PIM can also be used for print sources, like catalogs, flyers, brochures, etc. as well as for business intelligence tools. The source systems like ERP can also get the enriched information back.
Note that you can set up the format and structure of data required, for example, by different e-commerce platforms. Then, using these templates created once, you will easily publish new product information without additional editing.
Some of the industries where PIM is very important include:
- E-commerce (not surprisingly) - since what you sell today is not just a product, but also an experience, you need PIM to provide detailed information and create user stories.
- Wholesale – if you are able to distribute an accurate, unified product description and not just a high-quality product, you will outrank your competitors.
- Manufacturing – having a PIM system will help to reduce time to market and increase productivity.
PIM becomes a necessity for the companies that:
- have a big assortment (1000 SKUs is big enough),
- sell in many countries and need to localize product information,
- have complex product information,
- offer products that often change so that information constantly needs to be updated,
- want to effectively apply a long-tail strategy,
- plan to expand in e-commerce,
- offer print catalogs and brochures on paper.
For example, both Nikon Europe and CRH benefited from implementing PIM. Specializing in optics and imaging products, Nikon doesn't have thousands of SKUs. However, they need to provide customers with localized technical specifications, images, and other high-quality information. Additionally, complex relationships between the items are quite common (say, one product can be sold separately, in a bundle, or as part of another product). CRH Group manufactures and supplies building materials. They offer tens of thousands of products. PIM implementation allowed the company to sell entire supplier assortments to its customers.
Nearly every department can use it for various purposes:
- Product managers need access to PIM to create quality product information.
- Marketing and sales departments use it to access accurate and detailed, unified data, and to prepare additional marketing materials.
- The customer support team uses it to access technical specifications, guidelines, etc.
- The R&D team stores CAD drawings and other technical documentation.
- The procurement department store's prices, quality criteria, etc.
Implementing PIM software helps to satisfy the customers' need for detailed and accurate information. In this way, you create and maintain an attractive brand image and stay ahead of competitors, because customers get the necessary information where and when they need it (including, for example, technical details or more photos). The number of returns is considerably reduced (imagine how helpful that could be for, say, the fashion industry, with an average of 20 % of all orders returned).
On the other hand, once PIM is implemented, internal processes in the company are streamlined and the tiresome tasks take considerably less time and effort:
- product updates (done automatically, not manually),
- introducing new products and seasonal collections,
- localization of product information,
- preparing print media,
- answering customers' requests for additional information,
- updating assortment, uploading new items to various channels,
- working on product information in cooperation with other departments.
A distinction is made between cloud-based or on-premises PIM systems. Cloud-based PIM systems, as the name suggests, are used from the cloud, so no local installation is necessary, these are automatically maintained and updated by the provider. On-premises PIM systems, on the other hand, must be installed on a local server. These are maintained and updated locally. There are also web-based PIM systems, such as AtroPIM: these can be used both from the cloud and on one own server.
The implementation of a PIM system increases productivity, eliminates many errors, and streamlines the internal processes of the company implementing it. It also boosts sales and marketing. The key advantage of the PIM system is that it unifies and manages all data in a single place. This can include both the technical and marketing-relevant data. It is possible to provide all partners with up-to-date information in different formats, depending on their requirements.
PIM can transform your data, making sure of its quality and integrity.
There are numerous ways in which PIM can save time so that less staff can manage more work, or the same staff can take care of an increased workload.
Advantages of using a PIM system –
- all product information is stored and managed in a media-neutral manner.
- reduced time to market for new product introductions (NPI).
- reduced time and costs to prepare high-quality product information and product catalogs.
- detailed and accurate product information better motivates customers to buy.
- PIM makes it easier to manage seasonal offers, cross-sell, and up-sell.
- fewer returns.
- customer satisfaction and thus, loyalty, rise.
- data can be shared across multiple channels (online stores, print media, wholesale, retail, product catalogs).
- product information can be structured in a channel-dependent way.
- PIM can be connected with other systems such as ERP, CMS, or online stores to speed up product launches.
- increased automation reduces the tiring workload for employees and helps to eliminate errors.
- inquiries about products decrease, which decreases customer service workload and allows customers to spare efforts and save time.
- if you work with multiple locations and languages, with PIM, you'll be able to deliver equally high-quality product information to all regional departments.
- it significantly reduces costs and time to produce printed materials.
- the cooperation between departments working with product information is improved.
Nevertheless, many companies that sell PIM software keep silent about time and some additional costs required for a PIM system. As a result, a project may start very optimistically but then get abandoned because all the details are not taken into account in advance. Thus, remember to plan everything carefully and choose a PIM provider who can deliver the best result for your organization.
The goal of a manufacturer in the B2B interaction is to facilitate his life and the life of his wholesale partners in sharing product information. And the PIM system, e.g. AtroPIM is ideally suited for this purpose and ensures immediate access to detailed product information for every wholesaler or retailer.
A PIM helps to use the sales channels more efficiently and to bring products and their descriptions to the market faster and more cheaply. It means:
- to provide wholesalers with reliable and high-quality product information to support them in marketing and sales,
- to show the price-related and other peculiarities of each wholesaler automatically (e.g. different price lists, the system of rebates and bonuses, possibly information about the stocks and stock levels, etc.),
- to speed up product launches and manage updates of existing product information correctly,
- to improve B2C marketing and sales to the end customer.
Processes within the company are mostly controlled and managed by ERP systems. They are usually not customized for external interaction in the online environment and use a slightly different approach to working with the (product) information streams.
These systems usually have only a small amount of product information and they are hardly suitable for the preparation and management of product information. It can be quite difficult and inconvenient to collect and prepare all product information to market the product successfully. An additional problem arises when several specialists may be involved in this process at the same time.
The availability of a centralized database not only simplifies the work of the company's departments but also synchronizes all the processes related to the life cycle of a product. So, a PIM system improves the internal processes of the company and cooperation between different departments in the company in the preparation and distribution of quality product data.
Let's check some other e-commerce management software that can easily be used with PIM:
- DAM (Digital Asset Management) - manages images, videos, and other digital assets related to the products. A DAM module can be a part of a PIM system, or a separate DAM system can be integrated with it, but PIM has many more features and deals not only with visual data.
- CMS (Content Management System) is used to organize digital content. It is, however, usually designed to manage content for a website or an e-commerce platform but not the other channels, especially internal. Also, scaling can be difficult with CMS.
- CRM (Customer Relationship Management) has nothing to do with PIM because it deals with (potential) customer-related business processes. But PIM is sometimes called "CRM for products.
- ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system can not be substituted for a PIM system. ERP is an effective way to organize and optimize business processes dealing with sourcing, warehousing, and selling of products. But ERP isn't aimed at providing high-quality product information. So, PIM complements an ERP and serves other purposes.
An increasing number of companies are using specific applications for organizing and managing product information and related processes and tasks – from manufacturing to marketing a product.
The introduction of a PIM system in the enterprise has many advantages and results in reduced expenses. According to the research conducted by Heiler Software AG and Stuttgart Media University, a PIM system helps to reduce the expense of managing product data. The data infrastructure is simplified. Overall, it takes less time to create a product description – it takes nearly 30 minutes to prepare data about a product without using PIM and only 10 minutes when using this system, and with PIM AI integration capabilities the time spent decreases even further. A good PIM system, such as AtroPIM (an open-source software), additionally helps to reduce the costs of creating a digital product catalog. Apart from that, AtroPIM enables PIM chatGPT integration. Thanks to PIM, these expenses can be reduced by ten percent or even more. For companies whose products are offered on the international market, a PIM system can become an efficient tool for translating product information into other languages – thanks to PIM, the expenditure on translating product catalogs can be reduced by more than ten percent.
Cost savings in the application of a PIM system are certainly significant, but the overall increase in marketing effectiveness is even more impressive.
A PIM system is a centralized source of all kinds of accurate and detailed product information that is gathered from all sources, unified, enriched and easily distributed via all relevant channels.
A PIM system solves some acute problems regarding product descriptions. It satisfies the growing customer demand for high-quality information, in this way, it helps to make buying decisions and contributes to a positive brand image. At the same time, PIM streamlines internal processes in a company, saves employees' time, and facilitates cooperation between departments. A recent trend of PIM AI integration enables businesses of 2024 to streamline their processes even further.
PIM implementation provides many benefits, such as reducing returns, simplifying product information localization, reducing expenses in the preparation of printed material, and many more. Companies with complex product structures or a large assortment require PIM, be they manufacturers, wholesalers, or retailers. A PIM system will efficiently supplement other systems, such as ERP, and DAM, and take over error-prone, tiring spreadsheets. Errors can occur when introducing PIM, which must be avoided.
Demand for PIM grows, and PIM software is becoming more and more popular as customers become more sophisticated and need better information.