What Is A Product Information Management (PIM) System?
Deniël Vijverberg, Senior Business Consultant PIM, Salmon Netherlands
The term PIM, or Product Information Management, is heard more and more because of the strong growth in ecommerce. With this growth, product information and content management are becoming a more important, ever more critical part of successful ecommerce goals - and ambition - within a company. But not only can your ecommerce platform benefit from a well organised PIM system. So what is PIM and what is the value of a PIM in your omnichannel environment?
In short: A PIM system makes it possible to efficiently gather, enrich, manage and distribute product information to your omnichannel environment.
A product is often more than just a name, an article number, a model name or a description of colours and sizes. Different products need different product content. For example, when buying a new TV, the resolution will be important. For trousers, the material or care instruction will have more impact on the buyers' decision.
Some product details will be the same for all languages, brands and channels. But if we take a closer look at a product description for example, this can vary per language or per brand or even per channel. This makes it more complex to maintain the product content efficiently. A PIM system helps maintaining all the product content for different brands, languages, channels and more.
Product structures and references
A product hierarchy is often used to group similar products with comparable product content. Sales organisation and/or assortment functionalities in the PIM system group products to target the right products to the right markets.
An added value for customers is to advise them about product combinations such as an outfit consisting of pants, shirt and shoes. These references to other products can increase conversion. Cross-sell and up-sell products as well as replacing products are other ways of increasing conversion. Both ways of enriching products by classifying and referencing products can be maintained in a PIM system.
Today’s ecommerce market operates globally, which increases the demand of efficiency in international collaborations between retailers and suppliers. This drives the use of international standards like GS1. In addition to classifying products to product hierarchies and sales organisations, products in a PIM system can also be classified to these international classification standards. When classified to GS1 for example, the product is enriched with many more specific attributes. By using these kind of classifications, the decision-maker has access to all the information he need about the product, which also has a conversion-enhancing effect.
With this internationalisation, the need of a translation process increases. A PIM system can support a translation process through a workflow enabling proper management with, for example, an external translation agency.
A product without an image is hardly sold anymore, so each product needs a digital asset to support it. This brings the urge of proper Digital Asset Management (DAM). A PIM system with Digital Asset Management capabilities can facilitate a digital asset process in a workflow. A DAM module manages objects like multiple-format images, documents and videos which are associated with products. Other capabilities - like searching, formatting, automatic conversion, cross-referencing and data export for adding value to customers on the ecommerce platform - are also part of a mature PIM system.
When discussing PIM systems, ‘onboarding’ is a word you will run into frequently. Onboarding means getting product content (from different sources) into your PIM system. This means, for example, importing product content from your ERP, excel, or directly from your product suppliers or other product content sources. A mature PIM system includes mapping and merging capabilities to import and combine the data from these different sources.
Product data quality
With the growing importance of product content in your omnichannel environment, the data quality also becomes more serious. When using a PIM system, the data should be seen as the single source of truth for product information in order to increase data quality. A mature PIM system facilitates in increasing product data quality. The data quality capabilities vary from analysing and reporting on data quality, to applying business rules and facilitating processes to improve data quality - all with the goal in mind to increase data quality and, with that, to increase conversion across all channels.
As mentioned before, the omnichannel environment is growing. With this growth, every channel needs its own set of product information. Datasheets, for example, need completely different information to the products being sold in a web shop or app. A mature PIM system can handle these different needs in exports to different publication channels.
But keep in mind that all these channels have one thing in common: They need a single source of truth for all the product information, to serve the customer’s needs: a PIM system.