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The amount of data that companies deal with is growing. At the same time digitization is picking up speed and making new demands on organizations. Data management has become an important task, not least because data protection regulations must be observed. Every company has its own system landscape, and the data should automatically flow from one system to another. This is possible with the unification and standardization of data structures.
The following systems are often used in a typical company: Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP), Warehouse Management System (WMS), Customer Relation Management System (CRM), Product Information Management System (PIM), Master Data Management System (MDM), Content Management System (CMS) and some others. The exchange of data between these systems becomes a real challenge. Product information plays a special role because it is often scattered across most of the systems in a company.
Without a PIM system, chaos may rein in a company when it comes to product information, because it is scattered and not standardized.
According to the definition, PIM software is responsible for the preparation, refinement, central storage and distribution of the product information on the affected channels. A PIM system ensures uniform product communication across all channels that you use in your marketing and sales activities.
Absolutely all product data that is directly or indirectly related to the products can be managed in a PIM system. These include:
- technical details
- marketing information and content
- digital assets
- technical documents
- data that were created during product design and development (if you don't use a PLM system)
- customer information, e.g. customer reviews about products
- and others.
The great advantage of a PIM system is the ability the user has to structure this data as they would like.
According to the Proda study by SDZeCOM, only 30% of manufacturers and retailers have clearly defined requirements for handling product information. It is, of course, clear to everyone that the product information should be correct, comprehensive, complete and of high quality. Putting this into practice turns out to be a very difficult task, and can mostly only be done by using a PIM system.
The following data can be structured and standardized in PIM software:
- Product data and the metadata
- product attributes
- product groups
- product series
- product associations (cross-selling, up-selling, etc.)
- images and other media files
- catalogs, etc.
A data model determines how these entities are built and what relationships exist between them. In some PIM systems you can configure the data model, in others you can adapt it with the help of programming - the goal of all systems is the same: to determine the data structure of the product information, to adopt your data and to enable you to access this data easily and conveniently in the future.
Because PIM systems have to ensure that product data is read in and output, the unification and standardization of product data is particularly important. It is the only way that the work of a manufacturer, wholesaler or retailer can be efficiently organized.
The data sources for the product data must first be defined. Often the data is available only in the form of Excel tables, from different employees. The product images are located in some network folders and they are sometimes incomplete and out-of-date.
After the data sources have been defined, the data can be imported into a PIM system. Before it is imported, it should be prepared in a format that a PIM system “understands”. This can be a rather tedious process because order cannot arise automatically from disorder.
If the data is already in the PIM, the respective departments can complete them and improve their quality. Similar products are described using the same attribute sets. All products are categorized, product associations are created, product images are assigned to the products and so on. All data are completed according to the previously created data structures.
Only when all the data is well-structured, standardized and enriched can it be used for the distribution channels. Thanks to the clearly defined data structures, it is much easier to ensure a completely automatic data exchange with other systems, online shops, marketplaces and other destinations for your product data. The amount of data will also remain consistent. There are similar attribute names whose values and units used.
A PIM system thus creates the means for every user to define their own standards of product information and adhere to the maintenance of the product data, all with the aim of a continuously high product data quality.
As a result of the digitization and standardization of data structures, various classification standards have emerged. These facilitate the exchange of data between the market participants, because the standards specify exactly how the product information should look for certain product types. Thanks to their use, the recipients of the product information know in advance what the product data will look like and can import and process it faster and more easily.
The popular standards are: ecl@ss and GS1. Each standard has its own requirements and special features. An alignment between them is not yet in sight, because there are several thousand types of products, each with their own special features. The standards often set the goal of only describing products from certain industries.
Many PIM systems now support certain classification standards straight out of the box. For some users, the introduction of a standard will be an advantage if your B2B customers expect it from you.
Product information management is becoming increasingly more important for numerous companies, because many companies deal with products. PIM enables you to solve many problems and tasks related to your own product data and to consistently improve its quality. Introducing PIM will be particularly profitable for those manufacturers or retailers who deal with numerous products, or those who do not have too many products but have to translate the product information into other languages.
A PIM system helps to define the data structures for your product information. The system allows you to store all your data so that the quality of the product data meets the expectations of the users and ensures that the workflows for the preparation of the product data run as efficiently as possible.