Nowadays a PIM system is one of the most important tools for managing product information. This software creates a repository that accommodates all product-related data, keeps it up-to-date and helps in its distribution. This is achieved through easy data management, the ability to enrich and to adapt data to different needs.
PIM software serves as product information management. A PIM system is used as a single source of truth where you collect, consolidate, and enrich product information. From here you can distribute the unified and refined product descriptions to multiple channels. It’s becoming more and more popular. Today, it is a must-have for companies that have complex product structures and relationships, and for companies that have large assortments – the more SKUs you have, the more you need a PIM.
The needs of PIM-users may differ. Thanks to numerous functions, a PIM system can satisfy all of them. In this article we provide you with insights into the most important features delivered by the PIM system.
1. Product data aggregation, data import.
Data can be imported to a PIM system automatically or manually. All PIM systems support Excel, CSV, and XML formats. You can also import product data from ERP, PLM, and DAM, MDM and other corporate software. Some PIM systems offer self-service portals for suppliers to upload their product information directly into the company's PIM system.
During import all the data is verified and validated to ensure that only proper product information is imported.
2. Central repository for product data.
The PIM system is a central repository for all existing product data in the company. It is possible to manage more than one product catalog in a PIM system, which groups products according to specific criteria (for a certain segment of clients, seasonal offers). Alternatively you can import into the system in the form of a catalog.
The company can keep an old catalog for back-up, comparison, and legal purposes. At the same time, the copy may be used to create a new one. That's why PIM systems offer additional functions such as versioning of product catalogs. This is the creation of a new catalog based on duplication of the old one then synchronizing it with the new information provided by the vendor.
3. Standardization and classification of product data.
When a company has many SKUs, they often have problems managing them. That's why it is necessary to standardize and unify all related product data. In the PIM system, it’s done by classifying goods by attributes. Attributes are grouped into attribute groups by some characteristics (e.g. technical: weight and size). As a result, you can form certain product families as a ready template by combining the appropriate Attributes.
By doing this you’re assured of data accuracy since one product can be attributed to only one Product Family, preventing errors. In addition, it saves time and provides completeness of data as attributes are attached to each product in any category and catalog automatically.
PIM system can help with data standardization making use of certain classification systems, eg eCl@ss, ETIM, UNSPSC, GPC, etc.
4. Quick product search and filtering.
Products are grouped by catalogs, categories and all their characteristics. As a result, data can be found (filtered out) by any of these indicators. The use of filters is unlimited, in addition, you can save filters for later use. Products can also be filtered according to the users who worked on enriching their information (for example, the time of creation and users assigned) or according to the completeness of their description.
You can also search for products by word or part of the word contained in its description or in any of its characteristics. Usually, when a search query is entered, the proposed variants appear automatically, so you can choose directly from them.
5. Quick data change through the mass update feature.
The mass update feature allows you to automatically edit or change any information with one click by filtering numerous products or by manually selecting individual items. The feature is used when pre-applying of standardization and filtering functions or creating catalogs of goods.
With batch processing, a user can instantly change the affiliation of multiple products to a product family, catalogs, or categories, create associations between products, modify attributes, change the status of products or the employee assigned to them.
6. Using roles and access rights.
If you want to improve you product data quality, you should always know who works on updating product information, especially, if external users have access to your system. You can create appropriate roles for employees and departments within the company, or service providers and business partners in any PIM system. But some of them allow you a very granular definition of authorization roles, and others differentiate only basic levels of access.
When creating a role, an administrator can assign permissions to it, depending on the actions performed in the system (editing, removing, assigning, commenting, downloading) and, in accordance with the access rights, to a particular product or group of products. After that, the roles are given to the appropriate users.
Access can also be provided without the use of roles since permissions can be granted to users directly. Each user can have several roles and individual permissions. This feature is convenient in the case of a unique user, but it is still advisable to create a separate role.
7. Organization of cooperation between users.
Commenting, creating and assigning tasks is a convenient way to provide cooperation between system users. You can add comments anywhere and at any stage of working with the product (assigning, editing).
Users can also set up notifications. Notifications are configured in the admin panel: there are system notifications and email notifications. Such notifications may indicate that the product entry has been reassigned, or its status has been changed, alert about modifications or comments, or tasks to be done.
8. The organization of the workflow of product descriptions.
The workflow feature makes the process of adding data more reliable, transparent and manageable. It allows automating all processes associated with the enrichment of product information. The Workflows panel lets you see the status of a task and the user responsible for this stage. Via this panel team members can also exchange comments.
Some advanced PIM systems offer enhanced workflow control. For example, management can define the rules for validation of completeness and correctness for the execution of certain tasks. A system can also automatically create reports, e.g., about overdue dates, fulfillment stage, the productivity of users, or custom reports.
9. Data editing control.
The data editing control feature allows you to monitor the changes made to a product (individual data change, mass data changes) and control of any user activity in the system, with the possibility of rollback.
The history of all users' actions is displayed in the activity stream. Thus, users may see the latest actions or records for the product entries that they have access to.
10. Quality management of product information.
At each stage of work with the product information, the necessary settings are already applied to ensure its quality. In the admin panel, you can prescribe the settings for each individual field (data validation, field completeness, field language, image extension, product assigned, etc.) to meet internal and external standards. If fields are not filled or standards are not met, the system reports an error. You can establish these settings for each entity (products, channels, portals).
For full control, you can check the status of all data in the system (% of products that are in certain stages of their description life cycle, display of blank fields, channel quality level, activity statistics) in the main panel, or the system can automatically generate quality reports and send them to the appropriate department or user.
11. Managing the translation of information into different languages.
Translation of product information in the PIM system can be done semi- automatically or manually. For selective translation, that is to translate individual fields such as titles, descriptions and bullet points, the most common method is the use of an automatic translation service. In the case of manual translation, as a rule, the original text is displayed on the one side and the text to be translated on the other side.
A PIM system usually offers the following options:
- assignment of translation to an external translator, who has access to the relevant field;
- the use of web services such as automatic translations (such as Google Translate) that are already integrated into the system and offer real-time translation;
- sending texts to the systems of translation agencies;
- connection with the Translation Management System (TMS).
12. Manage media data, and product images in one place.
In general, managing media files should be done using DAM systems, but modern PIMs often have built-in DAM functions. This feature has the ability to centrally manage and store digital files like images, photos, videos, and audios added both by company employees and third parties (say, via Supplier portals).
All these media are associated with relevant items, products, categories or catalogs. The main feature is that this assignment can prevent duplicate content. In addition, all these files can be automatically adapted to each channel and platform. The only thing you need is to manually set the format or file extension, etc., and the system adjusts all the files automatically. Moreover, the PIM system allow you to use the preview function, so you can see exactly what the media file will look on a website or in a printed directory, etc.
13. Management of the product catalogs.
All the product data can be grouped by one or more product catalogs, which can be sent later to different publication channels or end-users. In some cases this information has to be transformed for the specific needs of some channel. Data transformation can be done in formats such as PDF, HTML, XLS, DOC, XML, CSV, Excel, and other common file formats.
Such product catalogs out of the PIM software can be used to create different kinds of product related documents – electronic catalogs, print catalogs, price lists, data sheets. These could also be channel-specific, with separate prices, product ranges and specific product descriptions. The user can independently select the required format and export the data for each publication channel separately. The generation of catalogs in various formats is also used for marketing purposes and for internal needs (etc. preparing printed catalogs).
14. Manage additional content associated with the product.
In addition to the above-mentioned media data, PIM systems also allow you to manage other files that complement the product description or serve as material for product promotion. These include PDF brochures, flyers, posters, print catalogs, landing pages, PSD files, images related to the description, banners or other marketing materials.
A PIM system is used to save and publish these materials, but it can also be a place of their creation, because it already contains the necessary components (edited text, images, layouts). As a result, ready-made files can either be automatically attached to the product or sent to certain channels for print or digital publication.
15. Storing additional information related to the product.
Not all information related to a product is published on the marketplaces, sent to users or other third parties, but it should also be securely stored in one place. That is why a PIM system can additionally store such files as graphics, manuals, technical specifications, datasheets, documents and CAD files.
Very often the work on such files occurs in the process of product development, so the system, while saving information about its workflow (displaying the author of the work, the date of its creation and editing), covers the entire product development life cycle. All data processing is ensured by the existence of an already built-in or additional DAM module.
16. Management of product relationships.
This feature supports the strategy for selling products after studying the behavior of online store users. As you define complementary products or substitutes, you can establish links between products or items in your PIM system. This type of interconnection can be one-way or bilateral and may exist between several products, several categories, and between products and categories.
There are many variants of interconnection: similar products, cross-selling (display of accessories related to the product), up-selling (displaying more expensive options), replacement (replacing an old product with a newer version), kits (product formation as a unit and their display under one SKU), packs of products or bundles (product grouping, when each of the products has its own SKU), etс.
17. Preparation of product data according to different channel needs.
Information that has passed through all the confirmation stages is ready for the last stage - the publication to the appropriate channel or several channels. In general, in a PIM system, a channel is a destination for a specific product catalog, which contains products items with different channel-specific characteristics, from different categories in a special data format, language of publication, prepared using internal data quality standards, etc.
A destination channel could be online stores (OXID, Magento, Shopware, etc.), printed catalogs, third-party systems (ERP or CRM), electronic catalogs (in XML or CSV format) etc.
Some systems allow a preview of a product for its corresponding channel, which allows making additional changes before posting. This feature lets you see what the product page looks like through the web browser, mobile devices, social media or in a catalog.
19. Product data export - providing product information
After the product information is collected, consolidated in one place and enriched, you can distribute relevant product information to your distributors or customers. It can be done once, for a certain occasion on the request, or at regular intervals. You can export data in any format, e.g. PDF, XLS, CSV, DOCX.
Also, a new trend is to allow distributors to connect to your PIM system via distributor portals and get updated product information in the format and structure they prefer. You assign a channel to a distributor’s account and set up authorizations and access levels.
20. Integration with different systems (APIs).
The exchange of information in a PIM system can take place not only through the export and import of individual files but also through direct integration with other systems such as CRM, ERP, DAM, MAM, CMS etc. The data transfer between systems is enabled by the presence of the built-in API and appropriate plugins (connectors) individually developed for each third-party system.
The integration through API provides the transfer of all objects and media; the storage of data structures (catalogs, associations), all attributes and attribute groups; channel matching. Data transfer can take place both manually and automatically, in one or both directions. The main prerequisite is a preliminary field matching between the PIM system and the third-party system.
As you can see, a PIM system can provide you with all functions necessary to speed up the processing of product information enhancing its quality, and allowing a company to focus on expanding the range of products and their new development strategies, which as a result will increase the company's revenue.
It should be noted, however, that not all systems have all the previously considered functions so you have to be very careful in choosing the system that suits you exactly. To do this, we encourage you to read the article on 8 tips for a successful PIM choice.