What is a PIM System - The Essential Guide

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Introduction

PIM stands for Product Information Management. Product Information Management is a process of managing product information required to market and sell products through different distribution channels. This data must fulfill specific requirements for a PIM system for data structuring and exchange.

In this article, we will explain in detail what PIM software is, how it works, how it solves some acute problems and which companies could benefit from implementing it.

PIM system definition

Infografik - Was ist PIM System?

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.

A PIM system is software that helps to create and maintain unified, high-quality, accurate product information and to automate all the related processes to make the product communication unique over all 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).

A PIM system has the following main characteristics:

  • 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 – having all data stored 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, Product Data Management (PDM) also mean the same as PIM. But still, PIM is the most used term all over the world.







 

Why is PIM software so popular?

One of the most important reasons PIM has become increasingly popular is that customers have become more and more sophisticated.

Grafik - Wichtigkeit der Produktinformationen

People are actively buying online, and they want to choose wisely. According to research, conducted by Forrester Research on December 5, 2016, 80% of online prospects 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. The information should include customer ratings and reviews, visualizations, real-time inventory information, configurations, comparison tools, high-quality images and, preferably, video.

To provide high-quality product information, you need efficient tools. A PIM system is such a tool. Especially for companies that offer thousands of product items, or hundreds of items but in many variants, languages, and locations.

Thus, PIM solutions are invaluable for companies that must organize, control, and improve the process of creating product information and distribute it.

How does a PIM system work?

Wie funktioniert ein PIM System?

1. At first, product data is collected from various sources such as:

  • Spreadsheets,
  • 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,
  • distributors,
  • e-commerce stores (Amazon, Shopify, Google Shopping, etc.),
  • mobile apps,
  • print catalogs or brochures, etc.

Die Auswahl ist nicht einfach, denn es gibt etwa 100 PIM-Lösungen auf dem Markt. Unsere Tipps für die Auswahl eines PIM-Systems können Ihnen helfen. Es sind viele Faktoren bei der PIM-Auswahl zu berücksichtigen.

Choosing is not easy as there are around 100 PIM solutions on the market. Our tips for choosing a PIM system can help . There are many factors when choosing a PIM to consider.

Which tasks solve a PIM System?

A PIM system helps to increase the information 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.

Tasks which a PIM system solves:

  • 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 transfer of 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 information 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 information in respect of these products 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 facilitate the cooperation with the partners who need this information to sell the products faster and more efficiently.

What are the main features of a PIM?

The quality of the product information is decisive for the sale of the products. A PIM has many features, from collection and enrichment of the product information to distribution and publishing.

The most important features of a PIM system are:

Data collection and import

As the essence of PIM is having one single source of truth, the most important feature is the ability to import data from a variety of sources, internal and external. A proper PIM system should be able to integrate with all the platforms and applications from which you receive product information. It could be Excel or CSV files, ERP, a media server or MAM, the systems of your suppliers, etc.

A PIM system should also allow the definition of business rules for import, to better consolidate the data. 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.

Data processing and enrichment

The collected data are merged and processed to increase their quality. Marketing-relevant texts are written and added, the technical characteristics are completely 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.

Customers want up-to-date and accurate data. In addition, a PIM actively supports you in your international marketing strategy - here it is possible not only to create translations of all content, but also to provide country-specific information about your products, e.g. other units etc.

Any PIM system offers a means to refine data and bring product information close to perfection. 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. With bulk editing options, you will eliminate repetitive tasks.

Data standardization

The PIM system helps to ensure that product data meet the standards. You can define your own 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.

Data validation

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. In a PIM, it is possible to define which product features are to be filled in for which 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.

Integration with other systems

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 the smooth running of business processes in a company and the minimizing of error probability. Thus, every system is used for the actual purpose. A PIM system, in this case, as a data hub would take over the collection and publishing of the product information.

Distributing data via various channels


PIM means you deliver consistent and detailed product information to everybody who needs it, either to your employees (e.g., sales team, marketing team, customer support team) or customers, on any online or offline channel. Obviously, you should be able to publish the content on the company website, mobile apps, email newsletter, e-commerce platforms, marketplaces etc. Information from a PIM System 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’ll easily publish new product information without additional editing.

Who uses PIM?

Wer nutzt PIM?Some of the industries where PIM is very important include:

  • E-commerce (not surprisingly) - as today you sell the experience and not just a product, you need PIM to provide detailed information and create user stories.
  • Wholesale – if you can 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 must-have for the companies who:

  • 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 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. But 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.

Which departments will need access to a PIM?

Nearly every department can use it for various purposes.

  • Product managers will 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 can use it to access technical specifications, guidelines, etc.
  • The R&D team may store CAD drawings and other technical documentation.
  • The procurement department may store prices, quality criteria, etc.

Why you need a PIM and what problems does it solve?

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, fashion industry, with on average 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.

Which PIM systems are there?

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, have to be installed on a local server. These are also 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.

What advantages does a PIM system create?

PIM advantages

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.

As previously stated, data quality has become tremendously important. A PIM system 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, rises;
  • 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 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 to invest before a PIM system becomes really beneficial. Thus, a project may start very optimistically but then get abandoned because all the details were not taken into account timeously. Thus, remember to plan everything carefully and to choose a PIM provider who can deliver the best result for your organization.

Why PIM increases the efficiency of information exchange?

Information exchange via PIMThe goal of a manufacturer in the B2B interaction is to facilitate his life and life of his wholesale partners in sharing the product information. And the PIM system, e.g. AtroPIM is ideally suited for this purpose, the system 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 in order 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.

When we talk about B2C, the details in the product information are especially important. The key criterion when purchasing the product in an online store is the availability of detailed and relevant product descriptions. Such descriptions should include high quality photos, additional media information, distinct features and a detailed product description itself. This should be written so that it can all be found on the Internet and inspire the user to make a purchase. For example, 9 out of 10 shoppers watch a video review before buying electronics, household appliances or high-tech goods. A PIM system helps you to meet all these requirements successfully with the help of a central repository containing all your product-related data.

Which Systems can a PIM be used with?

Integration of PIM with other SoftwareProcesses are mostly controlled and managed by ERP systems in a company. 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. The whole thing is made more difficult by the fact that 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 lifecycle of a product. So a PIM system improves the internal processes of the company and cooperation between different departments in the company in 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 for an e-commerce platform but not the other channels, especially internal. Also, the 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 the products. But ERP isn’t aimed at providing high-quality product information. So PIM complements an ERP and serves other purposes.

These systems can be used in combination with PIM to provide enhanced results.

Does a PIM system pay off?

PIM pays offAn 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 a large number of advantages, particularly striking among them is the reduction of 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. A good PIM system, such as AtroPIM (an open source software), additionally helps to reduce the costs of creating a digital product catalog. 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.

Conclusion

Using a PIM system is worthwhile

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 the cooperation between departments.

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 can’t go without PIM, be it 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, PIM software is becoming more and more popular as customers become more sophisticated and need better information. So early adopters may be far ahead of the competition in the foreseeable future.

The importance of managing product information efficiently should not be underestimated, especially when it comes down to large companies, having a wide range of products at their disposal. Product information management is an effective approach to managing product information, involving an immediate positive effect for manufacturers through its use. The point is that product communication is simpler and faster, wholesalers and retailers receive consistent, detailed and qualitative product information and can increase their sales, and thus manufacturers' revenues.

According to Forrester Research about 71% of online store customers expect more detailed product information. Today, customers expect comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date information about the brands and products they buy. The challenge is to transfer product information across all channels and media consistently, qualitatively and completely. And exactly this can ensure a good PIM system.

A PIM is an effective solution for your product management. The entire sales chain from manufacturers to wholesalers, from wholesalers to retailers and from retailers to end customers is positively impacted by boosting sales through high quality product information.


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