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Product information management (PIM): definition, types, benefits

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In an age of information overload and short attention spans, product information management (PIM) plays an important role in making sure that customers get the right information at the right time and in the right place. PIM, the process of managing a single source of product information, ensures customers see accurate, engaging, and complete content, regardless of how they experience it.

A solid 85% of consumers surveyed by Google in a global retail study said that product information, including pictures, influence their decision to buy from a brand or retailer.

PIM helps businesses present a consistent experience for customers accessing product information across channels and touchpoints. Consistent product information creates a more engaging and positive experience with a company’s products, building trust and loyalty with customers.

Customer confidence in the quality and consistency of the products themselves drives sales and revenue. The greater the reach and visibility of a product information management system, the greater competitive advantage and opportunity to expand and seize market share.

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What is product information management?

Product information management is the process of managing—collecting, updating, expanding, governing, storing, and distributing—a central source of complete, valuable product information and content. PIM ensures that product information is up-to-date, complete, and useful and engaging to customers.

Managing product information includes curating, maintaining, storing, localizing, and distributing assets and content containing information about your products to the proper channels. This enables sales, marketing, and e-commerce teams to present customers with the information they need to make purchasing decisions, whether they’re B2C or B2B customers.

PIM systems support omnichannel experiences by making the right product information available to consumers in whatever way they’re engaging the brand – whether it’s in-store, on the company website, a mobile app, third-party marketplaces, social media, or any other possible touchpoint.

Successful PIM requires a system that’s powerful enough to handle massive amounts of data and information, provides an intuitive interface, and integrates well with existing systems.

With so much information—much of it bad, outdated, or inaccurate—competing for your customers’ attention and purchasing power, presenting current, engaging information about your products at every touchpoint is essential.

It becomes the difference winning business or losing customers to the competition in that split second when a customer decides to buy.

Any friction along the way can give customers enough pause to nudge them away from your products and buy from someone else.

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How does a PIM work?

When a company has thousands or even millions of product pages with multiple assets and forms of content on each page, managing the information effectively requires the ability to collaborate and standardize large quantities of product information that also updates universally. That way, outdated product information isn’t finding its way to customers.

Product information management systems provide functionality and connectedness for product information managers and teams to collaborate on producing, sharing, updating, and distributing product content that’s ready for every channel. PIM systems serve as a platform and a single source of truth for a company’s product information.

In addition to the product catalog, a PIM system also includes data gathered from across those channels—everything from page views, purchases, abandoned carts, social media engagement, location data (is the customer in the store?), and email marketing engagement.

PIM solutions also collect, aggregate, and clean data integrated from other product-related systems and platforms. Data from CRMs and ERPs feed into PIM systems that then make the data available to inform marketing and sales campaigns, including product development and launches.

Much of the information gathering and processing is automated and handled by the PIM system, making workflows smoother, more efficient, and much faster. This centralized processing and distribution also helps to break down silos across business functions that tend to create roadblocks and bottlenecks.

Master omnichannel with product content management

Product content management
Take control of the customer experience with a powerful product content management that allows you to deliver engaging and consistent product information across all channels.

Types of product information managed in PIM systems

PIM systems enable product information managers and other team members to collaborate on a range of content that customers expect.

PIMs help companies keep many types of product information current and available across multiple channels:

  1. Product descriptions – The core information telling consumers what they need to know about your products.
  2. Images and videos – Customers want to see what your products look like and see them in action. Images and videos of your products are an essential part of the information you provide to customers along their buying journey.
  3. Product pricing – Price is still among the most important factors when customers weigh a buying decision.
  4. Product specifications – Although product specs can be technical, customers often need certain specific information to determine if this particular product will meet their needs.
  5. Categories and attributes – Part of the information architecture that can help customers find the products they’re looking for or maybe don’t even know they need.
  6. Inventory levels – Displaying current inventory levels lets customers know that you can deliver. Showing when inventory is low can even help customers decide to buy so they don’t miss out.
  7. Localization – Localized, personalized product information builds trust. Maintaining authentic and genuine information and product-related content, which requires collaboration, demonstrates awareness of local culture, customs, and issues.
  8. Digital assets – Creating, storing, maintaining, and distributing digital assets fuels sales and marketing efforts with speed and efficiency that’s difficult to achieve without a centralized, single source of truth accessible to every channel.
  9. Reviews and ratings – Customers trust other customers to share experiences with the actual products; this is another important aspect of product information that factors heavily into purchasing decisions.
  10. Compatibility information – Providing customers with the richest, most comprehensive product information not only helps them make informed decisions, but can also prevent lost revenue and reputational damage that can occur when a product doesn’t live up to a their expectations.

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Benefits of product information management 

As with any good and effective management, strong product information management benefits a business in many ways:

  1. Increased efficiency – Improving workflows, automating manual and repetitive tasks prone to human error, and increased visibility all work toward reducing friction and speeding up processes, making business operations more efficient.
  2. Consistency – Maintaining consistency across products, assets, and channels builds trust and confidence with customers and reduces the risk of providing incorrect or outdated information that could end up as a liability.
  3. Accuracy – Related to consistency, accuracy of your product information helps customers trust that they’re getting good information from product-related content.
  4. Improved customer experience – Strong product information management contributes to creating an improved customer experience when customers can trust the information you provide when and where they need it.
  5. Increased sales – Strong product information management can boost purchasing decisions for more sales.
  6. Faster time-to-market – Increased efficiency and smoother workflows making information available across teams and channels helps marketing, sales, and e-commerce take products to market that much faster.
  7. Omnichannel support – A strong PIM system delivers rich product content and data to meet customers wherever they’re connecting with the brand.
  8. Regulatory compliance – Maintaining consistent and accurate information in a central source enables greater control over regulatory compliance.
  9. Increased productivity – PIMs enable greater efficiency and increased productivity by opening and speeding up communication and collaboration. Automated processes allow humans to do the work requiring human skills rather than repetitive tasks that machines can perform.
  10. Better collaboration – A centralized platform with digital tools and capabilities enable the collaboration required to properly manage product information.
  11. Customization – The capabilities of PIM systems allow for product information to be customized for different purposes and customer experience contexts.
  12. Data insights – Data analytics improves visibility into performance of different forms of product information content, allowing for adaptation and iteration to create more effective, useful, and compliant product information.
  13. Scalability – PIM systems provide the capabilities and tools to manage product information at scale.
  14. Reduced costs – The ways in which PIM systems improve efficiency and help reach customers with the right information at the right time and in the right place help lower costs.

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How can PIM help your teams?

PIM provides benefits to many teams, helping each execute its own tasks and functions while also supporting collaboration across the enterprise.

  • Sales teams benefit from product information management when they have the most accurate and useful product information and valuable content to share with customers to help close deals. Data analytics helps sales teams know what products and information customers engage with most.
  • Marketing teams can draw insight from product data in support of greater marketing campaign effectiveness. The detailed product specs help marketers create content with more specific detail rather than offering vague, abstract concepts as features.
  • E-commerce teams have the exact product information necessary to reach customers across digital channels. Whether on social media or in paid or organic search, e-commerce teams have the information that wins customer attention and meets them on their preferred channels.
  • Product development teams have rich product and customer data to inform development.

Overview of the product information management process

There are a lot of steps involved in the PIM process. The first step, obviously, is collecting data from systems such as ERP, CRM, and product lifecycle management. Collecting data from the far corners of your business makes it exponentially more valuable and useful.

Then, data is normalized or “cleaned” and organized into understandable formats in a database. Data enrichment adds relevant information to gathered and processed data to  make it useful to internal teams and customers.

Additional steps in the PIM process include:

  • Distribution – Share standardized, processed, enriched data across channels with sales, marketing, e-commerce, and product development teams.
  • Quality control – Data-driven decisions are only as good as your data. PIM solutions act as quality control to make sure you get clean, trusted data.
  • Data mapping – Present data into a format that makes sense to the organization, and therefore useful to your PIM.
  • Integration – Combine data from across different solutions to assemble a more complete view.
  • Data analytics – Finds patterns and insights buried in the data that’s been gathered, cleaned, and structured.
  • Workflow management – Establish business processes and standardized workflows to increase productivity and accuracy.
  • Customization and localization – Create product descriptors and language for specific places, including local currencies and copy written and spoken in multiple languages.

Don’t forget about user training. This is where humans and machines work together and make a great team. Training your people to use the PIM system enables human-computer interaction that makes a PIM so useful and valuable.

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Type of PIMs available today

Regardless of the type, the best PIM software easily integrates with other systems, enables greater flexibility and efficiency, and is user-friendly. But not all PIM systems are the right fit for every company’s needs.

Here are some of the unique features of different kinds of PIM software solutions:

  • Cloud-based PIM software allows teams to collaborate from anywhere, enabling quicker responses to changing market conditions and consumer sentiment. Getting set up and started is typically a fast process. A few cloud-based PIM software solutions allow e-commerce businesses to store and process product information in response to current demand. This option requires you to forfeit some control as well as accessibility if you’re unable to connect to the cloud.
  • On-premise PIM is installed on office infrastructure and operates on the company’s servers as opposed to storage and performance in the cloud. This option offers greater control and security as well as access. If the internet is having problems, you can still use your on-premise PIM software if you’re on the company’s intranet. Drawbacks include cost and IT resources.
  • Open-source (OSS) is a more cost-effective product information management option that is typically developed with greater ability to customize. OSS PIM software requires more technical expertise than many cloud-based or on-premise solutions. As with on-premise PIM software, you are in charge of security, whereas cloud-based software as a service solutions are responsible for maintaining the security of your data.
  • Integrated PIM software work in conjunction with other software solutions, such as the Pimcore or Perfion PIM and SAP Integration with SAP ERP or SAP S/4HANA solutions. This allows new and existing or different solutions to integrate for a seamless experience.
  • Standalone software is a self-contained PIM solution that can function in itself rather than integrating with other solutions.
  • Industry-specific PIM is designed to support the specific needs of a company specializing in a particular industry rather than a broader e-commerce business that sells a multitude of different kinds of products.

Cloud vs. on premise: Benefits, differences, cost considerations

When considering cloud vs. on-premise, the choice for businesses today is obvious. Cloud saves money, time, and paves the way for innovation.
When considering cloud vs. on-premise, the choice for businesses today is obvious. Cloud saves money, time, and paves the way for innovation.

What’s ahead for PIM

As an integral element to customer experience, product information management has become core function for companies across many industries. In the future, we can expect it to play an even bigger role as PIM systems incorporate more advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.

AI and machine learning will enhance product image and information optimization with text and image analysis to match descriptions and visual content. AI is set to boost the automation that makes PIM systems so essential to supporting business functions like sales and marketing by increasing speed and efficiency.

Data-driven predictive analytics will give businesses deeper insight into customer behavior and enable them to build for the future.

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