Despite the growing availability of advanced systems to support product information management, not every company needs to implement them. Below we explore some of the indicators to decide whether it is worth investing in a Product Information Management (PIM) system.
A large number of dynamically changing products
The number of products is a relative notion and should be analysed together with the level of product complexity. One reason to seriously consider PIM systems is a product catalogue exceeding 1000-1500 SKUs with low complexity, or 500 SKUs with a large number of attributes, multimedia or relations with other products. In industries such as electrical or DIY, with major retail chains offering dozens of thousands of SKUs, independent PIM systems or modified ERP systems are a must.
The dynamics of the product range also plays an important role: managing products with dynamic turnover takes considerably more effort. The frequency of changes to the product line up largely depends on the company’s strategy, but with some industries this must be done several times a year.
What about product complexity?
With growing customer expectations, a product name, a short description and a single picture is no longer enough. Manufacturers and retailers are increasingly supplying additional details, such as technical specifications, multimedia resources and related accessories, spare parts or similar products. The data describing a product may involve up to several hundred attributes, which are usually different for each product group and, increasingly often, translated into foreign languages. The costs of processing complex products using standard database systems or spreadsheets become considerably higher. PIM systems streamline the classifying and editing of such products, thus improving the conversion rate.
Standard tools also perform worse when several individuals work on the details of a product at the same time. Medium and large enterprises have multiple positions or even build whole teams responsible for managing product information. In many cases it is also necessary to define different access levels for selected product groups, restrict access to sensitive data, such as price components, or retrieve data from off-site locations.
Focus on data quality
Most PIM systems feature tools to improve and maintain quality product information. It is standard practice to record the time and authors of any changes on the level of the individual attributes. PIM features also include advanced validation rules for description completeness, setting statuses, or even support for the process of involving specific users in description building, approving and publishing.
Multiple data sources
Manually importing product data or updating it more frequently than once a week using one of the popular formats (e.g. CSV files) requires a certain work load, but can be completed within an acceptable time frame. However, this becomes problematic if the import frequency increases or more data sources are added (e.g. when product information is provided directly by suppliers). If these sources use different formats, data mapping becomes necessary. Such scenarios indicate the need to use PIM automation, such as by using an API.
Multiple customer segments and communication channels
The same holds true at the other end of the supply chain. A company that handles multiple customer segments, each having access to a different set of products with varying levels of description complexity, must consider data exchange automation. Business partners increasingly require product information to be provided to an industry-specific classification standard (e.g. ETIM, eCl@ss).
Communication channels also affect product information: the more communication channels that are used (B2C and B2B platforms, social media, printed media, retail store labels, etc.), the greater the variety of input formats and interfaces that must be supported. Handling them manually lengthens the product launch process, and can result in many errors and additional costs.
Need for multilanguage support
For a company that provides product information in multiple languages, a PIM system is not a matter of choice but a necessity. Content localisation requires suitable support and the right tools. Besides translating the descriptions and attributes, there is often the need to store separate collections of multimedia content, such as product and packaging shots, manuals, promotional videos, advertising resources, etc. A PIM system is a solution dedicated for this task.
PIM systems do not need to be expensive
Note that PIM systems are not exclusively addressed to large companies with considerable means. Some of the solutions available on the market are still affordable for most small and medium businesses, and can be implemented within a few weeks. One such solution is Pimcore, an open-source platform that has been deployed more than 80,000 times in enterprises around the world. It addresses most of the needs discussed above even in its basic version, and thanks to an open GPL licence it can be easily customised and upgraded with special-purpose features. Thanks to a flexible API (and an optional data exchange bus, such as Mule ESB) it provides a consolidated platform for handling content, social media and commerce at every point of customer contact.
If you meet at least one of the above criteria we recommend exploring the PIM systems available on the market.