But, while product data forms the basis of all products, when does it become necessary to manage that data from one central system to ensure that all channels have the same comprehensive information, that can be easily edited and published?
A product information management system is a popular solution for companies that have more than 15,000 products. This system is also known as PIM, a master system that contains all product data and that supports a myriad of applications. But when should an IT department consider using a PIM system and what are the advantages?
When to use PIM
- High volume of products (15,000 or more)
- High volume of customer information (e.g. food retail: ingredients, allergens, origin, etc.)
- Multiple sales/marketing channels (e.g. folders, webshops, niche webshops, third parties)
- Multiple product relationships (e.g. cross- and up-sell, product categories, advice on alternative products and themes)
- Dynamic product range (e.g. seasonal products, short-term offers, temporary partnerships)
- Multiple suppliers
- Legacy in application environment (e.g. customised ERP for product data)
- Multiple sources (internal and external) for product data
- High volume of returns
If two or more of the above characteristics apply to your company, learning more about PIM may be advantageous. I say 'may' because whether or not your company needs a PIM system also depends on the applications in your IT environment. Ask yourself the following question: Can your product data management, enhancement and publication process run more efficiently? Are there opportunities to reduce your risks? Is your IT environment capable of quickly responding to a rapid increase in market dynamics (e.g. omnichannel, personalised product range and communication, market internationalisation, customers' information requirements, B2B customers' desire for a consumer experience and cross-branch possibilities)?
Five key advantages of PIM
- Ownership & Transparency
When product data is managed and enriched in a fragmented way, this often results in a lack of ownership and transparency. Who does what and who is responsible for the product data? A PIM system offers diverse workflow tools to create ownership, streamline interdepartmental collaboration and increase transparency. It also offers a powerful search tool that employees can use to access relevant and comprehensive information about product recalls, internal audits and periodic reports, among other things.
- Minimising custom applications
Adding all data-related processes to a PIM system allows you to reduce the number of custom applications. Take ERP as an example. ERP applications were introduced in the early nineties and the PIM system, partly due to the rise in omnichannels, has increased in popularity in recent years. As a result, many product data process have been built around ERP over the years, despite the fact that ERP was not designed for this purpose. This often leads to an overwhelming amount of customisation, which limits business management and business agility. The result: a lack of innovation and an inability to quickly respond to market developments. Staying on this path means more ERP customisation, more management activities and less business agility.
- Reducing management costs and risks
A PIM therefore allows your organisation to automate its manual processes. Examples include onboarding product data from suppliers. The suppliers, in turn, can use templates to deliver the necessary data. Automating these and other processes allows you to significantly reduce your management costs and allows employees to shift their focus from managing product data to applying it. This increases productivity, reduces errors and often creates a more pleasant work environment.
- Reducing costs and risks of new systems
PIM offers many default features for managing, enriching and publishing product data. This means the fragmented product data across the entire application environment can be included in the PIM system. PIM is also extremely flexible. In most situations, features can be added more quickly and more affordably to a PIM system than to an ERP system. This standardisation also allows you to add many new applications. As an IT manager, this makes it easier to determine what you can expect when you add new applications.
- Increasing data quality
High-quality data is standardised, clean and suitable for one-to-one use in external channels. A user-friendly interface and automatic quality checks on media assets and product data ensure that the data quality is efficiently maintained and increased. The 'golden record' principle allows you to add product data from different sources to create the perfect dataset. Given that omnichannel product data is instantly visible to customers, the quality of that data requires more attention when used for webshops or similar applications.