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Product Information Management in the Age of Omnichannel

As a supplier, distributor, or retailer, are you always able to provide high-quality and up-to-date product information across sales channels? Do you face bottlenecks when you change or expand your product assortment? If you answered not sure or no, it is time to give PIM a shot.

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What is PIM

What Is Product Information Management?

Product information management (PIM) is a dedicated system for consolidating, managing, and disseminating product information—as opposed to the siloed systems you may currently have. Different types of product information are centralized in PIM, classified, linked, enriched to make them appealing and easy to discover, and formatted to fit the needs of each publishing channel.

Automated workflows ensure that the entire process from onboarding of new products to publishing is efficiently carried out, eliminating the costly delays of manual processing. PIM also supports data cleansing, content translation, localization, and reporting, providing a robust solution for enterprises keen on refining marketing and sales.

Information types managed by PIM
Basic Product Data Product ID, names, titles, descriptions, stock level, etc.
Product Taxonomy Categories, subcategories, versions, labels, etc.
Technical Data Size, weight, ingredients, materials, variants, etc.
Sales Data Pricing, customer reviews, questions and answers, quality certificates, etc.
Design Data Design documents, versions, revisions, etc.
Localized Data Attribute conversions, date formats, translations, etc.
Marketing Data Keywords, metadata, and other SEO-related data.
Digital Assets Product images, logos, audio, video, user manuals, etc.

How Does PIM Work?

Product information is imported from internal and third-party systems.

A reliable master record of each product is created by combining data.

Products are categorized and content is enriched with images, videos, etc.

Enriched information is distributed to online and offline channels.

How PIM Work

Why Should You Invest in PIM?

Whether you are dealing with physical or digital goods, are a producer, distributor, or retailer, have a national or international presence, PIM is key to your success in the age of omnichannel.

To Manage Complexity

With a sprawling supply chain comes numerous source systems, SKUs, taxonomies, digital assets, distribution channels, and localization requirements that need to be managed flawlessly across geographies. PIM offers a central platform for capturing, preparing, localizing, translating, and distributing multifarious data and automates many of the complex supply chain processes.

To Gain Speed to Market

It takes days and weeks to compile information from different systems like Content Management System (CMS), Document Management System (DMS), and Digital Asset Management (DAM). Since all product information is unified and different teams collaborate simultaneously on PIM, weeks of data preparation is reduced to hours. In the race to launch new products, you gain a distinct lead.

To Improve Customer Experience

Return policies are good for business but a high return rate is not. Customer dissatisfaction with products comes at a price. Most of the returned goods depreciate in value and are resold at a loss. By supplying customers with rich data consistent with the requirements of each channel, you can lower the risk of customers misjudging and returning products.

To Expand Your Product Offering

Retailers earn the bulk of their revenue from an assortment of different products—the longtail—than a few niche products. By using PIM, you can efficiently maintain the data of thousands of products without incurring additional expense. With a bigger and diverse assortment, you can widen your customer base and boost your net margin.

To Manage Complexity

With a sprawling supply chain comes numerous source systems, SKUs, taxonomies, digital assets, distribution channels, and localization requirements that need to be managed flawlessly across geographies. PIM offers a central platform for capturing, preparing, localizing, translating, and distributing multifarious data and automates many of the complex supply chain processes.

To Gain Speed to Market

It takes days and weeks to compile information from different systems like Content Management System (CMS), Document Management System (DMS), and Digital Asset Management (DAM). Since all product information is unified and different teams collaborate simultaneously on PIM, weeks of data preparation is reduced to hours. In the race to launch new products, you gain a distinct lead.

To Improve Customer Experience

Return policies are good for business but a high return rate is not. Customer dissatisfaction with products comes at a price. Most of the returned goods depreciate in value and are resold at a loss. By supplying customers with rich data consistent with the requirements of each channel, you can lower the risk of customers misjudging and returning products.

To Expand Your Product Offering

Retailers earn the bulk of their revenue from an assortment of different products—the longtail—than a few niche products. By using PIM, you can efficiently maintain the data of thousands of products without incurring additional expense. With a bigger and diverse assortment, you can widen your customer base and boost your net margin.

Features of PIM Systems

Master Data Management

Each data system in today’s heterogeneous system landscape holds a different view of a product. Process Lifecycle Management (PLM) holds the engineering data, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) the order, purchase, and inventory data, Product Data Management (PDM) the CAD files, Digital Asset Management (DAM) the media files, etc. PIM compiles product information from disparate systems to create a golden record of each product. Data is standardized, inconsistencies are corrected, and duplicate records are matched and merged to build a complete and accurate view of each product.

Data Modeling

You can flexibly create a model suited for the data types, organizational structures, and data scenarios unique to your business. With PIM, you can both create and modify data models in an agile manner as hundreds of new products are added to the system or when attributes of existing products are changed. Managing multilingual product data also becomes easier as your business expands into new geographic regions. You can flexibly choose industry-specific classifications such as GS1, ETIM, and UNSPSC based on the country of operation.

Customizable Workflows

The entire process of enriching and publishing data is orchestrated through automated workflows, which drastically improve transparency and team productivity. There are simple workflows (approving a change to a product attribute) to more complex ones (multiple levels of review and approvals while introducing or removing a product, automated validation rules to check the data quality, notifications to alert users when product data is deleted or updated, etc.). Using the integrated workflow engines in PIM, custom workflows can be created to suit your business processes.

Category Management

PIM manages products in a hierarchical order. Products are classified under different categories and under each category there may be subcategories and sub-subcategories, all arranged in a tree-like structure. From the master hierarchical category structure, multiple user- and channel-specific structures can be created during the catalog generation stage. Rights to add and modify product data under different categories and subcategories can be delegated to users. Smart categories can also be created to automatically categorize products based on certain criteria.

Catalog Generation

Catalogs make it easier for customers to find the right product and compare it with its alternatives. Product catalogs can be quickly created in PIM for different customer segments, brands, seasons, channels, lines of business, etc., based on a set of filter rules. Diverse catalogs can provide more contextual information for customers before they make a purchasing decision. With catalog generation enabled by PIM, you can cross-sell related products, upsell high-end alternatives, and recommend similar products and product bundles

Additional Features
  • Bulk actions for adding and editing attribute values, enabling and disabling products, mass publishing, etc.
  • Search and filter options to quickly locate products in catalogs.
  • Version control and publishing feature to track older versions and revert to them if required.
Master Data Management

Each data system in today’s heterogeneous system landscape holds a different view of a product. Process Lifecycle Management (PLM) holds the engineering data, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) the order, purchase, and inventory data, Product Data Management (PDM) the CAD files, Digital Asset Management (DAM) the media files, etc. PIM compiles product information from disparate systems to create a golden record of each product. Data is standardized, inconsistencies are corrected, and duplicate records are matched and merged to build a complete and accurate view of each product.

Data Modeling

You can flexibly create a model suited for the data types, organizational structures, and data scenarios unique to your business. With PIM, you can both create and modify data models in an agile manner as hundreds of new products are added to the system or when attributes of existing products are changed. Managing multilingual product data also becomes easier as your business expands into new geographic regions. You can flexibly choose industry-specific classifications such as GS1, ETIM, and UNSPSC based on the country of operation.

Customizable Workflows

The entire process of enriching and publishing data is orchestrated through automated workflows, which drastically improve transparency and team productivity. There are simple workflows (approving a change to a product attribute) to more complex ones (multiple levels of review and approvals while introducing or removing a product, automated validation rules to check the data quality, notifications to alert users when product data is deleted or updated, etc.). Using the integrated workflow engines in PIM, custom workflows can be created to suit your business processes.

Category Management

PIM manages products in a hierarchical order. Products are classified under different categories and under each category there may be subcategories and sub-subcategories, all arranged in a tree-like structure. From the master hierarchical category structure, multiple user- and channel-specific structures can be created during the catalog generation stage. Rights to add and modify product data under different categories and subcategories can be delegated to users. Smart categories can also be created to automatically categorize products based on certain criteria.

Catalog Generation

Catalogs make it easier for customers to find the right product and compare it with its alternatives. Product catalogs can be quickly created in PIM for different customer segments, brands, seasons, channels, lines of business, etc., based on a set of filter rules. Diverse catalogs can provide more contextual information for customers before they make a purchasing decision. With catalog generation enabled by PIM, you can cross-sell related products, upsell high-end alternatives, and recommend similar products and product bundles

Additional Features
  • Bulk actions for adding and editing attribute values, enabling and disabling products, mass publishing, etc.
  • Search and filter options to quickly locate products in catalogs.
  • Version control and publishing feature to track older versions and revert to them if required.

PIM Implementation

Defining a Strategy

Phase 1: Defining a Strategy

The best way to start envisioning your PIM project is by evaluating your needs and finalizing your end goals. The need may be to improve product support and sales processes. And your end goals could be to expand your revenue streams, address productivity issues, or ensure compliance. Once the use cases are identified, the business processes are re-engineered to include PIM functions. An implementation schedule will help keep the project on track. A suitable PIM platform and implementation partner are selected at the end of this phase.

Setting the Foundation

Phase 2: Setting the Foundation

We build a solid foundation for your PIM project in five major steps: data discovery, channel identification, data modeling, data sanitization, and workflow design.

Data Discovery

A major step in implementation is locating all the product information that needs to be centralized in PIM. As information is scattered across departments, collective effort is required to get a complete list of data sources. Decisions regarding how outdated, redundant, and inconsistent data should be handled are taken at this stage. Once the requisite information is ready, a preliminary classification is done, making it more organized and easy to work with.

Identifying the Publishing Channels

The different publishing channels for your products are identified next. Integration with the syndication channels of your choice, be it Amazon, Magento, or other marketplaces is an important criterion in your selection of a PIM solution. Identifying your marketing and sales channels is also important since you need to optimize the information destined for each channel to create a consistent omnichannel experience.

Data Modeling

The next step is to design the data model of your PIM by defining different objects or products and their relationships. Each product may have a set of attributes defined in terms of data types supported by the PIM. The list of values for each attribute and restrictions on that data need to be defined. Configuring the catalog categories or product hierarchy comes next. You can define the products in each category, define the change policies, new item workflows, etc.

Sanitizing Data

For PIM to be valuable, it has to have quality data. A data quality model can guide the process of filtering outdated and incorrect data or filling in missing elements. Inconsistencies can be ironed out by enforcing rules based on acceptable values and through checks on fields such as dates, currency, measurements, etc. Custom rules like minimum size requirements for images and videos can ensure the quality of digital assets. Custom rules to validate product attributes can also be implemented.

Designing Workflow

Workflows are created to systematize the process of adding, updating, deleting product information, validating changes, ensuring data integrity, introducing new channels, etc. The different user groups and their privileges are defined at this stage as workflow definition requires role-based permission settings. Custom workflows can be created in line with your organizational processes using the integrated workflow engine in PIM.

Data Discovery

A major step in implementation is locating all the product information that needs to be centralized in PIM. As information is scattered across departments, collective effort is required to get a complete list of data sources. Decisions regarding how outdated, redundant, and inconsistent data should be handled are taken at this stage. Once the requisite information is ready, a preliminary classification is done, making it more organized and easy to work with.

Identifying the Publishing Channels

The different publishing channels for your products are identified next. Integration with the syndication channels of your choice, be it Amazon, Magento, or other marketplaces is an important criterion in your selection of a PIM solution. Identifying your marketing and sales channels is also important since you need to optimize the information destined for each channel to create a consistent omnichannel experience.

Data Modeling

The next step is to design the data model of your PIM by defining different objects or products and their relationships. Each product may have a set of attributes defined in terms of data types supported by the PIM. The list of values for each attribute and restrictions on that data need to be defined. Configuring the catalog categories or product hierarchy comes next. You can define the products in each category, define the change policies, new item workflows, etc.

Sanitizing Data

For PIM to be valuable, it has to have quality data. A data quality model can guide the process of filtering outdated and incorrect data or filling in missing elements. Inconsistencies can be ironed out by enforcing rules based on acceptable values and through checks on fields such as dates, currency, measurements, etc. Custom rules like minimum size requirements for images and videos can ensure the quality of digital assets. Custom rules to validate product attributes can also be implemented.

Designing Workflow

Workflows are created to systematize the process of adding, updating, deleting product information, validating changes, ensuring data integrity, introducing new channels, etc. The different user groups and their privileges are defined at this stage as workflow definition requires role-based permission settings. Custom workflows can be created in line with your organizational processes using the integrated workflow engine in PIM.

Rolling Out

Phase 3: Rolling Out

Access rights and inbound and outbound integrations are tested to ensure that they are working as intended. The workflows configured in the previous stage are executed and various scenarios evaluated. A trial run may be done in a parallel workflow in legacy CMS or DAM for a limited period of testing. The next vital step is to train your users to ensure smooth adoption and accelerate value creation. With user acceptance testing, you are ready to go live.

How to Choose the Right PIM Solution for Your Business?

The e-commerce boom and a complex omnichannel marketing mix comprising native mobile applications, websites, social media, online catalogs, POS, etc., have created a huge market for PIM. The problem is, PIM comes in many forms; there is no-size-fits-all PIM. Solutions can be categorized based on the type of industry, enterprise, and deployment, but given the diversity within each, selecting one may not still be easy. Here are a few points to consider before you invest in a PIM platform:

  • What functional requirements does the system meet?
  • Does it address all your data modeling needs?
  • Do you only need a basic PIM or a standard one that can streamline both marketing and sales or an advanced one that can support global, multi-channel information management?
  • Does the system guarantee seamless syndication to all your platforms?
  • Can it handle national and international standards?
  • Does it support localization and translation requirements?
  • What is the total cost of ownership? Are too many customizations necessary?
  • How flexible is the integrated workflow engine?
  • How user-friendly is the system? How many hours of user training will be required?
  • Can the platform scale as your business grows so that you don’t have to reconsider your choice a few years down the road?

Where Our Expertise Comes In

  • Identifying your business requirements and creating a roadmap for your digital transformation.
  • Identifying the right PIM solution that meets all your must-haves and some of your nice-to-have requirements.
  • Listing all the functional specifications and data integration requirements in consultation with all relevant stakeholders.
  • Creating a product data model that accounts for the numerous data types and attributes handled by your organization.
  • Preparing business use cases and iteratively developing the system incorporating feedback.
  • Training the users in your organization to ensure seamless adoption.
  • Rollout, hypercare, and post-go-live evaluation and improvements.
akeneo

Leverage Our Expertise in Akeneo Enterprise Open Source PIM

Akeneo is a leading open-source Product Information Management solution with a 70,000-strong user base for its community edition.

  • User-friendly design that expedites user onboarding.
  • Marketplace for add-on modules with more than 100 free or commercial modules available.
  • APIs for extension of application and integration with e-commerce platforms and existing information management systems.
  • Greater deployment flexibility as it can be hosted on-premises or as SaaS.
  • A future-friendly PIM. Akeneo is continually evolving with new functionalities, integrating AI systems such as Franklin Insights.

As competition heats up in the e-commerce and omnichannel space, PIM can give you an edge that an odd assortment of data management systems cannot. Connect with us for a PIM readiness assessment.