Product Information Management (PIM):
complete guide 2022
First of all, what is an PIM?
A PIM or Product Information Management is a solution (on-premise or SaaS) dedicated to the management, enrichment and distribution of product information.
The product information managed by the PIM software includes all the textual data that make up a product sheet. product record It includes marketing descriptions, storytelling, technical information, labelling, recipes, ingredients, packaging, cross and up-selling, etc.
As soon as a product is created in the company's IS (generally from the ERP), the PIM software will collect the first raw information and then alert the marketing and product teams. The work of enriching the information on the new product can begin. When the quality level of the product sheet reaches a required level, it is automatically distributed to all sales channels and adapted to the constraints of each.
In order to streamline the organization and accelerate the posting of product sheets, the PIM relies on a collaborative methodology which improves teamwork , regardless of the product's quantity or the company size.
What is the role of the PIM in the company’s IT system?
⛔ What the PIM isn’t...
There are many tools within the Information System! Built up of acronymic bricks that collect, enrich, analyse and/or transmit all types of data to the various business lines of the company. The PIM (Product Information Manager) software is one of these bricks. And if the following tools are more or less known, the PIM is not intended to replace them (and vice versa).
PIM vs ERP: An ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) groups, processes, and analyzes data in a transverse manner. It includes modules for HR, manufacturing, inventory management, sales, project management, accounting and finance.
PIM vs MDM: An MDM (Master Data Management) intervenes slightly upstream of the PIM to standardize data of varying qualities that come from multiple sources. Once processed, they can be transferred to the PIM where they are centralized and enriched before being sent to the sales channels.
PIM vs PLM: A PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) groups together the engineering processes and data related to the manufacturing process, and the changes undergone by the product from beginning to end.
PIM vs CRM: A CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) is a tool for managing customer and lead relationships. It allows for the collection, centralization, and enrichment of contact information and then takes action to increase loyalty between the brand and its customers.
Why should you equip yourself with a PIM?
In our daily professional life, the companies where we work attach great importance to the satisfaction of their customers and regardless of our profession, we contribute to it in a direct or indirect way. But on the other hand, in our private lives, we are also customers. We each have our favorite website or brand but this loyalty can disappear in the blink of an eye. For example if one of these brands were to:
For example, when one of these brands :
- Suggest a pair of gloves to complete the purchase of a new swimsuit in the middle of August.
- Redirect us to a product sheet with the food composition in English and its marketing slogan in French.
- Promote a product feature on its site that is not available anywhere else, either in stores or on marketplaces.
- Suggest a promotion on a specific model of a product that the salesperson in the physical store guarantees he has never heard of.
These different cases are at best slightly frustrating and at worst can lead to the abandonment of the purchase. Whether it is one or the other, our Product Experience with this brand won’t leave us with an unforgettable memory...
It is therefore to improve this Product Experience on all distribution channels that brands use PIM (Product Information Management). To solve the small anomalies mentioned above? Yes, but for so many other reasons that we reveal here.
To improve the quality of product data
PIM offers many features to improve the quality of your data:
Centralize product information and make it more reliable
Working with product data in Excel is no picnic. Product teams can be very critical of it. And from a business point of view, it's a risk: finishing a day's work by squinting at an infinite number of cells greatly increases the risk of error.
This is even more true when several contributors or teams work on the same product. They exchange files, duplicate data, and risk working on an obsolete version that does not take into account the latest contributions...
When an error is identified: we check, we look for the cause of the problem, and we fix it alongside several other people.
However, this is not unavoidable and one of the first goals of the PIM is to rationalize and correct these costly frictions by implementing:
- A single product sheet to avoid duplications.
- A system of user rights to prevent errors.
- A collaborative solution for better organization and productivity gain.
The time saved, coupled with the new motivation, allows the teams to better focus on the quality of the product information and the business.
Develop and enhance/promote your product offer
The product catalog is bound to continuously evolve because, depending on the company and its priorities, it is crucial to:
- Reach a new target by creating a dedicated product range . Adapt existing products to successfully penetrate a new country.
- Decline existing products to successfully penetrate a new country.
- Renew its catalog in the context of a seasonal business.
- Incorporate new products on a just-in-time basis throughout the year to boost sales.
But when the new product arrives in stock - once the design and production stages are completed - the work is far from over. We still have to build the elements (content, images...) that will make this new product thrive on the sales channels.
The last mile is often the longest, and by anticipating it, PIM can be a tremendous accelerator. Whatever the amount of new references, ranges, or the frequency of product turnover, the PIM solution is the solution designed to absorb these quantities and coordinate the team work accordingly.
Work on new product information, which customers expect to find
Is the consumer experienced? Yes, and more and more. If we talk about digital maturity, it's because the customer is no longer attracted by the first offer that comes their way. They compare products, check with the competition, move around, try things out and hold them, consult the reviews of other buyers and quickly identify potential negative points.
A quality product experience must therefore combine dense and detailed information while remaining organized. In order to gain trust and induce a “love at first sight” moment during the few seconds of attention that the Internet user gives to a brand, transparency is the best way to go.
Nutriscore, allergens, composition, electrical standards, materials, origin... are all "new" criteria that are now key factors in reassuring the buyer and encouraging a purchase.
Find out more in our webinar on managing environmental labelling.
The PIM provides support to quickly catch up with a competitor who has already integrated these types of product data:
- You can customize the PIM by adding new fields to the product sheets at any given time.
- You alert all contributors or simply product category owners that fields must be updated.
- You visualize the field’s enrichment progress in the PIM dashboard.
And to easily anticipate future consumer habits:
- Has the market changed or has a new trend been identified that could change buying habits?
- You adapt the product sheets template directly in the PIM, thanks to its highly customizable structure. Then all you need is to create and share the content before anyone else.
Group products to manage cross and up-selling
The hat and sock pack, can we sell it in the fall or only in the winter? Randomness is the enemy of personalization. And personalization... sells.
To offer an efficient cross and up-selling, you must first think about grouping products. For this, you rely on the PIM to associate products with:
- A theme.
- A season or a collection.
- A range or a look.
- A category/type of product.
- A color.
- A size.
From these groupings, rules are defined to propose a complementary product (cross-selling), an increase in product range (up-selling), or product packages and bundles. From there, you just need to distribute the products and integrate the links between them on the sales channels.
Translate all product sheets on the fly
More Excel file exchanges for translations? Certainly not. If you choose to get equipped with a unified and centralized product database within the PIM, there is no question of putting this type of anxiety-inducing process back on the agenda.
Translations now go through the PIM. The product sheet is divided into as many sections as there are languages. It is then pushed to all channels in the right language.
And the implementation? Just as simple!
When working with an internal or external translator:
- You can create a "Translator" access within the PIM. With their login, they can translate directly on the PIM. An alert is sent when the translation is submitted. As soon as the work is validated by the teams responsible, the file is automatically sent to the target country.
When working with a translation solution such as Textmaster, for example:
- The PIM is connected to the translation solution by API to directly manage the product sheets translation.
To find out more, see our webinar on managing international product sheets.
SEO: Improve the ranking of product sheets in search engines
Natural referencing is a vector of visibility and sales and an essential tool in digital marketing. It requires special attention, regardless of whether it is managed by your in-house expert or by a specialized agency.
Experts or agencies will connect to the PIM and benefit from special user rights that will allow them to edit only the SEO fields (TITLE, META, ALT attributes of photographs, etc.) and then suggest modifications to the other fields. Useful for recommending new keyword placements without distorting the content designed by product marketing.
Of course, you can adapt the workflow, and thus the access rights based on the company... and its SEO strategy.
Bringing together photographs and text at the heart of marketing
"Imagine Simon without Garfunkel
Product information is made up of text and photographs. To manage these two different types of data related to the product, we can consider different approaches, such as:
An approach can be considered:
- Independent (by using two solutions): textual data in a PIM and media in a DAM (Digital Asset Manager).
- Combined: by opting for a solution that centralizes PIM and DAM features.
The product sheet consulted by customers is still made up of an assembly of these two types of data (media and content). When you want to become more consistent, putting them within the same platform allows you to increase the quality and control. As they become linked to the same product sheet, the content and media that will feed the sales channels will automatically be connected without any risk of lagging.
Manage information and rights associated with images
All media assets are linked to some kind of practical or legal data. Even if they are not necessarily for the customer or sales, automating their management saves precious time.
With the help of a PIM that includes a DAM module, it is possible, for example, to manage:
- The names of the models, their contractual information (price of the service, timing of the image rights, etc.), the collections and associated products.
- Credits for purchased or royalty-free photos and illustrations.
- Contact information and contractual information of the designers, graphic artists or agencies that worked on each media.
- Information about the teams that participated in the packshot of a product line.
There is no longer any need to move heaven and earth, to send a mountain of emails, to create a Slack channel, or to increase coffee breaks to find the person who has the information or to make sure that you have not exceeded the deadlines related to the image rights. We can just connect to the PIM or set-up a specific alert.
Dynamically adjust the size of the photos according to the channels
WalMart, BestBuy, Macys and every other e-commerce site are eager for new products but require different image formats and sizes. This leads to a race to customize photos, which monopolizes the teams and slows down the products distribution and by extension, postpones the sale.
If the PIM has become essential within companies, it is because of its role as a facilitator and catalyst for productivity. For example, when the photograph of a product is imported into the solution, it can be automatically resized into different sizes and formats, and dynamically attached to each sales channel.
To preserve the ownership of photographs, the PIM can also automatically apply watermarking to each one so as to avoid the need to go back and forth with the graphics teams without adding value.
Combine features and photographs to better showcase products
Associating the best product features with a dedicated illustration is part of good UX practices applied to e-commerce and improves the conversion rate. The Internet user is more likely to project himself when photographs are annotated with the possibilities offered, point by point. However, 78% of sites have not yet implemented this strategy.
In the PIM, the marketing descriptions - where the features of the product are presented - and the media are associated (through the DAM module).
Thus leading to more creativity.
- Take photographs focused on an important feature (a key button, a pattern on a textile piece, the possible ports and connections from an electronic equipment, the storage space offered inside a piece of furniture, etc.).
- Associate this photograph with the written description and the marketing argument of this key feature.
This allows us to refine the presentation of the products as much as possible and to make the final decision to buy.
To simplify the organisation and collaboration of teams
No more searching for products in a bunch of cells
"What was the name of this famous file? »
Searching for documents and files, even digital ones, is an integral part of the working day, regardless of the department in which we work. Studies by certain firms agree that this research time amounts to 20% of a day, or 1 day per week.
Product marketing teams are not exempt from this. Thousands of product data files are often passed from hand to hand, regularly renewed and constantly reworked. In this situation, searching for files does not reflect a lack of personal organization, it shows a need for structuring.
The PIM provides the required structure to the teams that process and search for these files on a daily basis. With its intelligent search module, it becomes the hub of all product data and the reliable reference point for information seekers. As all the data can be filtered, the most meticulous searches become possible.
Build a custom dashboard, truly based on your business
The product data is worked on, renewed, reworked, exported, re-reworked, translated and so on...
When you multiply these tasks with an increasing number of product references, it becomes difficult to:
- Monitor the progress of the teams' enrichment work.
- Prioritize every day which information should be enriched first from the amount of information left.
The the PIM dashboard is used to take a step back and solve this. Customizable, it is built from widgets based on strategically chosen product data.
Some examples of widgets that help increase productivity and control:
- Daily to-do lists: it organizes the enrichment tasks by priority so that you can arrive at the office in the morning and know right away the "must-dos" of the day.
- Completeness report: for a product category, a country, a collection, etc., a gauge ranks the % of product file enrichment completed. You can know in an instant the efforts required to reach the perfect product sheet.
You have complete visibility on the team’s "remaining work" and the actions still pending at each stage of the product's enrichment before it goes online.
Anticipate the workload over time with dedicated widgets
The various widgets that make up the PIM dashboard provide a clearer overview of the product repository. By creating customised indicators based on your business recurrences, the PIM can become a real operational analysis tool.
For example, you can choose to always have in front of you:
- The number of products whose information will have to be enriched in the coming weeks
- A visualization of the product portfolio by brand or by material if necessary.
- A breakdown of these products by channel and workflow status.
- A visualization of the product portfolio by brand or by material if necessary.
Or simply see at a glance:
- The set of products to which no image has yet been assigned.
When a new product line is launched, when one season follows another, or when activity peaks follow one another, anticipating the new products to be enriched and the time needed to do so can be planned and be part of a precise ROI vision.
Perfectly apply your ideal workflow
The purchasing/product team generates the first SKUs, the marketing team writes the descriptions, the photographer transmits the packshots, the SEO expert enriches the referencing fields, the digital/ecommerce team adapts the content for the marketplaces...
On paper, everything seems to be in order, but on closer inspection, a bottleneck effect can occur and product distribution times can get longer.
The PIM workflow acts as the oil in the wheels and connects all links until the products are distributed. After a definition step, a customized process is implemented within the PIM to reflect the company's ideal working method for collecting, enriching and ultimately delivering product data to sales channels.
To gain efficiency and improve team communication, the PIM workflow can, for example, follow this methodology:
- A new product is created and its first raw data is integrated into the PIM.
- An alert is sent to the team responsible for enriching the information for products of that category.
- The team writes and submits the marketing and/or technical content.
- A notification is sent to the team leader to verify the product content.
If the content can be improved, the form is returned for revision. Teams are alerted and work on the areas needing improvement. Once done, they send the product sheet back for validation.
If the content is satisfactory, the product sheet is validated.
- Following the validation of the content, the completeness calculation will determine if the information necessary for distribution is well entered.
If this is the case, the product sheet is automatically distributed to the sales channels.
If not, the team is notified about the fields that need to be completed for distribution.
If you are interested in the subject of workflows, consult our complete guides:
Work effectively in teams... even remotely and across time zones
Organizing and converging the work of remote teams is a real challenge. This is why collaborative tools are increasingly popular in digitally transformed enterprises. They improve productivity, centralize information and promote creativity by simply improving communication.
The PIM is not only a product data tool, it is also a a communication solution. Contributors can be grouped into "teams" on the PIM and send collective messages to mailing lists to warn of the imminent release of a new collection or product range.
To organize the day-to-day operations and make sure they don't miss any information, teams receive tasks that are then grouped in a dedicated section on the PIM. Status changes (in progress, planned, completed) then notify the sponsor and alert them in real time.
Log changes within each file
The quest for increased data quality to improve the product experience often involves numerous "reworkings" of product information. The PIM contribution workflow allows you to control and accelerate the sequence of steps and track the contributions of each person.
The change log ensures perfect traceability of the enrichment process and the path of the product sheet until its final validation. And while it allows you to have a backup of a product sheet version at any time, it is also a mine of information to analyze in order to improve your workflow.
To greatly facilitate the work of the product photographer
A photo session is organized to refresh existing visuals or to stage new product creations. The photographer has taken numerous packshots and photographs that now need to be linked to the right products. If this makes you think of a child's game, it’s actually more complex and time consuming and doesn’t reduce the quantity errors.
To solve this problem, we equip ourselves with a barcode scanner, a labeler and the PIM.
Let's go back to the process:
- The PIM has generated a first product sheet from the raw data collected via the ERP.
- The marketing team starts to enrich the textual information on the PIM interface.
- Prior to the photoshoot, a barcode is printed from the labeler and connected to the PIM for each product that will be photographed.
- The barcode is then pinned to the corresponding product sample.
- Once the photos are taken, the photography team scans the barcode with the handheld scanner to automatically send and link each photo to the right product, directly in the PIM.
Because "import/export" is business, not Excel files
The purpose of the PIM is to interconnect with all the existing (or future) solutions of the company's information system.
As soon as data is imported, generally from an ERP (new product references are added), the transmission of information is facilitated and even more so when it is done automatically via API. A raw product sheet is then generated on the PIM and an alert and task are sent to the teams concerned.
No export is required for distribution. For example, the PIM automatically sends the validated product data to:
Manage an IT environment of multiple brands
For a group that brings together different brands, grouping the management of product information within the same solution makes sense, if only to increase organization.
A practical point remains to be raised: how can this be done if each brand uses different tools? Different ERPs, different e-commerce platforms, different languages for the translation of product sheets.
The PIM offers the possibility of managing different sources of data flow and to distribute information at the end, regardless of the tool or the medium used by the sales channel.
Working with a smile
Austere and complicated interfaces, grey and blue "do it yourself" software, the Excel 95 graphic chart adapted to your daily tools... A dull vision for a dull work day.
Choosing a PIM for its ability to improve processes is one thing, but it is also essential to turn to aPIM solution that makes your teams shine and makes them want to use it every day because:
- The ergonomics allow you to work intuitively.
- The solution is efficient and guarantees a speedy execution of each action.
- Collaboration is efficient and communication between teams, even at a distance, is pleasant.
Smile, you are being "PIMed"!
To develop your omnichannel business
Selling before the competition
Time-to-market is the race to bring a product to market as quickly as possible once it has been designed. In order to be innovative, to be the frontrunner of a trend, to attract the praise of journalists and above all to sell more, it is better to be the first.
If the company is the OEM and the product is a Formula 1, then the PIM is the team that brings together all the collaborators and does the necessary to accelerate the product towards the finish line AKA the sales channels.
The PIM will make the workflow more smooth to build a quality product sheet ready to be distributed:
- Inserting product photos.
- Adding technical, marketing and story-telling descriptions.
- Linking files between them (cross and up-selling, collections, looks, related universe, etc.).
- Optimizing SEO.
- Adapting to channel requirements (marketplaces, catalogs, brochures, applications, etc.).
In addition, the internal validation processes are simplified by making suggestions and monitoring content changes until the final approval.
Once this entire cycle has been streamlined with the help of PIM, the time to market is greatly reduced.
Opening new countries
Entering new markets with translated product sheets is a big step, but it's only the first step in successfully entering a foreign market.
Here are the essential actions that PIM can accomplish to accelerate and industrialize the conquest of international markets:
- Segment products by country: determine via the PIM which category of products is pushed in what market and easily manage exceptions.
- Open channels dedicated to certain countries and regions: marketplaces and channels will be open to get optimal product visibility.
- More efficient country management: teams around the world collaborate via PIM. Alerts and notifications, enrichment requests, content review and approval - all done online and recorded in the modifications log.
- Manage data enrichment on a country-by-country basis: a dedicated international dashboard is set up and the estimated time to completion can be seen while targeting places that need improvement.
Reduce store returns
Returning a purchased product has become free and is now an integral part of the customer service provided by companies. The customer does not hesitate to return a product when it does not meet their expectations. This possibility, nowadays perfectly normalized, generates considerable costs and leaves a note of disappointment in the customer.
The key is that the product received should correspond to the expectations. And for that, everything goes through the product sheet, the means of transmitting product information to the customer. By filling it out as much as possible, you can anticipate the questions that will be asked to the support department and maximize the chances of satisfaction when the order is received. The PIM accompanies this quality approach and strongly limits the costs of product returns, which every company would gladly avoid.
Generate a product catalog in 1 click
This possibility is often overlooked when thinking about PIM. However, it is one of the favorite functionalities of the users.
By centralizing all product information in a single solution, a perfectly reliable database is created from which it becomes easy to produce Web to print materials.
You can imagine a PDF template, designed according to your needs, on which the different fields of the product sheets are written on the fly.
The result is a a dynamically generated product catalog with the latest PIM information.
With one click, it is possible, on a one-time or scheduled basis, to create:
- A brochure on a single product. A collection book on a product category or a season.
- A global catalog generated, for example, every week to have the newest updated data.
- Versions of all these resources in as many languages as necessary.
If any of these are used in your company, do you know the average time and resources required to generate them? PIM is about eliminating those costs, plain and simple.
Telling the same story to improve sales
Responsible for the image of a brand, they must also have a perfect knowledge of the products and their specificities to encourage sales.
Responsible for the image of a brand, they must also have a perfect knowledge of the products and their specificities to encourage sales.
The PIM is a perfect communication tool. There are several ways to transmit information:
- Give restricted access to the PIM without editing rights to the field team.
- Share a vision of the products with its partners through extranet / product portal (see next paragraph).
- Generate PDF or print catalogs containing commercial information only.
Thanks to this, the work of field trainers and purchasing teams is made easier. Supported by these materials, they will ensure the uniformity of the sales pitch.
Provide partners and distributors with a virtual interactive catalog
Knowing how to adapt a product presentation for a specific audience is crucial. And it can become delicate for a brand's partners and distributors, who sometimes have a different audience than the brand's end customers (B2B vs. B2C, for example).
However, PIM makes it possible to integrate different descriptions or sales pitches into the same product sheet. And so that everyone can find their way around, some PIMs can generate a space dedicated to partners and distributors.
A product portal plays this role. It is a secure mini-site that draws product data that is beneficial to the partner relationship from the heart of the PIM and gives the partners a real-time view of the product catalog. The product portal is also accessible on tablets and mobiles so in the hands of sales people, purchasing teams or partners, it can facilitate the transmission of information in the field. Product sheets and photographs can be downloaded from this tool and save precious time in the management of a B2B network.
Invest in any Marketplace
What does it mean to invest in new marketplaces?
- Adapt/enhance product data.
- Comply with imposed formats on a case-by-case basis.
- Generate new product photo formats.
- Ensure updates when the product catalog is constantly evolving.
Since the PIM already centralises the product catalogue and each contributor is working on a unique record, everything is ready for automation!
The PIM connects with all marketplaces and the rules for transmitting product data are defined upstream, therefore adapting the product sheet to their requirements:
- Character limits imposed on fields.
- Required/Optional fields.
- Automatic resizing of photos.
- Product category to be displayed or not on marketplaces.
The other great news is that once these rules are in place, each modification made and validated on the PIM product sheets automatically updates all other marketplaces.
Under these conditions, nothing could be easier than to open new ones!
Phygital? No problem
Customers only believe what they see. They leave their web browsing and go to the store to see and touch the merchandise. Depending on the type of product, the quality and solidity of the materials, the fittings, the human contact with the salespeople are all key moments in the purchasing process. And that's what omnichannel is all about!
Phygital is the link between off and online, or the sensorial experience of the digital offer. To further strengthen the link between these two channels, we use the PIM in:
- Touchscreen tablets to be placed in the store.
- Mobile applications.
- QR codes.
- Paper brochures.
- The paper catalog of a collection.
And while marketing reinvents itself every day, the PIM and its unified product catalog are reliable assets to create the sales and media campaigns of tomorrow...
For more information on the benefits of Product Information Management (PIM) in a multi-channel sales strategy, see our guide :
SaaS vs. On-premise : what PIM should you choose ?
In a context where the optimization of business tools is essential, you must choose the solution you will rely on as well as its infrastructure.
The creation of the Cloud has changed the way we think about IT infrastructure within a company. IT solutions now operate alongside each other. They meet complementary needs and form real Business Suites tailored to the needs of the company. The way companies use IT solutions has also evolved. Today, we no longer consume only "software", we also go to applications or solutions accessible from a simple web page.
This refers to portability as we consult more and more these tools from home or on the move.
However, this evolution generates its own set of questions, especially when it comes to setting up a PIM.
SaaS, Private or Public Cloud, On-premise, Hybrid... The terms multiply, differ... Not so easy to see clearly...
Choosing a PIM implies asking yourself a certain number of questions even before tackling the functional aspects. Each vendor is indeed specialized in an infrastructure and to successfully implement a PIM, you have to choose the type of solution that is best suited for your ambitions.
First of all, let's go over a few brief definitions:
Cloud or Cloud Computing is the technology that allows for the remote storage of software data. This data is no longer accessed from a local server or a computer’s hard drive, but rather from a simple Internet connection.
On-premise is a solution in the form of software that is installed on the company's server (on your premises) and is commonly acquired through the purchase of a license.
SaaS or "Software as a Service" is a solution in the Cloud (created by a third party provider) and accessed remotely using a browser and an Internet connection.
Hybrid is a software solution installed on the company's premises but which stores data and/or has functionalities in the Cloud.
But what about choosing a PIM solution?
To help you, the following checklist presents the questions to answer before contacting a PIM vendor.
A PIM checklist
- How much product data do I have? How complex is my database (categories, sub-categories, product meshing, cross-sell, up-sell, etc.)
- What level of confidentiality is needed for my PIM data?
- How many people will work on the PIM? (department, location, position, access to the IS)
- Does my IT architecture have sufficient resources to accommodate a PIM hosted within my IS?
- Does my IT architecture have sufficient resources to accommodate a PIM hosted within my IS?
- How urgent is this project for my company? How long will it take to implement?
- What existing tools do I plan to integrate into this future PIM?
- Is my company targeting international and/or omnichannel growth? And finally... What should my company budget be for a PIM?
Keep this checklist in mind... and let's go through each level of PIM project implementation together.
To find out more, read our guide SaaS or On-premise: which PIM to choose?
Implementation and timing of the PIM
The PIM framework
The implementation of a PIM begins with a research phase that aims to list the needs of internal users and to adapt the solution to your processes, whether it is kept in the Cloud or within your IS.
Among other things, the following issues will be addressed:
- How product information will be structured and linked
- How information collected upstream flows
- The steps in the product information process (workflow)
- The different channels on which to distribute the product information
- The project schedule
This support will follow a similar path whether you opt for SaaS or On-premise. The only notable difference is the quality of the support and the skills of the integrator / vendor who works for you.
However, we recommend that you rely on vendors who have developed, tested, and generalized a structured support methodology (we have named ours "Quable Air"). This will allow you to better manage the service, to ensure that all of your specifications are met and to avoid additional costs and delays in production.
Once the analysis of needs and PIM implementation stages are completed, it's time to set up the solution itself. Whether your PIM is in the cloud or hosted within your IT system really impacts the delivery time of the solution.
The very nature of On-premise can lead to additional delays.
Storing a solution means several things:
- You need to install and ensure the integration of your PIM into your existing IT ecosystem.
- This will require time from your IT team to take care of storing the solution, user access or backup policies, among other things.
If you want to take advantage of a turnkey solution and avoid a potentially long (and more expensive) configuration, then your choice should be a SaaS. A SaaS PIM has the advantage of facilitating the management of users, regardless of their number or their rights.
You may well consider integrating your SaaS PIM solution with your Active Directory to ensure consistency with your internal IS.
Skills / Human capital
Type of skills for a PIM
The notion of "Service" in SaaS (Software as a Service) influences the type of skills required to manipulate the solution. If you choose a SaaS PIM solution, it will be more directly accessible to your business teams (marketing, digital or product) without requiring advanced technical skills.
On the other hand, an on-premise PIM solution requires the technical knowledge of your IT teams, who will be responsible for maintaining, improving, and configuring the solution... And all of this will have to be thought out through the company's specific IT architecture.
Which teams should manage an PIM?
The two types of solutions will also affect the profiles of the teams responsible for implementing the PIM in your company.
On the On-premise PIM side, it is highly recommended to have employees with technical skills available and dedicated to the PIM.
Most companies that have opted for On-premise have built a team around:
- 1 project manager within the IT department
- 1 IS manager
- 1 to 3 developers depending on the project and the technical stack
- Key users (CMO, CDO, product managers)
On the SaaS PIM side, a more "business" orientation coupled with a desire for autonomous use, implies a different structure for the project and its participants.
The Product Information Management team will be built around :
- 1 project manager (the CIO, CDO or CMO)
- Key users (CDO, CMO, product managers)
Does a PIM create recruitment costs?
Anticipating the implementation maintenance of a PIM project implies thinking about the human resources you intend to assign to it.
If you feel that your current resources are insufficient, you have two choices:
- You turn to SaaS, which requires very few technical skills.
- You choose to recruit qualified profiles to support you
Of course, each recruitment is a cost and a relative risk if we consider the short-lived scope of a project. We should also note the difficulty of finding a profile combining the necessary technical and functional skills to ensure the link with the technical teams but also to aid the business in the use of the PIM.
Data storage and liability
A PIM solution hosted in the Cloud will have its data stored on servers external to the company. The SaaS provider then becomes responsible for its customer's product data and will have to provide the required guarantees as to its proper processing and security.
On-premise storage offers another configuration since the product data does not leave the company. Generally, a DPO (Data Protection Officer) is appointed internally and guarantees the safety of the product data, on behalf of the company. This ensures total control and permanent access to this data.
The real question to ask concerns how crucial the data is: is the product data that passes through the PIM considered important enough to require local storage?
As a reminder, the product data within the PIM are:
- Product references
- Product descriptions
- More specific information (label, origin, size, color, etc.)
- Product media (if your PIM includes a DAM module)
- User comments or ratings
However, there is an important difference regarding the On-premise PIM model. The data backup process is the responsibility of the company. Clear and rigorous processes must be applied on a daily basis so that no part or update of the data is lost.
Data security controls
Storing your product data within the company with an on-premise PIM solution involves a certain amount of work. It is the responsibility of the IT team to perform the necessary security audits to ensure the security of the product data. Of course, the company can decide to call upon an external service provider to perform these controls, but this requires an extra cost.
A SaaS PIM provider will multiply and systematize security audits to guarantee reaching the highest of requirements. Its reputation with its customers is at stake. These controls are carried out by third-party companies in complete neutrality and are paid for by the SaaS provider.
Portability of the PIM solution
Employees are traveling more and more. They now use their business tools on the move and appreciate teleworking. These new uses force project managers to come up with portable solutions that promote communication and inter-team work, even from a distance.
This is especially true for the PIM, which relies on the collaboration of local and international teams around product sheets. Therefore, it is important to adopt a PIM solution that can support this dynamic while increasing productivity.
A SaaS PIM offers the perfect accessibility provided you have a simple internet connection. An On-premise PIM, on the other hand, will be installed locally and accessible from the company's premises, via the network. Remote access can only be done through a VPN.
If you have any problems or questions during the use of the PIM, you will appreciate the help of a specialized technician. The good news is that both infrastructures (SaaS or On-premise) provide an IT support service. With some providers, you will also have the opportunity of being followed by a CEM (Customer Experience Manager) who is always ready to listen to you.
While this aspect goes beyond the simple choice "SaaS VS On-premise", here are a few points to pay attention to when choosing your support:
- Make sure teams are responsive. Make sure you get time estimates for bug fixes.
- Ask for a Recovery Time Guarantee (RTG). This clause guarantees that the service will be restored within a certain amount of time if a total failure occurs. The shorter the time, the better the support service.
- Check if a support contact method is contractually imposed. Some providers impose contact by e-mail or even via community forums as a means of support. It is difficult to solve a possible problem without direct contact.
Updating a PIM
Today's needs will unfortunately (or fortunately) no longer be tomorrow's needs. Your company is looking to grow, to multiply the points of contact with its customers and is aiming for omnichannel or even international sales? You will probably make your PIM solution choice with this in mind, with the objective of supporting this growth in a sustainable manner.
It is therefore preferable to choose a PIM solution that is scalable over time and to pay attention to the frequency of the solution's update.
An on-premise PIM solution will be more rigid and fixed in time. Less frequent updates will generally be part of a maintenance contract and will generate additional time and costs.
On the other hand, the Internet/SaaS couple offers innovation perspectives. A PIM solution on the Internet allows the tracking of user paths in order to improve their experience. This technology is also particularly effective for collecting testimonials and helping to improve the PIM.
New features and patches are reported instantly and a roadmap for updating the product is created directly. At Quable, for example, our monitoring of usage and our close links with our partners allow us to update the PIM on a monthly basis.
Upgrading an On-premise PIM is like starting a new IT project. There is no gateway to easily switch from one version to another. This requires new developments that can take 3 to 4 months and incur additional costs. New training will then have to be provided to all users to ensure that they are able to use the new version of the PIM, which creates additional costs.
A SaaS PIM, on the other hand, does not require internal maintenance.
How many third-party tools do you use today?
Are they SaaS or On-premise?
The choice of your PIM solution is part of your overall strategy for communication between your various tools.
SaaS solutions are positioned as a module that can be connected through API to other modules. The objective is to create a perfect and totally interconnected master solution. It is through this innate aspect that the PIM in SaaS offers the guarantee of scalability.
If your CMS, your translation solutions, your marketplaces and other E-Commerce platforms evolve, the connectivity of a PIM in SaaS offers extreme connectivity that fits perfectly into your ecosystem.
Methodology: 4 key steps before getting a PIM up and running
Step 1 - Contextualize the PIM and define its objectives
The key to making sure that a PIM can perfectly meet expectations is to know yourself inside and out. You, your company, the current difficulties that motivate you to implement this solution, your long-term ambitions...
This first discussion with the teams is in fact the analysis and the restitution of your own internal functioning.
It starts with an overview of the following topics:
- Possible limitations of your current Information System that would hinder the fluidity of data exchanges between different departments.
- Blocking points within the teams that work with product data on a daily basis and prevent them from being fully efficient.
- Business difficulties that delay the sale of your products on each of your channels.
- Risk matrices to display the different topics collected.
The drive to start a PIM reflection often comes from product information management hurdles faced by the company at a given time.
Beyond the resolution of these hurdles, defining medium and long term objectives is crucial in order to include the PIM in a strategic global vision.
This leads to a number of other questions:
- Are you starting an e-commerce business?
- Are you planning to invest in your first marketplace? To roll out X number of new ones in Y months/years?
- Are you on your way to internationalization?
- Do you want to integrate B2B or supplier relationships into your product data strategy?
The accurate description of your present and future organization will allow you to shape a PIM solution extremely focused on your business and your professions.
Step 2 - Define the players who will participate in the implementation of the PIM
As with any high added-value solution, you need a PIM expert. In your company, this person will have to play a transversal role to build links between the users coming from various departments(marketing, digital, IT, management...). They will also attend the various workshops dedicated to each business along with the representatives who will participate in the implementation phases.
On the PIM software vendor side, at Quable for example, the onboarding manager will ensure the entire support phase along with a technical expert of the solution. This step will also be an opportunity for you to meet your dedicated Customer Success Manager. They will ensure the success of the user experience at the heart of the PIM.
Step 3 - Establish the "Business Framework”
The "Business Framework" aims, first of all, to understand the way in which the data produced is structured and worked on within your company. The objective is to then model the desired organization to manage this data.
Finally, by knowing a little more about the internal actors and their specific roles, a process for coordinating and validating user actions within the PIM will be validated: this is the birth of your workflow.
A - Determine a Data-Model
The data model is the preliminary work that will allow you to build the PIM with a logic centered on your products and the way they should be enriched and then distributed. This data model is made of entities that define a framework for your data.
- Document: the assembly of attributes that create a type of product sheet. It is possible to have several types of documents when the attributes that make them up are different.
- Attributes: these are the fields that make up the product sheet and that collect information about your products.
- Media: each document has its own media (photo and/or video).
- Classification: "categorization" or "tree structure" is a view of all the documents that make up your product sheets, organized into folders and subfolders. It simplifies navigation within the data catalog.
Once you have grouped each type of data in your product catalog , you can further link the different data.
You can link documents together in the parent/child form:
- To create a certain look or a recipe according to your sector.
- To link a product to a brand.
- To link a product to a gift box.
- To link products together to form your cross and up-selling.
- To gather recipes, ingredients, stores, etc.
B - Mapping the data
Your entire product catalog is now identified and broken down into interrelated data. Now it's time to create!
Your data map will be the reference document to easily understand how your data is organized in the PIM.
It includes, among other things:
- PIM languages (list of languages used for each product category).
- Document types > Ex: "Skirt", "T-shirt", etc.
- The sets of fields. > Ex: "Skirt" document linked to "BrandName" document.
- The media (Sizes and formats, SEO alt, use-by date, rights of use).
C - Building a Workflow
After the data, the process! The best collaborative process identifies the roles of each person while keeping in mind the final objective of distribution on various sales channels.
Therefore, we need to:
- Determine the actions of each contributor within the PIM.
- Determine user roles/permissions.
- Create the product data circuit from its collection (ERP) to the PIM (enrichment) to its distribution (sales channels).
- Specify the conditions that allow the data to pass through each stage until it is distributed (completeness).
- Set up monitoring indicators on the dashboard.
Example of the delimitation of the roles and actions of each user on the PIM :
Example of a workflow showing the stages of submission of content products and their validation on the PIM:
For this workflow, a system of steps was designed and built by the teams to follow the enrichment process, while controlling the quality of the product data before its distribution.
"New product to be enriched": A product is considered to be “created” as soon as its "EAN" and "Code" have been filled in by the ERP. The product batch is then ready for enrichment (Media and Content, etc.).
"Price correctly entered": Applies only when the "Price" field is known.
"Awaiting Assortment": As long as the fields corresponding to the assortment are "empty", then the status "Pending Assortment" is active.
"Awaiting photo addition": If no media is associated with a product file.
"Awaiting validation": Requires action from the users in charge of validation.
"Approved product sheet": The file has been correctly validated.
"Awaiting translation": Requires action from the users in charge of validation.
"Translation validated": The translation has been correctly validated.
We now know:
- How to organize and prioritize all the data that revolves around your products.
- What the links and assemblies of data that help your business are. Who contributes to which stage of enrichment.
- How to interpret the way your company works with product data.
- Which fields and actions are needed to open the workflow valves one by one.
Step 4 - Move on to technical support
The machinery is ready, well thought out and adapted to your ambitions. Now you have to feed it and get all this data flowing.
The goal: to open the floodgates to sales and various sales channels.
A - Incoming flows
The incoming flows will allow you to feed your PIM with raw data in order to enrich them later via the solution.
The first source of data will be the tool that receives the first information about a newly created product.
For textual data, in most cases, it is the ERP that provides an average of 10% to 30% (a reference, a label, a few brief descriptions) of the content of the product sheet. The objective of the PIM is then to facilitate the work of the remaining 70%.
These parameters for triggering the flow must be determined:
- Trigger frequency (e.g. once a day at 2am).
- Protocol: FTP, SFTP, API.
- File format: .csv, .xml, .png, .jpg.
For media, the collection source varies more. Photo studio solutions, ERP, flat files... a second flow specialized in media generally feeds the PIM, which then associates it with the right product sheets thanks to the common product reference.
B - Outgoing flows
The product data comes in, but now it's a matter of determining its exports.
These exciting flows are usually oriented towards the sales channels, but not exclusively.
With the PIM, your product data will be perfectly enriched and it is useful to feed the updates into the various tools of your information system: update the product data in the ERP, the MDM or your inventory/supply tools.
Finally, the outgoing flows that constitute your product sheet distribution channels will also be studied:
- E-commerce website flow.
- Marketplaces flows.
- Print publishing flow (catalogue, leaflets, etc.).
- Extranet/Product portal flow.
- Flow of physical shop media (tablets, digital terminals).
C - Flow mapping
All flows are identified and confirmed. It is time to map out this future organization by mapping the different stages: collection, exchange and transmission of product data.
To learn more, read our ebook IT & CIO: 4 steps to frame and implement your PIM.
Tous les contenus utiles sur le PIM :
👉 Case studies, white papers and webinars
Access the latest ebooks, white papers and webinar replays on Product Information Management (PIM). View resources
👉 FAQ on PIM
Find the frequently asked questions about the world of Product Information Management (PIM & DAM) and the Quable solution. See the FAQ
👉 Quiz: assess your PIM maturity and compatibility (in 3 min time)
A quick and efficient way to evaluate your PIM / DAM maturity. And find out if you are ready to purchase a tool. Challenge your organization, identify your areas for improvement and receive recommendations based on your score.Take the Quiz
👉 The PIM France community on LinkedIn
It's the ideal place to discover the world of PIM / DAM, exchange with experts and discover the latest e-commerce trends or omnichannel strategies. Find a community on the private group PIM France on LinkedIn. Join the PIM France group
👉 PIM France's Medium publication
Find all the information, news, use cases and interviews with experts in product experience (PIM, DAM, PXM), omnichannel and e-commerce [articles in French and English]. Follow the PIM France publication on Medium
👉 Live demos and webinars on PIM
How to move to "Zero Excel" catalog management. In 30 minutes, discover :
- Why equip yourself with a PIM/DAM solution?
- The main use cases and quantified benefits of PIM,
- A live demo of PIM
To go further...
A multi-channel strategy is needed for Black Friday
How to build the product repository that accelerates your sales?
Why implement a PIM before an eCommerce or IS redesign?