Product Information Management (PIM):
complete guide 2024
First of all, what is a PIM (definition)?
PIM or Product Information Management is a solution (in the form of on-premise or SaaS software) dedicated to the management, enrichment and distribution of product information.
The product information managed by the PIM software includes all the textual data that makes up a product sheet: marketing descriptions, storytelling, technical information, labeling, recipes, ingredients, packaging, cross- and up-selling, and so on.
As soon as a product is created in the company's IS (generally from the ERP), the PIM software collects the first raw information, then alerts the marketing and product teams. The work of enriching the new product's information can then begin. When the quality of the product content reaches a required level, it is automatically distributed to all sales channels and adapted to the constraints of each.
To streamline organization and speed up product data entry, the product information manager relies on a collaborative methodology to facilitate team tasks, regardless of the number of products or the size of the company.
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 of acronym bricks that collect, enrich, analyze and/or transmit all types of data to the different business lines of the company. The software PIM (Product Information Manager) is one of these bricks. And if the following tools are more or less known, 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 choose 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...
Brands use Product Information Management to improve their Product Experience across all channels. To resolve the small anomalies mentioned above? Yes, but for so many other reasons, which we'll explain 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. Politely put, but feedback from product teams is sometimes highly critical in this respect. And from a business point of view, it's a risk: ending a day 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 description to avoid duplication.
- 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 as part 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 few miles are often the longest, and product information management is the gas pedal that enables us to anticipate future tasks. Regardless of the number of new references, new ranges or the frequency of product turnover, the PIM solutionis the foundation designed to absorb these quantities and orchestrate team tasks 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 are now handled by the Product Information Management tool. It is divided into as many sections as there are languages. It is then distributed 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 tool such as Textmaster :
- 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.
Expert or agency will log in 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 to recommend new keyword placements without distorting the content designed by product marketing.
Of course, this process is adaptable, offering the possibility of fine-tuning these rights to suit Product Information Management. The product sheet is divided into as many sections as there are languages. It is then distributed to 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 equipping yourself with two tools): textual elements in a PIM and media in a DAM (Digital Asset Manager).
- Combined: by opting for a solution that centralizes PIM and DAM features.
However, the product sheet consulted by customers is still made up of a combination of these two types of data (media and content). When it comes to consistency, centralizing them on a single platform is the best way to improve quality and control. Linked to the same product content, the content and media that will feed the sales channels will be automatically connected, with no risk of time lag.
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 Product Information Management has become essential within companies, it's because of its role as a facilitator and catalyst for productivity. For example, when a product photograph is imported into the platform, it can be automatically resized, and variations of different sizes and formats generated, which can then be dynamically linked to each sales channel.
To preserve the ownership of the photographs, PIM can also automatically apply a watermarking on each one in order to avoid the round-trips without added value with the graphic teams.
Combine features and photographs to better showcase products
Associating the best product features with a dedicated illustration is part of the best UX practices applied to e-commerce and improves the conversion rate. Internet users are more likely to project themselves when photographs are annotated with the possibilities offered, point by point. Yet 78% of sites have not yet implemented this strategy.
In Product Information Management, marketing descriptions - within which product functionalities are presented - and media are combined (through the DAM brick).
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 any working day, whatever the department in which we work. In fact, studies carried out by a number of firms agree that research time accounts for 20% of a working day, or 1 day a week.
Marketing teams are no exception. Thousands of pieces of product data are often passed from hand to hand, regularly renewed and constantly reworked. In this situation, searching for files doesn't reflect a lack of personal organization; it's a symptom of a need for structuring.
It is this structuring that PIM brings to the teams who process and search these files on a daily basis. With its intelligent search module, it becomes the hub for all data, and a reliable reference point for information seekers. Since all data can be filtered, even the most granular searches are 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 the number of references that become denser over time, it is sometimes difficult :
- Monitor the progress of team enrichment missions.
- Prioritize every day which information should be enriched first from the amount of information left.
To solve this problem, we use the Product Information Management dashboard to "take the head off the handlebars". Customizable, it is built from widgets based on strategically selected 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... a gauge ranks the % of product file enrichment. In an instant, the effort required to achieve perfect product content is known.
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 repository. By creating customized indicators based on your business' recurring needs, PIM can become a genuine 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 range is launched, one season follows another, or peaks in activity follow one another, it's important to anticipate the new products to be enriched and the time required to do so, and to plan for this with 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", ensuring that each link in the chain communicates right through to product distribution. After an upstream definition stage, a customized process is implemented at PIM to reflect the company's ideal methodology for collecting, enriching and finally distributing 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 there is room for improvement, the form can be returned for revision. The teams are alerted and work on areas for improvement. The form is then sent back for validation.
If satisfactory, a validation is performed.
- 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, it 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
Articulating and converging the missions of remote teams is a real challenge. That's why collaborative tools are becoming increasingly popular in the digitally transformed enterprise. They improve productivity, centralize information and foster creativity simply by speeding up communication.
While PIM is a tool centered around product data, it is also a solution for communication between those working on it. Contributors can be grouped into "teams" on PIM and send collective messages to mailing lists to warn of the imminent release of a new collection or 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 ever-higher data quality to enhance the product experience often involves numerous "re-runs" to rework the information. Product Information Management's contribution workflow enables you to control and accelerate the sequence of steps, and track the successive contributions of each individual.
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 creations. The photographer has taken numerous packshots and photographs, which now need to be linked to the right products. While this may sound like child's play, it's more complex, time-consuming and error-prone.
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 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 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.
One practical point remains to be raised: what if each brand uses different tools? Different ERPs, different e-commerce platforms, different languages for translating your product content.
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, complicated interfaces, gray and blue "do it yourself" software, Excel 95 graphics adapted to your everyday tools... A dull vision of a gloomy day.
Choosing Product Information Management for its ability to improve processes is one thing, but it's also essential to choose a tool PIM that makes 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 pages together (cross- and up-selling, collections, looks, related universes, 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.
- Connect your PIM Quable to your Shopify stores in just one click, with no development, no maintenance and at low cost. Speed up the distribution of your product sheets, sell worldwide and boost your sales.
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 dynamically generated product catalogue 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 every week, for example, to be sure of being up to date.
- 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.
Product Information Management is the perfect tool for communicating with these players. There are several ways of transmitting 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.
This facilitates the tasks of field trainers and purchasing teams. Supported by these aids, they can ensure that the sales pitch is consistent. What's more, Make enables you to easily integrate and automate a wide range of tasks in all areas (marketing, CRM, sales, IT...). Connect your PIM Quable to over 1,000 applications in your ecosystem, automate your tasks and save yourself time.
Provide partners and distributors with a virtual interactive catalog
Knowing how to present a product according to the rules of the art for the audience you are addressing is the sinews of war. And this is not always an easy exercise for a brand's partners and distributors, who sometimes have a different audience in front of them than the brand's end customers (B2B vs. B2C for example).
No problem, PIM lets you integrate different product descriptions or sales pitches. And to ensure that everyone can find their way around, some PIM sites can generate a dedicated space for partners and distributors.
A product portal plays this role. It's a secure mini-site that draws the product data that will benefit the partner relationship from the heart of PIM , and gives partners a real-time view of the different products. In the hands of sales staff, purchasing teams or partners, the product portal is also accessible on tablet and mobile devices, facilitating the transmission of information in the field. Product data sheets and photographs can be downloaded from this tool, saving precious time in the animation 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 PIM already centralizes the products and each contributor handles a single file, 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, every modification made and validated by Product Information Management automatically updates their equivalents on each of the marketplaces invested in.
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 at a time when marketing is reinventing itself daily, Product Information Management and its unified product catalog are reliable allies on which to build tomorrow's sales operations and media...
For more information on the benefits of Product Information Management (PIM) in a multi-channel sales strategy, see our guide :
SaaS vs. On-premise: which PIM solution to 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 advent of the Cloud has changed the way we think about IT infrastructure within a company. IT solutions now interoperate with each other. They respond to complementary needs and form genuine, tailor-made "business suites". Business uses have evolved in parallel. Today, we no longer consume only "software", we also visit applications or software accessible from a simple web page.
We're talking about portability, and we're increasingly consulting these tools from home or on the move.
However, this development raises its own set of questions, particularly when it comes to implementing Product Information Management.
SaaS, Private or Public Cloud, On-premise, Hybrid... The terms multiply, differ... Not so easy to see clearly...
Choosing a PIM involves asking yourself a number of questions, even before tackling the functional aspects. Each publisher specializes in a particular infrastructure, and to successfully implement PIM , you need to choose the type of tool best suited to your ambitions.
First of all, let's go over a few brief definitions:
Cloud or Cloud Computing is the technology used to host data storage or software remotely. Access is via an Internet connection, rather than a local server or computer hard drive.
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 sets out the questions to ask yourself before contacting a Product Information Management editor.
The checklist of the PIM
- 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.
Find out more in our guide SaaS or On-premise: which PIM to choose ?
Implementation and timing of the PIM
Scoping a Product Information Management solution
The implementation of a Product Information Management tool begins with a scoping phase, the aim of which is to list the needs of internal users and adapt the solution to the process, whether it's hosted 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 PIM solution in Saas with your Active Dirctory 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.
An on-premise Product Information Management solution, on the other hand, calls on the technical expertise of your IT teams, who will be responsible for maintaining, upgrading and configuring the solution... And all this will have to be considered in the context of your 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 Product Information Management solution hosted in the Cloud will, by extension, see its data stored on servers external to the company. The SaaS service provider then becomes responsible for the customer's product data, and must provide the required guarantees as to its correct 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.
That's why it's best to choose a PIM solution that can be upgraded over time, and to pay particular attention to the frequency with which the platform is updated.
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 pairing offers opportunities for innovation. A PIM solution on the Internet enables tracking of user paths to improve their experience. This technology is also particularly effective for collecting testimonials and helping to improve Product Information Management.
New features and patches are reported instantly and a roadmap of product updates is built on the fly. At Quable, for example, our monitoring of usage and our close ties with our partners allow for a monthly update of PIM.
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 platforms are positioned as bricks that can be connected by API to other bricks. The aim is to create an ideal, fully interconnected master solution. It is through this native aspect that PIM in SaaS also 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 solution 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, with a better understanding of the internal players and their specific roles, a process for coordinating and validating user actions within 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 content, organized into folders and subfolders. It simplifies navigation within the data catalog.
Once each type of data has been grouped by entity, you can take the links between your different data a step further.
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 milestones has been built and designed with the teams to monitor the progress of enrichment while controlling the quality of the data produced before 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.
"Validated product sheet": It 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 this is Enterprise Resource Planning, which provides an average of 10% to 30% (a reference, a label, a few brief descriptions) of the content of the product sheet. The aim of PIM is to facilitate the remaining 70% of the tasks.
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 widely. Photo studio solutions, ERP, flat files... a second dedicated feed generally feeds PIM , which then associates the media 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 Manager: 4 steps to frame and implement your PIM.
All useful content on 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
👉 The Medium publication of PIM France
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 publication PIM France on Medium
👉 Live demos and webinars on the 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
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?