Product Information Management
Product information is the backbone of e-commerce and digital customer experiences. Every product sold online needs enough information to give buyers confidence in their purchase without ever seeing or touching the physical item. That information includes everything from product descriptions and tech specs to product videos and 360º photography.
To make this information easily accessible, it needs to be stored and managed in a central source from which teams — especially global teams — can collaborate. Product details need to be accurate, usable, and support the growing need to sell more products across more platforms, which makes product information management (PIM) one of the biggest challenges for online retailers today. It’s why the PIM solution market is projected to grow to $16 billion by 2025 (up from $9 billion in 2020).
Here’s a deep dive into what PIM is, who needs it most, and the benefits you can get from investing in a PIM system.
What is PIM?
Product information management (PIM) is the process of collecting, managing, and distributing all of the needed information about a product from a central location. PIM software aims to protect and improve the quality of product information that’s available to internal and external collaborators, systems, and partners.
Before digital commerce, shoppers could only learn about products in catalogs, magazines, or infomercials, as well as hands-on in shops. But today, shoppers judge products based on specs, descriptions, images, videos, and digital and social media ads that compete for our attention online.
Many brands manage product information by using spreadsheets or platforms made for engineers and product managers. However, these often don’t play nice with marketing systems. So, someone is stuck with the time-consuming — and error-prone — task of entering and reentering thousands of lines of information into tools for project management, digital asset management (DAM), and e-commerce syndication.
This tedious work increases the risk of inaccurate information reaching customers. If the description or photos show one thing and customers receive something else, they aren’t going to be happy. (Cue the one-star reviews.)
This is why many teams turn to a PIM solution. PIM often begins with your merchandising, buying, or procurement team when they’re ordering new SKUs and entering them into the system. The product information needs to be gathered, organized, and made into product profiles that can be accessed, updated, and used by everyone who plays a part in the product life cycle.
Brands use a PIM platform to:
- Aggregate technical information from engineering and product platforms
- Plan marketing content based on complete product information and specs
- Assign content projects to copywriters and other creators
- Route proofs to marketers and product managers for review and approval
- Enrich product information with search-optimized descriptions, photos, and videos
- Localize product listings for different regions, regulations, and languages
- Transmit product listings for digital and print catalogs and to e-commerce syndication platforms and publishers.
- Update e-commerce listings as products evolve
How does PIM work?
A PIM solution or tool works by streamlining internal processes so organizations can deliver consistent, accurate, and high-quality product information to their customers. As a result, brands fuel stronger customer and omnichannel experiences that ultimately drive more revenue.
PIM tools helps teams:
Collect data. Organize every piece of information associated with a product that lives in one master profile within the system.
Import data. Protect your reputation and keep data consistent by allowing designated users or a system admin to import product data from outside systems or sources into the PIM platform.
Enrich data. Accelerate time to market by allowing users to enrich product data with marketing copy or digital assets and collaborate on product workflows.
Connect data. Provide e-commerce partners, print publishers, websites, and other channels with updated exports containing the most recent product information.
PIM software uses taxonomies or logic that defines how products and associated information are related and organized within the system. Taxonomies use multilevel hierarchies that group products and the attributes used to describe them into various categories and subcategories. The result is structured product information that allows system users to efficiently and effectively find and update information in the PIM system and easily customize channel-specific exports for various publishers and syndication platforms. Taxonomies are often defined in systems outside of the PIM platform but are used within it.
Who needs a PIM solution?
Products are a big part of business for many organizations. If they sell, it’s good for everyone in the company. A PIM solution benefits the entire organization by helping individuals in a wide range of roles improve their day-to-day work in different ways — all of which come together to boost companywide revenue. We review below a handful of the roles and organizations that benefit from a PIM solution.
Product managers use a PIM solution to deliver accurate product information to the marketing team. If product specs change at any time throughout a product’s lifecycle, the product manager can update data in the PIM tool, triggering an automated alert for collaborators.
Successful product management hinges on accurate product information but also flexibility. As customer needs change, so do products. A PIM solution gives product managers the control and agility they need to manage and communicate up-to-date, accurate product information — no matter when or how it evolves.
Product marketers use the PIM system as a central source of truth for product information. They request and assign copywriting, photography, and videography for new products using a combined PIM and DAM solution. With product positioning and strategy in mind, product marketers attach the best copy and digital assets to the master product listing within a PIM system.
Product marketers work hard to develop a product narrative that resonates with target customers, and a PIM (plus DAM) solution helps safeguard that story.
Copywriters, photographers, videographers, designers, and other creators use the information stored in a PIM system to guide their projects. A PIM solution gives creators on-demand access to the information they need to create accurate, strategic deliverables. Their work is then reviewed and proofed in a solution like our combined DAM and PIM tool, Acquia DAM (Widen), for faster, more efficient workflows.
E-commerce managers send product listings from a PIM system to e-commerce syndication platforms and publishers. If product data or content is updated in a PIM system, an alert is triggered for the e-commerce manager to distribute the new information.
PIM for e-commerce is quickly becoming a necessity. With e-commerce managers working harder than ever to deliver superior customer experiences, 100% consistent, reliable, and complete product information is a must.
Agencies use PIM software to access and enrich their client’s product information for syndication to marketplaces, print publishers, and other e-commerce channels.
Within the PIM system, agencies optimize product descriptions, feature lists, and other marketing content. If using a combined DAM and PIM solution, they associate digital assets with product information. Then, instead of manually creating and maintaining individual spreadsheets for each and every syndication channel, they configure exports in the system that contain the unique product information required by each channel.
Information managed in a PIM system
Product attributes is a term that refers to all of the different information types that organizations manage in a PIM system to help them support, market, and sell their goods online. Product attributes include everything from data to marketing descriptions, photos, videos, and any other information that describes and supports an organization’s product catalog. The tough part? Product attributes rarely originate from a single department, source, or software.
A PIM system aggregates the dispersed information and gives organizations a single view from which to manage it. Here are a few examples of the information organizations can manage from within a PIM system.
Product data is the raw, objective information that organizations use to describe their products. Product data is typically managed and defined by engineering and product teams within their systems [e.g., enterprise resource planning (ERP) and product lifecycle management (PLM) tools] and are then synced with the PIM platform. Product data includes essential information like SKUs, weight, sizes, colors, materials, ingredients, and other product specs.
Digital assets are information that’s packaged in a digital format. Examples of digital assets include videos, photography, 360° images, illustrations, logos, and content such as user manuals, product guides, sell sheets, and more. Marketers can import or attach product-related digital assets to product profiles in a PIM system and use them in combination with information types to support customers and better market and describe their offering.
Marketing content includes descriptions of product features and benefits typically used on a product details page, as well as other sales-driven highlights and copy. While this content often uses objective facts, it might also include subjective messaging to convey the product's value and to move a customer to make a purchase.
Marketing data is information that helps organizations launch, optimize, and run their marketing programs with success. Common examples of marketing data include search engine optimization (SEO) keywords, personas, and brand guidelines. This marketing data informs smarter copy and asset creation. Data like SEO keywords also provide publishers with the information needed to fuel higher search engine rankings, stronger on-site results, and more accurate and consistent keyword use across channels.
Localized and regionalized information
Localized and regionalized information includes product attributes specific to a market or geographic location. This information includes language variations for marketing or legal copy, currency and measurement translations, images that cater to cultural norms, and more. Localized and regionalized information helps marketers meet the unique needs of existing markets while making it faster and easier to expand to new locations.
Benefits of PIM software
Product information and customer experience are closely intertwined. If brands fail to deliver accurate, robust, and connection-worthy product information across each and every channel, customer experience is impacted — and not in a good way. PIM software gives brands the behind-the-scenes efficiency and support they need to deliver winning, omnichannel customer experiences.
PIM software allows organizations to:
- Launch products faster by eliminating manual handoffs, redundant data entry, and wild goose chases for missing product photos, approved copy, and more.
- Protect their brand by ensuring that accurate specs and content reach e-commerce sites. Teams can double-check everything in the PIM solution to ensure it’s correct.
- Enter data once and never re-enter it again. A PIM tool ingests and manages product data from ERP and pPLM systems and transmits it to e-commerce syndication platforms, publishers, and print partners.
- Eliminate email chains that usually come with content requests and proofing workflows. Store, review, approve, and access everything in the PIM software.
- Speed up approvals by using automated notifications to tag product managers, product marketers, legal representatives, and others who need to sign off before listings go live.
- Win over shoppers and outcompete rivals with better product listings. When brands are managing one central product listing instead of dozens, their teams can invest more time fine-tuning copy and images.
Differentiating various e-commerce solutions
With almost 10,000 marketing technologies on the market and a seemingly equal number of acronyms to identify them, it’s no wonder marketers are often confused about which acronyms (i.e., solutions) do what. We’ve talked a lot about what PIM tools are and how they help e-commerce brands. But what about DAM, marketing resource management (MRM), and master data management (MDM)? How do all these solutions differ from a PIM solution?
A PIM solution is a specialized subset of MDM. A PIM solution is 100% concentrated on the management of product information that’s most often used for marketing and merchandising purposes. When integrated with a DAM solution (which some organizations also use as their MRM solution), a PIM system allows users to attach product digital assets like videos, images, and documentation to a product’s profile within the PIM system.
Unlike a PIM system, a DAM solution doesn’t deal with raw product data or marketing descriptions and other copy. It is dedicated to digital asset management. This means organizations use it to store, manage, and distribute assets like videos, images, photos, audio clips, and brand or product content that can also be housed in an MRM tool (e.g., product manuals and brand guidelines). Often, a DAM system serves as the central hub that powers all of the other marketing systems and teams within an organization, including a PIM platform.
A PIM solution addresses products, while an MRM solution addresses people and processes. An MRM solution centralizes project-related content, information, and processes so that everyone involved in a campaign or project (such as a product launch) has the resources they need to succeed. An MRM system can help organizations centralize digital assets, but it’s typically only used for project-related assets (not an entire digital asset library). As mentioned earlier, a DAM system can also serve as an MRM substitute for organizations.
An MDM solution is a centralized system that’s used to manage a wider variety and scope of company information than a PIM system. An MDM solution deals with product information, but it also aggregates much more — including information about customers, suppliers, financials, assets, and markets. Organizations use MDM systems to aggregate all of the information they deem business-critical in one system that anyone within the organization can access.
When to invest in a PIM
If you want customers to feel more confident buying your products on any channel, a PIM solution could be just what you need. When customers have enough high quality product information to replace the experience of examining a product in store, your brand can increase sales, build brand loyalty, and sell on more channels. PIM systems help to launch products more quickly, automate steps in content creation and syndication, and prep your products for omnichannel distribution.
With the PIM market on the rise, PIM systems already top many e-commerce retailers’ wish lists. If they’re on the top of yours or you’re interested in learning more about Acquia’s combined DAM and PIM solution, request, watch, or click through a demo today.
Omnichannel E-commerce: What You Need to Succeed
How DAM and PIM Streamline E-commerce
The Most Common Content Challenges of E-commerce
8 Essential E-commerce Tools for Growing Your Business
Here’s the Most Important Product Content to Your Customers
PIM vs. PLM: What's the Difference?
Understanding Product Experience Management (PXM)
Omnichannel vs. Multichannel: What’s the Difference?
Note: This article was originally published on Widen.com.