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What Is Product Information Management (PIM)?

Here's how product information management (PIM) helps e-commerce brands sell more products on more channels and build better customer experiences.

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 product information management?

Product information management (PIM) is a combination of the practices and technology involved in storing, curating, and publishing all product information from a single location. PIM software makes this possible by providing a central source of truth for all product information to be accessed by internal and external systems, users, and teams worldwide.

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.

What types of product information need to be managed? 

Organizing products in a PIM system starts with product attributes. They include everything from product data to product copy, tech specs, images, videos, and any asset used to support, market, and sell a product online. All this information is normally spread across different departments, data sources, and software. A PIM system brings it all together in a central source that can be used to manage product listings across channels. 

With some configuration, you can update product information in your PIM software and have the changes cascade across product listings from your website to Amazon. Here are kinds of data included in a PIM system: 

  • Product data. This category includes SKUs, weights, sizes, catalog assignments, colors, ingredients, materials, and other foundational data. It’s typically managed by the engineering and product teams within ERP and PLM tools, then synced with a PIM system. 
  • Digital assets. Digital assets are product information like videos, photography, 360° images, illustrations, logos, and content such as user manuals, sizing charts, sell sheets, and more. Teams can import product-related digital assets to product profiles in a PIM system and combine digital assets with other information to create higher converting customer experiences. 
  • Marketing content. Marketing content includes everything from the description on a product detail page to sell-sheets with features and benefits. It’s a combination of objective facts with brand-driven messaging to inspire consumers on their purchasing journey. 
  • Marketing data. Marketing data includes search engine optimization (SEO) keywords, personas, and brand guidelines. SEO keywords provide publishers with the intelligence they need to fuel higher search engine rankings, increase on-site results, and build more consistent keyword use across channels. 
  • Localized and regionalized information. Some products have attributes specific to a market or geographic location that sets them apart. This includes language variations for marketing or legal copy, currency and measurement translations, images that cater to cultural norms, and more.
     

Who needs PIM?

Product information is entered, updated, and used by many roles and departments (and APIs) across every organization. When there are that many points of contact, it’s vital that every product has a profile of accurate, up-to-date, and usable information. A PIM system manages product profiles for every item in your catalog, making it possible to store, update, and publish all your product information from a central source of truth. 

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Product information management (PIM) tools workflow graphic
A PIM platform connects information and data found in systems, such as product lifecycle management (PLM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools, to the digital assets and marketing copy that populates customer-facing channels.

PIM systems give all teams, individuals, and automated processes constant global access to accurate product information for selling and marketing every item in your catalog. It also makes it easier to build and fulfill customer experiences online. Here are the roles that are most likely to use a PIM system every day.

Product managers

Product managers use PIM solutions to collaborate with other teams — especially marketing — to maintain accurate product information. Whenever specs change in a product life cycle, the product manager can change data in the PIM tool and send automated alerts and updates to collaborators.

Accurate product information and flexibility are both critical components of successful product management. Customer needs and products change all the time, and product managers need to keep up. PIM systems give them the control and agility needed to constantly deliver up-to-date, accurate product information no matter when or how it evolves.

Product marketers

Product marketers rely on PIM systems as a central source of product information. By combining a PIM platform with a digital asset management (DAM) solution, product marketers can request and assign copywriting, photography, and videography for new products from within a centralized tool. Once digital assets are complete and in the DAM system, product marketers can assign the appropriate assets to the master product listing in the PIM solution. 

PIM systems give product marketers the tools they need to tell a consistent product narrative across all channels. When PIM and DAM solutions are combined, product marketers can control how their ideal audience views a product story down to which images to display on a product detail page. 

Creators

Everyone on creative teams work closely with products and need accurate product information at every step. Copywriters, photographers, videographers, designers, and others can streamline their everyday workflows with a PIM system. Product information, like marketing copy, can be entered and created in the PIM solution. And it gives all creators on-demand access to the most accurate product information available wherever it may be in the workflow. Additionally, when combined with a DAM platform, teams can access assets from a centralized system, ensuring one source of truth for content. 

E-commerce managers

E-commerce managers need up-to-date product listings to send to syndication platforms, publishers, and marketplaces like Amazon. When product data or content changes in the PIM system, e-commerce managers receive an alert to distribute the new information. And with the right setup, the changes can be deployed automatically.

PIM for e-commerce is quickly becoming a necessity. E-commerce managers need 100% consistent, reliable, and complete product information to deliver superior customer experiences.

Agencies

PIM software helps agencies access and enrich their clients’ product information. With PIM technology, agency partners can syndicate product information to marketplaces, print publishers, and other e-commerce channels. 

With access to product information, agencies can optimize product descriptions, feature lists, and other marketing content. If they’re using a combined DAM and PIM solution, they can associate digital assets with product listings and configure exports in the system that contain the unique product information required by each channel. 

Benefits of product information management

Benefits from a PIM system reach many departments and range from syncing product listings across all channels to launching products more quickly. Product, marketing, e-commerce, and creative teams all benefit from eliminating the use of spreadsheets, searching through emails for the right files, and creating higher quality product listings.

PIM software allows organizations to: 

  • Launch products faster by eliminating manual hand offs, redundant data entry, and wild goose chases for missing product photos, approved copy, and more. Accelerate speed to market by managing product hierarchies, variants, attributes, assets, and more in one system.
     
  • Protect their brand by ensuring that accurate specs and content reach e-commerce sites. Enhance your product listing accuracy to reduce negative reviews and returns and to build compelling marketing stories.
     
  • Enter data once and never reenter it again. A PIM tool ingests and manages product data from enterprise resource planning (ERP) and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems and transmits it to e-commerce syndication platforms, publishers, and print partners.
     
  • 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.
     
  • Automate manual steps. Minimize simple but time-consuming tasks required to get your product content from creation to customers, on and offline.
     
  • Prep for omnichannel distribution. Organize product content for centralized syndication across websites, digital and print catalogs, and thousands of e-commerce channels.
     

What PIM is not 

MDM, PXM, DAM, PIM . . . there are 8,000+ marketing technologies on the market, making it hard to know which acronym (i.e., solution) does what, especially when software stacks together and shares overlapping functions and benefits. We’ve talked a lot about what PIM systems do, but it can be hard to tell the difference between PIM and other systems that handle product information. Here’s a look at a few solutions that are often confused with PIM software. 

PDM

Product data management (PDM) is the process of organizing design data and engineering information for a product in one location. PDM software is designed for engineers managing complex product information and provides a way to get that information to downstream channels. 

An effective PDM system contains all relevant product data and process specifications for manufacturing, so users across engineering teams can easily access them. PDM software also lets users manage orders, track changes and revisions, generate bills of materials (BOMs), and more. This system is beneficial for marketers because it includes information they need, but it can be inefficient because it typically requires them to access this data via spreadsheets. It can also prohibit them from directly adding product descriptions, digital assets, or feature lists. 

MDM

A master data management or MDM solution is a centralized system that manages a wider variety and scope of company information than a PIM system. MDM software works with product information but aggregates 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. However, it won’t necessarily optimize listings, so your inventory may not be found and sold online or in print catalogs as easily.

PXM

Product experience management (PXM) software helps you sync the customer journey with product information and digital content across all channels. It’s essentially a combination of technologies that have PIM and DAM solutions at its foundation. PXM software is more focused on journey optimization than PIM details, however. By combining DAM and PIM with other key tools, you have an ideal evolution for building exceptional customer experiences. 

Product information management capabilities

Now that you know what PIM is and isn’t, it’s good to understand more about how PIM tools help assemble product content with agility and ease across digital channels and experiences. 

Here’s a short overview of the most common PIM system capabilities:

  • Centralize product content. Bring together audio, images, marketing copy, videos, product data, PDFs, and other documents in one place.
     
  • Enrich product listings for e-commerce. Import product specifications from an upstream ERP, PLM, or MDM system. Verify data completeness, associate assets with products, syndicate data to e-commerce platforms, and more.
     
  • Organize content to increase use. Categorize content, organize it with metadata, and inform faceted, predictive, and keyword searches.
     
  • Access relevant content. Use branded log-in pages, dashboard messages, and time-based access to manage who can access content.
     
  • Distribute product content across channels. Use share links, embed codes, and portals to share content. Maintain one master asset and update online versions everywhere to create once, publish everywhere (COPE).
     
  • Automate content-related workflows. Perform image and video conversions on the fly. Use auto-updating portals and multi-stage workflows to set up repeatable processes.
     
  • Administer using granular controls. Define roles, asset groups, and read-only data to protect product information.
     

With these PIM capabilities at your fingertips, your organization can sell more products across more online locations, streamline content workflows, launch products more quickly, and power omnichannel customer experiences. 

Product information management FAQs

Now that you know more about how PIM software works, who uses it, and what capabilities it provides, you might have a few questions, such as “How soon can I get a PIM system?” Here are three of the most commonly asked questions about PIM.

How does a PIM work?

A PIM solution or tool works by streamlining internal processes so that organizations can deliver consistent, accurate, and high quality product information to customers. With a PIM tool, every piece of information associated with a product lives in one master profile within the system. Designated users or a system admin can import product data from outside systems or sources into the PIM platform. 

The PIM tool also allows users to enrich product data with marketing copy or digital assets, notify collaborators to take action, and provide e-commerce partners, print publishers, websites, and other channels with updated exports containing the most recent product information.

How do we choose the right PIM solution?

Like any other software decision, there’s no exact formula for this choice, but you can start by pulling up your roadmap. What are you trying to solve for across your organization? Do you want to sell more products across more channels? Increase product listing quality? Improve your content workflow efficiency? 

With a clear vision of what challenges you want to overcome, you can start to compare PIM solutions based on how they integrate with your existing marketing technology (martech) stack and how much they add to your costs (or how much they save you money and time). 

Why should we invest in product information management?

You should invest in a PIM system if you want customers to feel more confident buying your products on any channel. When they have enough high quality product information to replace the experience of examining it 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 PIM solution, request a demo today.