1. Why Product Information Management is important
Have you ever searched for a product online only to receive meager results and thought, “I know there are more people selling this stuff, why can’t I find it?” Or maybe you got frustrated browsing a site because you had to scroll through pages and pages of unorganized products. The source of both of these common problems could be a lack of adequate product information management.
Managing products is a key component to the success of selling online.
- You need to get products to market quickly and with complete and accurate detail.
- Product data must be searchable so search engines can find them.
- You must offer and maintain a large product assortment.
- Items must be organized into collections to make shopping easier for the buyer.
- Updating product data should not break the bank or take so long that it’s prohibitive.
The thought of doing this is probably already giving you a headache! As an eCommerce seller, you may have already experienced limitations with your eCommerce shopping cart, not to mention the hours spent manually preparing data for your online store and eBay and Amazon listings. Many eCommerce shopping carts are not designed to support the demands of a digital assortment without limits. They simply do not have the tools to effectively import, consolidate or manage the volume and complexity of attribute data that comes along with large product catalogs. That’s why you need Product Information Management capabilities.
2. What is a Product Information Management platform?
Product Information Management, or PIM, is the process of centrally managing product information, specifically attribute data, to effectively market and sell through online and offline sales channels. When you significantly grow your product assortment, you exponentially increase the amount of associated attribute data, and the challenge grows with optimizing and managing all that data both internally and externally.
According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Master Data Management of Product Data Solutions,
“Businesses of all sizes and in many industries struggle to maintain a consistent, shareable and accurate single version of product or service data across their organizations. The ability to achieve and maintain a single, semantically consistent version of product master data is crucial for any customer-centric organization.”
To that end, PIM solutions help sellers collect, store, format, organize, manage, enhance and share their product data.
PIM solutions come in many shapes and sizes. Enterprise-level software packages are available by license. These packages include a broad set of capabilities that include data modeling, data quality, governance and security features. Open source systems also exist to allow ultimate flexibility in design. More recently, multichannel management platforms have added PIM to their feature sets to simplify the complex process of managing product data across multiple sales channels. This is the area we are going to focus on so you can learn how to use PIM to maximize your online profits.
3. What PIM Capabilities to look for in a multichannel environment
Cloud-based – A cloud-based PIM enables anyone in your organization to access, view, manage, and merchandize your products from a single source anytime, anywhere. The subscription model will allow you to gain control over your product information without a large upfront cost and pace your spend to match your growth. Some cloud providers have load limits, access limitations or charge by volume so be aware of those pitfalls that may creep up as you grow.
Integration – Collecting your product data from various sources is one of the main challenges in implementing a PIM solution. PIM solutions vary widely in how well they integrate with third-party systems such as ERP software, accounting systems, point-of-sale systems, eCommerce packages or even Excel spreadsheets. Custom integrations require long implementations, major investments and are difficult to maintain. Choose a package that has pre-built connectors to your systems or can build them using APIs that support multiple transaction types.
Data normalization – Look for technology that gathers product codes, descriptions and image data from various spreadsheets, ERP or POS system, or separate files and intelligently maps the data into a virtual product catalog creating one place to view everything across your sales channels in a normalized format. Intelligent data mapping also memorizes catalog structures and maps eliminating manual intervention with subsequent supplier catalog imports. The software should be handle situations such as the following:
- Automatically match attribute sets and multidimensional or “matrix” items from source files to create commonly used data fields
- Effortlessly create table lookups to transform codes like “GRN” to “GREEN” or “SIZEXS” to “Extra Small”
- Link separate fields to build meaningful descriptions- turn “26 in”,“WOMEN”, and “Tennis Racquet” into “26 inch Womens Tennis Racquet” or multiply cost of $40 by 1.5 to get $60 price
- Automatically import file updates based on schedule or changes
- Preview data before importing to ensure accurate mapping
Create and manage product collections – Using normalized product information, create groupings or collections of products by any attribute for marketing or shoppers’ ease and convenience. Creating various collections within your virtual catalog enables you to:
- Run sales and promotions on specific collections
- Perform bulk updates on selected collections
- Market collections to specific channels or markets
- Easily manage and move collections in and out of channels based on seasons, availability or demand
Save these collections for future use, business analysis or merchandising strategies or intelligently add new products to them based on predefined rules.
Enrich product data – Improve your product marketing by creating attractive and personalized product collections with highlighted attributes, flexible pricing and enhanced images.
- Add special attributes, assign HTML tags and identifiers to improve SEO
- Assign flex or set pricing by value increasing turnover
- Apply edits and changes to bulk collections by category, attribute, sources or location
- Access image library for quick assignment and improved merchandising
Control publishing – Publish product information and listings with confidence by previewing the look and layout of products and collections before going “live” in eCommerce stores, eBay or Amazon.
- Designate specific collections of your collection for particular channels
- Assign inventory amount by channel
- Validate data prior to publishing in various channels
- Export product information for printing to catalogs
4. What Benefits to Expect from Implementing a PIM Solution
What consumers see in search results and subsequently when they reach your online store can make all the difference in whether they buy from you. Shoppers have short attention spans and will quickly jump to another site if your product catalog appears outdated or insufficiently describes and displays products. You can also be sure a competitor will be waiting in the wings to quickly attract the shopper with a more visually alluring site having all the right product details, specs, photos, reviews and price. With PIM, you can be the competitor who wins the sale. PIM provides an unlimited number of game changing benefits:
- Massively increase your product assortment with ease: more product = more sales
- Improve access to high-quality, accurate product information across sales channels
- Increase the speed to market for new products from weeks to days
- Reduce costs and time spent manually preparing product data and marketplace listings
- Boost marketing and margins with more sales and promotions
- Increase customer loyalty with a site guaranteed to provide best-selling items accurately described, well-displayed with competitive pricing
- Sell easily to both B2B and B2C customers