E-Commerce Mastery: What is PIM?
Data makes the world go round! Today we’ll discuss the integral aspect of information when it comes to E-commerce! We’ll define what a PIM is, what it isn’t, how it works, why it matters and much more!
Welcome to 2022! Last we left off, we promised you all a deep dive into the lucrative business of E-commerce platforms. That is exactly what we aim to do in the following couple of months. So, if you aim to create your own successful and most importantly profitable e-commerce/retail platform in the near future, make sure to pay us a visit weekly.
And nothing screams successful as properly sanitized, structured, rich blocks of data, all in one spot.
We do have a “complicated” relationship with data centricity.
But we digress; let’s dig into to the meat of todays’ topic.
What is PIM?
PIM – Product Information Management. In most elementary explanation – it is a software tool that gathers all the information about your product in one place. Common alternate names for these tools are: PCM – Product Content Management; PDM – Product Data Management; PRM – Product Resource Management; PEM – Product Experience Management; CEM – Commerce Experience Management.
Whatever you find understand its all the same thing; which begs the question what?
Let’s explain using an example to get a better understanding:
Picture a typical online retail store with shoes. You have dozens of various shoes from assorted brands, possibly imported from different countries or manufacturers.
Each pair of shoes will need a full description of the product. A title, their size selection, colour options, material details, care instructions, shipping information… And even possible translations into a couple of different languages.
Let’s also not forget the digital assets going with these products, like photos, videos, possible PDFs and much more! Then let’s also remember that all that is applied to a single pair of shoes. What if you have multiple models, colour selection with varying degree of availability etc?
Of course, all that data must be kept somewhere. And yes, there are various databases, varied spreadsheets, multiple folders, where all this information is stored. However, without proper organization and structure, editing or updating this data becomes a major headache! Not to mention using it for anything relating to data analytics.
PIM comes into the fray
PIM, as we’ve mentioned, is a software tool specifically designed to host all this information in one convenient place. Not only that, but it also allows your team to easily update any information regarding any product, its availability, or lack thereof on the fly.
Importantly however, is the simple notion of it all being in the same place. We cannot overstate how easy it becomes to create comprehensive product information sheets or product catalogues to either your clients, supply chain partners or stakeholders.
Most market PIM solutions adhere to a standardized way to handle data output of information. This provides easier integration with other tools, as well as a market standard, which allows a quicker adaptation process for your newer sales team’s representatives.
This standardization ensures consistent information throughout all your channels, be that social media platform markets, third party stores (like amazon), personal web-apps, google platforms etc.
Such an approach is called an omnichannel strategy. We’ll talk about various e-commerce strategies in a later article.
Why its such a big deal for an E-Commerce platform
It is no secret that two years ago the world took a drastic change. The COVID-19 pandemic that is still raging on in one form or another, has force people to revaluate their approach to buying products. Of course, the self-isolation imposed by most governments across the world meant a huge boon to the online retail market.
What is really interesting is that it drastically changed how customers approach the process of deciding on buying the product. Even with the rise of Amazon and AliExpress platforms, many customers still preferred to go to brick-and-mortar businesses for their purchase needs.
While they could hold and “inspect” the product (whatever it maybe) on the premise, the examination of it was superficial at best in most cases. That all changed when the customers suddenly found they cannot step outside the house.
Everyone is aware of the infamous jokes circling “some” (perhaps all) online retail stores’ reliability when it comes to shipping cheap goods.
Hence investigating your purchases became all the more important, as customers began scrutinizing every little detail, from the brand manufacturer, where the product was shipped from, and how well the product is rated with customer reviews.
All this means that providing accurate, up to date, reliable information on e-commerce platforms became ever more important. And due to its nature, this system becomes the in-betweener for both your clients and your sales/marketing teams or supply chain.
Consider the plummeting customer loyalty to various brands recorded in 2021, with more than 80% of consumers reporting buying from a different store than usual; fighting for customer loyalty became all the more important for your brands reputation.
Reliance on ERP
A caveat of this tool of course is its somewhat reliance on a bigger picture kinda tool; like an ERP system. It doesn’t mean you cannot set up a PIM solution for your e-commerce platform without one, but to fully utilize its potential you want to have a high-level picture.
We’ve discussed ERPs previously, and will do so in the future, but understand this: a PIM system ensures up-to-date information on all fronts both for clients and your team. And it gets this information from their input and data provided by your ERP solution.
Some ERP solutions provide PIM like options, and much like ERP or CRM solutions, there will never be a one-size-fits-all for every enterprise. But when it comes to creating a truly successful E-commerce store, you will have to include all of these tools: ERP, CRM, PIM, etc.
Speaking of various tools here are some things a PIM system is not:
- A warehouse inventory management system (WMS) – It does not keep track of inventory in real-time. Though you can see whether the product is in-stock, out-of-stock or discontinued.
- A content management system (CMS) – But they work well together, with PIM feeding data into your CMS system.
- A digital asset management system (DAM) – Some people confuse the two, and there is a heavy overlap between these, but suffice to say a PIM is a more developed, bigger scope type of system. We’ll discuss DAM’s sometime in the future.
Downsides – It costs money
All this talk of various systems will clue you into the inherent costs of all this. And the reality of it that developing or using a ready solution on the market means money, relatively high amount of it as well. Hence a PIM system is a “big boys” requirement.
Whether you decide to develop one in-house, or buy a solution on the market, you must first do a cross benefit analysis with your unique circumstances. But a good rule of thumb when deciding whether your store is ready to upgrade towards using a PIM solution is whether you have upwards of 15,000 products in your catalogue.
If you’re made out of money, by all means go ahead and integrate one with less, but from our experience working in e-commerce, you won’t see much of a benefit before that number.
Top 3 PIM solutions
Let’s take a look at some PIM solutions on the market that in our opinion are the best as of writing of this article.
Plytix PIM – Starting off small we have a relatively cheap PIM solution for SME’s. Reasonable prices and its target market being smaller businesses worldwide, Plytix is a great, intuitive and user-friendly interface solution with a notable “whiteglove” approach to their consumer onboarding and customer service!
Sales Layer PIM – One of the more “agile” PIM solutions out there, and a “big shark” on the market, is the Sales Layer. The SaaS platform supports up to millions of SKU’s (Stock-Keeping-Unit) providing full visibility to everyone involved from manufactures, distributors and marketplaces; both upstream and downstream.
Though understandably this robust PIM solution is not among the cheapest on the market, but it makes up for it in value.
Salsify ProductXM – Salsify’s product experience management system is a great example of PIM and DAM integrated just right. ProductXM boasts clients like Coca-Cola, Bosch, L’Oreal and many other huge brands; and its not secret why. Taking one look at their sleek design, their professional and not to mention massive team, the question answers itself.
This PIM as mentioned fully integrates DAM capabilities, in built omnichannel systems… Fully taking advantage of that strategy from one user-friendly dashboard. A giant in its own right, this solution is the most expensive on our list… But also the most robust, with as many bells-and-whistles as you can possibly attach to a PIM.
E-commerce has shown staggering growth in 2021, the paradigm’s have shifted and the future stands behind online solutions. Make sure you’re not left behind as competition will take every advantage. Using a proper PIM solution, could be yours! If you don’t know where to get started, hit us up here and we’ll make sure to set you up 😉
With that we wrap up our first article this year. Stay tuned as we explore the world of E-commerce from top to bottom!
Hey, here’s a question – What makes a truly successful e-commerce platform? Is it proper brand awareness, SEO oriented marketing? Or is it full data mastery on all fronts, from your manufacturers, distributors, and clients? Why not both? Tell us in the comment section your opinion!
Stay classy business and tech nerds!