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PIM solutions: 10 things to look for

As digital commerce becomes embedded in our everyday lives, manufacturers, distributors and retailers face the challenge of satisfying customers whose profiles are rapidly evolving:

  •       They demand more and more information about products because they know that information is available
  •       They are prepared to switch merchant if they consider the customer experience to be less than seamless
  •       They expect consistency of high-quality information and convenience as standard

That’s why PIM software solutions are becoming the go-to solution for businesses. It centralises the ‘golden record’ of all product data and offers features which integrate with various parts of the business to guarantee error-free and high-quality digital information.

There are many businesses who commence a PIM implementation project without the necessary forethought and due diligence, so this article outlines ten key factors when planning for your new PIM technology, to avoid common pitfalls and boost your chances of successful implementation.

1. Is a PIM what you need?

Before investing in a PIM solution, assess whether it will solve all your product data pain points. Match your business aims and needs to the solution which best addresses them. There are many PIM software solution vendors on the market so it’s essential to get the information you need to make a mindful decision.

For instance, businesses with fewer than 100 SKUs don’t need a PIM solution as they can update descriptions with linked images and price changes. However, when your product offer is in the hundreds and thousands, managing SKUs is another matter. It becomes complex and time-consuming when so many products are displayed across numerous sales channels and absolute consistency of information is a must. Manually processing product data on spreadsheets is simply not feasible if you want to minimise time to market and make updates in near real time – that is where a PIM is worth its weight in gold.

Download our free PIM Buyers Guide

2. Understanding a PIM’s core features

No two PIM solutions are the same, but there are several core capabilities which the majority provide. Gaining insight into what they can do must be a core element of your research. These feature benefit differing elements of your business, from streamlining business process management to enabling more effective omnichannel publishing both for online and offline target customers.

At Start with Data, we are as much about facilitating transformation, as expertly guiding you to the best technology solution for your product information management. What you need are root and branch changes in your business – processes, people, and organisation.

3. Non-core PIM capabilities

When you look past core capabilities, various functionalities mark the difference between a PIM which meets expectations, and one which goes beyond what you thought was possible. These could include, for instance, AI-powered natural language generation and multimedia product asset management (DAM). Nowadays, certain PIM solutions incorporate digital shelf analytics solutions alongside product information management.

Industry analyst, Gartner, points out that: “What differentiates vendors today is the additional capabilities they provide.”[1] – vendors are looking to add value to the basic features which most of them share.

Gartner also forecasts that by 2024, the cost of Software as a Service platforms will drop significantly due to increased adoption of ‘composable application architectures’ (essentially, a design paradigm where custom applications use APIs connectors to ‘talk’ to other applications). Several vendors sell PIM platforms which can support this architecture, which makes operations much more agile, responsive and unified when onboarding, enriching and exporting product information.

4. Planning a PIM implementation roadmap

Roadmap planning prioritises the optimal route to added value. A robust PIM implementation needs a high-level plan for its phases which contains elements such as: resource profile, project timelines, critical paths, a business and technology change impact assessment, and planning for user training.

The initial phase – discovery – is crucial. Only once the project lead and stakeholders have collated all information about each product data-related area can an accurate assessment of the current situation in the organisation emerge in terms of:

  •       product data value (process, maturity, and technology used)
  •       current product data management processes and protocols
  •       the extent to which the changes required will focus on:
  •       audit
  •       cleansing
  •       architecture
  •       migration                                                                    
  •       governance framework

Regardless of the actual technology, organisational change management will be a key factor – mindsets, processes, collaboration, ownership, knowledge acquisition – if the outcome is to be effective.

5. Quality control and data governance

Product data quality needs to be a major concern. Cleansing must take place before product data is migrated to a new PIM solution. The PIM implementation needs a root cause analysis of pain points – primarily, to highlight discrepancies, address any ongoing errors, improve data quality and focus on where and why quality is compromised.

Different types of users will be interacting with the PIM — manufacturers, suppliers, sales managers, content managers, and so on. Therefore, it may be necessary to have role-based permissions for different users. Additionally, role-based access rights need security features which ensure data integrity and quality.

Download our free PIM Buyers Guide

6. Stakeholders: key decision-makers and business users

Transparency, honesty, and clarity are the best ways to help PIM solution providers and their consultancy partners pinpoint the precise needs of your organisation. It helps them to customise and configure the PIM solution to address the interests of stakeholder groups:

Sales teams want access to accurate and updated product data.

eCommerce managers need the latest content updates for a consistent and high-quality UX.

Marketing teams, need speed to create and modify campaigns across multiple channels.

Customers want to be sure they are getting accurate, updated, relevant, and rich product information to aid decision-making, (and, from your perspective, to heighten the conversion rate.

7. Preparing for culture change

A PIM implementation project involves a shift in organisational culture regarding data management. As with all disruptive change, the new is often something perceived as unnecessary, menacing, and to be resisted. A project ‘champion’ can evangelise about the benefits of a PIM and how the resulting operational changes will generate benefits across the organisation especially in terms of:

  •       workflow efficiency
  •       collaboration(as opposed to legacy ‘silos’, with fragmented and inefficient workflows
  •       a move from manual data-processing to automated tasks, decreasing time required and minimising human error

8. Integration with legacy systems

A PIM needs to be the central hub for product data, capable of data gathering from and distribution to interconnected systems and sources, such as suppliers, data pools, ERPs, CRMs, and warehousing.

Typical features include:  

Downstream integration serving third parties like marketplaces and eCommerce portals

Multi-language support to scale internationally

Automated distribution to easily syndicate fully compliant product data to multiple channels, and update that content instantly when needed

9. PIM scalability and your growth

All PIM solutions offers scalability, but differ in capabilities and pricing. Establish a plan for your most likely requirements during growth. Examples of typical growth scenarios include: 

  •       More product variants
  •       Offering a bigger range of SKUs (which may have highly detailed technical information)
  •       Generation of country-specific catalogs
  •        Selling into to markets requiring a culture-specific approach to product information

10. ROI and business case development

Untying executive purse strings and getting sponsor buy-in can be tough. There are various ways to sell ROI for a PIM implementation:

  • Enhanced customer experience across channels
  • Revenue – higher average spend, conversion rates and customer retention as well as greater ease of scaling
  • Cost savings – error elimination, no manual processing, faster enrichment and syndication
  • Greater employee engagement and a more unified and collaborative approach to workflows
  • Faster time to market – more competitive, more agile in introducing new products
  • Predictable fixed and ongoing costs – cloud-based, subscription pricing, scalability of offering and clear pricing for API integrations

These represent some of the most measurable factors which can help sell a PIM project to budget holders and decision-makers. 

(10b). Get the consultants onboard

You wouldn’t even get onto the grid as a formula 1 driver without the support you need to optimise fuel consumption, speed, data analytics and overall performance. The same applies with a PIM.

When you set out on your PIM implementation journey, the expertise provided by Start with Data. ensures you can navigate any obstacles ahead:

      • We work hand-in-hand with clients to carry out a forensic discovery phase
      • We provide research into the PIM marketplace to help you in decide on the best vendor and solution
      • We offer guidance and support in developing roadmap and solution design
      • We partner with the vendor in the build phase
      • We are with you throughout testing, migration, go live and beyond

Final words

These elements show how knowledge is power when researching, selecting, and implementing your PIM solution. Reach out to have a much more detailed conversation about how we can help you with your PIM implementation project or provide insights and action to optimise your existing product data management practices. 

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