Questions to ask when considering a PIM software solution

What is PIM Software?

PIM software consists of a set of tools and processes which manages an e-commerce business’s product information centrally. Its purpose is to guarantee a comprehensive, accurate and single view of product data. A PIM software system uses its centralised platform to manage and organise all product data efficiently. Of particular importance is its capacity to maintain consistent and high-quality product data and information. A PIM software solution sits alongside other management software systems which acquire product data from various departments in a company, such as ERPs and external partners (vendors, suppliers and aggregators principally). 

Therefore, before investing in a PIM solution you need to ask a number of key questions:

  1. Where do you use your product data?

  2. How and where do you get product data from?

  3. How complex is your product data?

  4. What benefits can a PIM software solution provide you with?

  5. Which PIM vendor is right for you?

  6. Do you want a PIM  software system on-site or on the cloud?

 

1. Where do you use your product data?

An overview of the need for distribution of data provides you with an important indicator of how useful a PIM software system could be for you. The list of potential channels to which you could publish your product data is substantial. Furthermore, it is clearly determined by size and business activity. The following are some of the most common channels used at present;

  • Websites or web shops
  • Catalogs (digital and/or print)
  • Mobile Apps 
  • Amazon, eBay, or similar marketplaces
  • Data sheets
  • Customer-specific price lists
  • Data files for customers and dealers
  • Direct mail
  • Email marketing
  • Social media

As a rule of thumb, the more channels, formats, and languages you use, the easier it is to justify your business case for acquiring a PIM system. When it comes to marketplaces like Amazon, eBay or similar, there are several data streams that need to be connected in order to comply with their regulations. For each of the streams listed below you should consider the business case for being able to automate:

Largely static information – product attributes, data assets, descriptions.

Stock and price – these are dynamic, meaning that change is relatively quick and frequent.

Order processing – shipping and returns need to be managed automatically where possible.

If syndicating product information to several channels, you can use a specialist third-party provider to manage your marketplace connections. These syndicators streamline the output process, permitting you to map internally-generated product data to all external sales channels for your products and ensure that data is up to date.

2. How and where do you get product data from?

Some of your product information is generated within the business but a great deal comes from external sources. Onboarding information from potentially hundreds of suppliers can cause serious inefficiencies if managed manually rather than using a PIM software solution. Just a few examples of external data sources are suppliers, subcontractors, industry-specific portals, copy writers & photographers and translators. 

Much of this incoming information is not raw data but also rich data (photos etc) and metadata (reviews, related descriptions and so on). Given the trend towards proliferation of data, a PIM software solution can save a lot of time and increase efficiencies by offering automated onboarding processes for many of these tasks. Bear these PIM features in mind when considering your overall digitisation strategy.

3. How complex is your product data?

The key word is data complexity, rather than simply volume of products. Most PIM system providers have features for managing very large product ranges, but the degree of complexity attached to those products may differ. What you need to ask yourself is whether your products need a lot of information. Is the structure of that information important to maintain? Are the products highly configurable? 

Therefore, the more complex your product information is, the more certain you should be that the PIM software solution which you select allows your team to manage this complexity efficiently. This means that when preparing your business case, you need to dig down further into more specific questions, such as;

Additionally, bear in mind that you may be dealing with product bundles or composites, relationships among different products and an enormous number of product attributes.

4. What benefits can a PIM software solution provide you with?

Improvements in business processes

The basic information which any solution provider will want to know involves the following set of questions:

  • Having a trustworthy and accurate product data hub means moving away from the traditional departmental silos where information is concerned. 
  • Exploiting higher unit margins by optimising the use of internal capabilities and those of business partners.
  • Greater organisational agility from gaining adaptability and flexibility for evolving demands and sudden changes.
  • Seamless connectivity to operations for greater efficiency and reduced costs.
  • The capacity to scale your business – a scalable platform should be able to scale infinitely, managing potentially millions of products to respond to growth demands in the future.
  • An easy, user-friend and ‘self-service’ capacity to make changes – all PIM configuration tasks should be fully web browser based, and require no more than a low level of technical engineering skill.

High-quality data

A PIM solution aims to create a single source for the highest possible quality of data quality. At a pragmatic level, it defines the real usefulness of data in a specific situation and is measured by the extent of your data’s conformity with criteria like;

  • Uniqueness
  • Completeness 
  • Consistency
  • Accuracy 
  • Validity
  • Timeliness

5. Which PIM vendor is right for you?

There are a number of PIM technology providers on the market and it is a specialised investment. The first step is to work out your particular business use case before selecting the technology. There are several useful examples of use cases available to research, from sources such as G2Crowd or Gartner magic quadrant reports online. These outline the attributes of a range of PIM solutions.

6. Do you want a PIM software system on-site or on the cloud

Below are two broad deployment models for this kind of enterprise software. They are intended as orientative rather than definitive examples.  

On-site

In this case, you, the customer, are responsible for implementing and maintaining all the applications and data on your own servers. This offers maximum flexibility and control but is also the most IT resource-intensive.

Cloud-based

These platforms use high performance APIs and share common architecture components across tenants. They are also easy to upgrade.Your organisation maintains the system, but the underlying infrastructure is supported by the third-party provider. 

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

This offers a more ‘wrap-around’ service where everything (application and infrastructure) is provider-managed. It is cheaper than a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) system to roll out and scale across multiple brands & geographies. In general, an ‘easy’ option, but offering less flexibility and customisation than a PaaS. 

At Start with Data, we have built up our expertise in giving the best wrap-around PIM consultancy service to those clients wanting advice on their PIM and those looking to implement a PIM software solution for their product data. You can have a further read about our PIM consultancy services here