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The difference between data and metadata in PIM

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At Start with Data, we specialize in providing comprehensive support for organizations implementing PIM (Product Information Management) and Product MDM (Master Data Management) projects. While our clients and potential clients may already have a good understanding of data types and information, it’s important to revisit the specific differences between data and metadata in the context of PIM and Product MDM. Let’s explore these distinctions in more detail.

Data and Information in PIM and Product MDM:

In the realm of PIM and Product MDM, it is essential to differentiate between data and information. Data refers to the specific pieces of information that are directly associated with a product. This includes attributes such as the product’s materials, weight, dimensions, pricing, and technical specifications. Data serves as the foundation of product information, providing the raw details about a product.

However, product information goes beyond just raw data. It encompasses a broader range of details that are valuable for various stakeholders, including internal teams and end-users. Product information includes not only the data points but also the metadata associated with the product.

Metadata in PIM and Product MDM:

Metadata plays a crucial role in PIM and Product MDM by providing additional context and enriching the product information. It refers to the supplementary information that describes and classifies the product data, making it more meaningful and useful.

In the context of PIM and Product MDM, metadata includes various attributes that enhance the understanding and utilization of the product data. This can include information such as:

  1. Classification and categorisation: Metadata helps in organising products into logical categories and hierarchies, enabling easier navigation and search.

  2. Relationships and associations: Metadata captures the relationships between products, such as cross-selling or up-selling opportunities, bundled offerings, and product dependencies.

  3. Digital assets: Metadata encompasses images, videos, documents, and other media files that provide visual and multimedia representations of the product.

  4. Usage and compatibility: Metadata can indicate the recommended use cases, compatibility with other products or systems, and any specific limitations or requirements.

  5. Localisation and language: Metadata includes translations and localised information to support multilingual and international product information management.

  6. Compliance and regulatory information: Metadata captures regulatory requirements, certifications, safety data sheets, and other compliance-related details.

By incorporating metadata, PIM and Product MDM solutions enhance the discoverability, usability, and effectiveness of product information. It enables efficient management, distribution, and presentation of the product data across various channels and touchpoints.

In summary, while data provides the fundamental information about a product, metadata adds additional context, classification, and enrichment to enhance the overall product information. Together, data and metadata form the foundation for successful PIM and Product MDM implementations, empowering organisations to effectively manage and leverage their product information assets.


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What is the difference between data and metadata in PIM and MDM?

While data can simply be a piece of information, a list of measurements, or observations, a story or a description of a certain entity, metadata specifies information about the original data which assists in identifying the nature and features of that data.

Looking at a household adhesive product as an example. The product data would include attributes for the chemical composition, moisture resistance, size of container, time needed for the product to set, safety information for use or storage and information about regulatory compliance.

The metadata for this product includes features and benefits, product photos, video examples, regulatory data sheets, customer reviews, availability and the possibility of bundled purchases with related products.

B2B Metadata in PIM & MDM

When it comes to B2B commercial relationships, the role of metadata is essential for contextualising what are frequently highly complex / ´niche´ products, where the specificity of information is key to the decision-making process for purchasers, spending company money and whose time is at a premium. So, downloadable PDF documents with technical specifications, material safety data sheets (MSDS), and manuals are frequently a must for B2B sites – product data in itself is not sufficient to make an informed decision.

Higher-quality data - more metadata

For most companies, product data is found in several locations. It could be the CRM, warehousing and ERP, as well as in catalogs, and marketing material. The product metadata adds and contextualises what becomes product information. Thus, the higher the data quality, the better and more extensive the metadata, and the more credible and relevant the sales proposition. That´s why a well-configured and business-specific MDM solution is the key to excellent, extensive and consistent product information.

In fact, the product search is a case in point. When you enter a term into a search engine, the most likely phrase will contain some kind of metadata about the product you are searching for; “Strong glue for sticking wood together” is more likely than “Glue composed of propanol, phenoxy, isothiazolone, vinyl acetate and alcohol”. A word, phrase, slang or even meme is a form of metadata around a product.

In summary, product data is for the provenance of a product – its origins and nature´. Metadata will describe, analyse, categorise, illustrate and praise (or criticise) such objects. All this is encapsulated in the sum total of what we know about that product, for whatever purposes – product information.