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The Role of Product Information Management in Distributor Management

The digital commerce landscape has moved rapidly towards an omni-channel, seamless ideal for all kinds of purchasers. Business models like D2C for brands and manufacturers are posing existential challenges to distributors, whose role in the value chain needs to be redefined.

This insight article tells you about:

  •       How distributors can manage rapid and disruptive change
  •       How they can leverage modern technology and business practices to future-proof themselves and add value.
  •       Why a PIM solution enhances distributors’ performance and justifies their position in the business value chain.

Disintermediation and other challenges

More and more manufacturers, brands and retailers have decided to eliminate distributors from their commercial equation. They have built their own eCommerce capabilities to service customer needs, begging the question as to how distributors can add value to the process.

Customer behaviour during and since the pandemic has driven an accelerated increase in eCommerce and digital shopping, and product distribution has been significant impacted. Legacy practices around the purchasing process, payment and shipping have been superseded by those businesses who were already prepared for this step-change

The main challenges for distributors include:

  •       offering the same level of convenience as B2C models
  •       providing a seamless shopping experience
  •       controlling Inventory in real time
  •       fast and glitch-free order fulfilment


Distributors need to add value by being a crucial link between manufacturers and suppliers. Large product inventories of varying types and a specialisation in a particular niche, make the analytics capabilities of a PIM system essential – distributors can function as a conduit in the feedback loop from customer to manufacturer, by providing insights into purchasing trends.

How PIM adds value to distribution management

The power of a modern PIM solution means distributors can;

  • Assure high-quality product information across various channels
  • Provide a single-source product data repository for extensive and detailed information
  • Efficiently manage digital assets (multi-media) for each SKU
  • Automatically collect information from channels
  • ship in a fast and timely way through integration with inventory, logistics and warehousing manage product inventory in a real-time, agile manner

As you travel towards genuine competitiveness in digitally driven commerce, these fundamental changes require organisational recalibration in terms of delivering on business aims. The mission and practices behind full-scale digital transformation can only be embedded and acted on by analysing and finding the pain points in the organisational culture – this means entrenched attitudes, assumptions, and activities. Our expert business consultants, with extensive experience with brands, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are perfectly equipped to work with you to create a digital transformation roadmap to approach this seismic change with confidence.  

Why Do Distributors Need a PIM?

Product data hub

Handling onboarded product data from diverse sources and clients, in large volumes and various formats, has always been a major challenge. Processing this incoming data manually simply slows down the process to a crawl. The amount of (and demand for) product-related data is already growing, as more and more data becomes available. A custom-configured PIM system is pivotal for managing those volumes of data from a single hub.

Data consistency across all channels

Not all product data stays static, so there is an ongoing need to update, alter, amend, and add to product catalogs. Deploying omnichannel selling, distributors are using a potentially high number of channels. Updating product information on all channels and platforms was time-consuming and prone tp error, but now becomes infinitely easier using a PIM system, which enables automated synchronisation of product data across all channels. This ensures total consistency of product content at any given moment and for all SKUs.

Digital asset management

Whether B2B or B2C purchasers, demand for visual information is rising. Visuals create the best impressions, be they thumbnail galleries, videos for usage or instruction, or 3D image rotation. Suitable and relevant deployment of digital assets bolsters customer trust and your credibility, not only around the product information, but also the brand.

Collaboration and Productivity

PIM optimises processes, leading to better workflows to significantly reduce time to market. For the product data life cycle, a PIM offers long-term ROI:

  •        Faster onboarding of data from suppliers and other sources
  •        Automated processes for syndicating channel-ready product information
  •        Increased cross-functional collaboration in product data enrichment
  •        Gains in productivity, creativity, time use, cost control, and competitive opportunities

How PIM speeds up processes for distributors

The time-to-market factor can differentiate a good distributor, as it means:

  • Ensuring the business stays competitive
  • Applying a holistic digital model to supply chain management
  • Being agile and relevant when responding to market changes
  • Getting large volumes of products and variants to market quickly


The features of a PIM solution reduce the complexity and time required for a range of key processes:

  • Product content aggregation and enrichment
  • Catalog management (both for print and digital)
  • Channel governance
  • Consistency of product information within an omnichannel strategy


One of Start with Data’s clients is RS Group, a global distributor of industrial components. Working with them on their product information management processes, we defined a new product data target architecture and selected the best platform to achieve this.

The results? A reduction of their time to market from 155 days to 7 days, a massive gain in efficiency and competitive value. Additionally, we helped RS to reduce the cost of introducing a new SKU from £10 to £2. Check out the RS case study. 

Common PIM use cases in distribution

Management of extensive product catalogs with variants

For high-volume distributors, the number of SKUs can reach millions. A modern product data management model can consolidate and process ongoing data quality levels and integrate flexible and multi-variant product data models. Both of these features mean the framework, processes, and technology work together optimally.

Product data governance framework

Absence of a data governance protocols risks undermining quality and consistency. During discovery (initial auditing) on a PIM implementation project. A good PIM implementation project identifies such organisational issues and drives creation of a solid governance framework. All user-stakeholders are now fully aware of and adhere to the overarching principles of product data governance.

In another win for our client, RS components, we worked alongside key stakeholders to implement a data governance framework which embedded product data quality as a foundation of its newly efficient processes. The result was a reduction in the downstream costs of bad data due to increasing their data fill rate from 50% to 90%. The business outcome? An uplift in sales of 24%, as customers found all the information they needed.

De-siloing data sources

Distributors ingest large amounts of product data, and if data sets are stored unsystematically, and across distinct parts of the organisation, the resulting silo effect seriously impedes operational efficiency: 

  •       lack of standardisation
  •       duplicate entries
  •       inaccurate data
  •       inconsistency


…and more pain points. As a centralised repository of the unique version of any data point, and of a verified quality, A PIM Uses reliable data from the off, This means higher-quality information and minimised risk of data going missing.

At Start with Data, we pride ourselves on our extensive experience and expertise supporting and guiding distributors big and small through the digital transformation process and PIM solution implementations. Our involvement with RS Group has generated greater efficiency, cost savings, enhanced customer experience and greater revenue generation. Read the full case study. 

With our proven track record, we can help you achieve measurable gains, so  contact us to have a more in-depth conversation about your circumstances and strategic aims for your product information management.

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