What is Product Information Management (PIM)?

When it comes to digital commerce and the world of online retail, PIM is not a hockey statistic also known as “Penalty Infraction Minutes”, definitely not a refreshing summertime drink called “Pimm”, neither a popular restaurant in Phuket, Thailand. So, what is PIM and why it’s so important for brands and retailers?

What is Product Information Management (PIM)?

Wikipedia’s definition suggests that:

Product information management (PIM) means managing the information required to market and sell products through distribution channels. A central set of product data can be used to feed information to media such as web sites, print catalogs, ERP systems, and electronic data feeds to trading partners.

G2Crowd offers a different explanation:

Product Information Management (PIM) is a set of processes and tools that centralize and manage an e-commerce business’ product information to ensure a single, accurate view of product data. PIM offers a centralized platform to, cost-effectively, manage data on an e-commerce business’ products and services.

Ventana Research meanwhile explains that:

Product Information Management (PIM) is the ability to consistently manage products and the experience with the information for use across processes to business and across demand and supply chain. It helps organizations manage their products from creation to use and establish processes that govern and analyze product information usage for best possible product and overall customer experience.

That might sound complicated, but actually it isn’t. Especially, when you put it into the right context.

Practice shows that, when businesses sell their products online, they often end up having a large number of product information displayed in various sales channels. Unfortunately, often these products are not presented with the same description, marketing message, product data or even price!

To makes things even worse, product information is usually scattered throughout different departments and held by multiple employees or internal systems, instead of being available centrally. ERP system and Excel spreadsheets cannot exchange information on their own, data may be saved in various formats, or only be available in hard copy form. This quickly leads to a situation when managing information about constantly growing number of products easily turns into a spreadsheets nightmare.

But this is where Product Information Management (PIM) solutions comes to make marketers and e-commerce managers work much smarter.

Why Product Information Management is so important?

Special report prepared by Ventana Research, a respected benchmark business technology research firm, proves that the best solution for effective management of product-related content is using one single Product Information Management (PIM) application.

Taking full control over product information is a major step towards creating Omnichannel via @bluestonepim Click To Tweet

The History of Product Information Management

The concept of Product Information Management roots back to the late 1990s. It all started with few companies, who developed dedicated solutions to help selling companies prepare printed catalogues easier. Then the Internet happen, and, as we all know, the Internet changed the retail industry landscape forever. It quickly become clear that online selling will make traditional buying patterns such as printed catalogues or hotlines a thing of the past. Suddenly, everything was available online and thus, everything was “multi-channel”.

PIM is no longer just a best practice. It’s a new standard for all retailers, wholesalers, and brands who want to stay competitive in the upcoming years.

The concept of PIM gain momentum in the mid 2000s when it became pretty clear that if a given company doesn’t sell their products or services on the Internet, they will be in serious trouble. Today, Product Information Management is crucial in the process of creating efficient multi-channel marketing and omnichannel sales.

Product Information Management (PIM) vs Master Data Management (MDM)

High-quality, core information which is essential to all business processes and is used on a daily-basis by different applications across the entire company is often called master data. To manage this master data in the most efficient way, companies had to create a smart framework of technologies and processes with a central repository. And this framework is better known as Master Data Management.

For Master Data Management the main focus is to establish one source of data that is used around the organization. But Master Data Management is not just about the product information as this concept goes far beyond the realms of IT, Sales or Marketing department. It’s a cross-organizational effort to gather, manage and distribute data in the most efficient way possible. In this perspective, it’s fair to say that PIM is a subset of MDM.

  • In Master Data Management, the main focus is to get all information related to products, customers, suppliers, partners, employees, locations etc. (also known as master data) into one repository in order to achieve operational excellence.
  • MDM is crucial for every department in a given company as master data is used on a daily-basis by different applications across the entire business.
  • Product Information Management focuses on delivering set of tools to centralize product-related data from various sources and then easily manage, enrich, and publish this product content in multiple sales channels.
  • PIM is especially important for Sales and Marketing departments.

Product Information Management (PIM) vs Product Content Management (PCM)

Truth is PIM is sometimes confused with PCM. To make things even worse, there are many definitions that position PCM similarly to PIM, adding to the confusion. Despite common misconceptions, there are vast differences between the two.

  • PCM is a standard feature in most enterprise e-commerce solutions and primarily offers data enrichment. In this case, enrichment means the ability to add or edit product descriptions, attributes, images and data taxonomies, and these capabilities are fantastic for managing a single source of truth for product information.
  • PIM usually goes much further than just data enrichment. It provides extra components like data quality, aggregation and syndication. These features allow e-commerce businesses not only to centralize their product information, but also to easily transmit consistent and accurate information to various sales channels.

Key takeaways

  • PIM stands for “Product Information Management” and is a software designed to manage product-related data in the most efficient way possible.
  • PIM solutions empower brands and retailers to create excellent customer experience and improve sales in the long-run.
  • Having a quality PIM platform is a major step towards creating Omnichannel consistency.
  • The concept of Product Information Management roots back to the late 1990s.
  • PIM is a part of Master Data Management, sometimes called “MDM for business purposes”.
  • PIM and PCM are not the same thing. Both are central repositories for product-related data, PIM however comes with extra features i.e. for content distribution.

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