October 19th, 2021 | 8 MIN READ

What is a PIM solution? How they work and why you need one.

Written by Rudra Bharat

Rudra is a Digital Marketing & Revenue Operations Intern at Elastic Path and a Senior at Boston University.

As a business grows, their product information becomes siloed and dispersed, becoming harder to organize, access, and use. Product attributes, imagery, detailed descriptions, and supplier information eventually become extremely difficult to manage, slowing workflows and impacting customer experiences.

To alleviate this pain point, many brands evaluate Product Information Management (PIM) solutions. Akeneo, a global leader in Product Experience Management solutions, defines PIM as providing “a single place for businesses to collect, manage, and enrich their product information”.

PIM solutions can help businesses overcome some of the major challenges with managing and utilizing product information as they continue to grow. This article delves into how PIM solutions work, some key considerations for businesses looking to implement PIM systems, and the various advantages offered by PIM.

What is a PIM Solution and Why Is It Useful?

Over the past few years, commerce has shifted towards a digital-first approach, with customers demanding more streamlined digital experiences and new options for digital self-service. To adapt to these new trends and prove ROI, Marketing, IT, and Commerce teams are responsible for delivering digitized product information, quickly and clearly. A PIM solution helps brands to manage product information, improving their ability to quickly retrieve and use key data to power digital buying experiences.

Implementing a PIM solution helps a brand ensure that quality data is organized for internal use and multichannel distribution, consolidating relevant product information onto a single platform. With the rapid digitization of sales and continued expansion into new channels, opting for a PIM solution can help connect different channels to preserve product data quality. Some of the key capabilities offered by PIM solutions include:

  • Improving product data quality across all channels

  • Tracking product progress and completion

  • Managing and modifying relationships between products

  • Collecting data from existing sources

  • Cleaning and centralizing scattered data

  • Specifying priorities across different data sources

  • Enriching product information

  • Translating product information into different languages

  • Linking images, media, and documents to different products

  • Building customized product feeds

  • Curating and creating product sheets

  • Analyzing and tracking product performance

Marketers, eCommerce Managers, and Data Analytics teams can all utilize PIM to collect, enrich, streamline, and improve product information and data across multiple channels. This can significantly improve customer experiences, while helping businesses gain an edge over their competitors by getting to market quicker while reducing overheads and wasted resources.

How does PIM work?

A PIM Solution collects, manages, and enriches data in a single place. The figure below visualizes how PIM works at a high level.

  • Product information and data is collected from various internal and external data sources, ranging from ERP systems to suppliers.

  • The information is loaded into the PIM solution, which allows users to enrich, maintain, and translate the data

  • User management tools, business rules, and validation workflows support the enrichment and maintenance of data

  • Product information can then be distributed to various commerce channels, including eCommerce platforms, marketplace listings, and mobile applications

A PIM uses various data types, such as:

  • Technical Data – Specifications and measures (e.g. - material, colors, ingredients

  • Usage Data – Descriptions (e.g. – how-to, where-used)

  • Emotional Data – Product stories and rich descriptions (e.g. – imagery that builds strong, emotional connections with buyers)

  • Media Files – Images, PDFs, Videos

Businesses typically have a large amount of different types of data that support a single product throughout its lifecycle. Using a PIM system helps streamline product information management and speeds up the process between retrieving, improving, and displaying the data. For example, a PIM system can load descriptive product information that uses a combination of emotional data and media files as content into a catalog management solution.

Here, products may be grouped into target markets, based on usage and technical data. Some of the key information that businesses can use a PIM to manage include:

  • Essential Product Data – SKUs, product names, product descriptions, UPCs

  • Marketing Data – Keywords, target personas, SEO elements

  • Design Specifications – Style sheets, assembly instructions

  • Channel Information – Google categories, mobile descriptions

  • Supplier Manufacturer Data – Spreadsheets, certifications, bills

Who needs a PIM Solution?

PIM Solutions can be useful to all types of brands, B2C, B2B2C, or B2B, who aim to deliver frictionless, consistent, and engaging digital experiences that drive growth and improve their relationships with customers.

Implementing a PIM solution can help streamline data across different channels. This is particularly useful for marketing, merchandising, and product management teams, as siloed and fragmented data can make it difficult to obtain and present a clear view of product information.

Companies that anticipate or are currently entering a growth phase should particularly consider PIM solutions. With new customers and expansion into different channels, information will become increasingly scattered and siloed. As a result of this, teams may waste time and resources on managing and maintaining product data, both internally and with external groups.

Additionally, firms that are currently struggling with managing product information or are spending excessive time and resources on managing data should also look to PIM as an effective method to collecting and cleaning their data. This will help to avoid missed opportunities, lost revenue, and falling market share to competitors.

Some of the specific individuals that should consider a PIM software are:

  • Marketers looking to deliver a consistent omni-channel product experience

  • eCommerce Managers that want to prioritize product data quality to drive online sales

  • Retailers hoping to strengthen or create relationships with suppliers

  • Brands attempting to build or boost customer loyalty and satisfaction

  • Managers seeking methods to reduce overheads and wasted resources

  • Data Governance teams who want to track and meet compliance needs

  • Strategy experts considering new approaches to get to market faster than competitors

  • Sales teams that aim to sell more through better content and data accessibility
 

Product Content Management with Elastic Path

At Elastic Path our Product Content Management capability offers many of the core features of a PIM solution including data consolidation, enrichment, organization, and syndication.  While it does not include robust workflow functionality, the core set of features are sufficient to meet the needs of many brands evaluating a PIM solution. 

Plus, since it is part of Elastic Path Commerce Cloud product it seamlessly works with our Catalog Composer capability, enabling brands to create the unique and complex product- centric experiences their business needs.

 

Key Statistics and Additional Benefits of using a PIM

PIM has grown rapidly over the past few years, and more companies are expected to adopt PIM in the future. Customers’ expectations for high quality, thorough, and accurate product information is expected to rise, and companies are investing in PIM to meet these demands.

Furthermore, compared to IT-led Master Data Management (MDM) initiatives, implementing a PIM system is faster and more cost effective, simultaneously offering a myriad of measurable business benefits. Below are some statistics that highlight the growth of and key trends in PIM:

  • The PIM category has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 25.3%, reaching over $15 Billion dollars in 2021

  • The global PIM market is projected to reach $59.25 billion by 2027

  • Asia-Pacific is expected to exhibit the highest CAGR of 28.3%

  • PIM Software has been projected to be one of the most lucrative segments in the 2020-forecast period

  • The emergence of COVID-19 is expected to increase the demand for and growth of PIM

  • Cloud-based PIM solutions are expected to grow at the highest rate during the 2020-forecast period

  • PIM automates up to 80% of typical manual tasks

With its anticipate growth and the efficiencies it offers, PIM provides teams with the ability to enrich their product information, keep it clean and consistent, and improve customer experiences. Some additional benefits of utilizing PIM are:

  • Increasing sales conversion rates: Higher quality data that incorporates different data types can boost customer conversion rates. Using a PIM solution can further help marketing teams make media and product descriptions specific to different channels.

  • Improved customization: Firms can use PIM solutions to scale more effectively, as product experiences can be tailored and customized to match the specific needs and profiles of different customers.

  • Boosted speed: PIM tools provide companies with a competitive edge, enabling them to streamline data collection and product information enrichment processes to get to market more quickly.

  • Support for growth: As companies scale and grow, data becomes increasingly scattered and siloed. Implementing a PIM system early on can help brands avoid missing out on opportunities and wasting resources as data management becomes harder with anticipated growth.

  • Decreased product returns: Research shows that incomplete or inaccurate product information are the key drivers of product returns. Product returns can increase costs and can cause a firm to lose customers; PIM reduces return rates by eliminating data errors and using validation processes to help deliver complete and correct information.

  • Higher team productivity: PIM solutions automate many manual tasks, helping product marketing teams focus on building strong and compelling product descriptions. PIM systems also support the enrichment of data through built-in workflows, improving collaboration and productivity across different departments.

  • Catalyzing expansion: By reducing the amount of time spent on managing current products and existing data, teams have more opportunities to research and innovate. PIM solutions provide the tools needed for omnichannel marketing, while also offering translation, review, and publishing tools to support entry into new regions or markets.

PIM is changing the game

For many brands, a PIM solution can be a game changer. By solving common data and information management issues, providing a variety of tools for expansion and customization, and supporting productivity across different teams, PIM can help firms improve current processes and create high-quality product data.

Deploying a PIM can improve the level of control, organization, and speed within your marketing team, whether your firm is a B2B or B2C. The PIM market is expected to continue its rapid growth, and more and more firms are adopting a PIM solution that fits the needs of their organization.

Implementing a PIM solution early on can support your firms growth and support future expansion, simultaneously improving customer experiences, retention, and brand image.

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