What is PIM - Product Information Management?
Your PIM - Product Information Management System - is a tool for product data management. It is used to store and manage product-related attributes (e.g., colors, weights, etc.), texts (product descriptions in various lengths and languages), as well as categories and assortments. Thus, a PIM system serves as the single point of truth for product master data within the company. Product information enters the PIM system through upstream systems, where it is consolidated and refined. One such refinement is content translation. These refined contents, often combined with digital assets from DAM systems, are then used for print and electronic catalogs, websites, e-commerce applications, data distribution to retailers, or platforms. The typical technical foundation is an SQL system.
Why do companies need PIM - Product Information Management?
When organizations manage information for a large number of products, it becomes a real challenge. This applies to both manufacturing companies and retailers. The task is always to establish a consistent information structure for all their products. For retailers, using a PIM allows them to achieve homogeneous data quality across all suppliers and product categories. Manufacturers typically consolidate data from various sources within a PIM, control data quality, and thus obtain an optimal foundation for omnichannel commerce. At the same time, the PIM serves as the basis for translation processes into various languages. Thus, PIM systems serve as a starting point for the internationalization of companies with many products. Moreover, it is possible to tailor the attribute data, texts, and categories contained in the PIM to specific customers and partners within predefined assortments. Therefore, PIM systems are an essential prerequisite for the growing platform business, making them a relevant competitive factor. They ensure competitiveness and enable revenue growth.
Which systems does a PIM work with?
In principle, it's possible to enter product data directly into PIM systems. However, in most cases, data entry takes place in upstream systems. Retailers often request data from their suppliers in formats like CSV or Excel, specifying a fixed attribute set for data delivery. This allows for quickly presenting many products in their online shops. Moreover, there are often interfaces for importing product data from standard formats. Examples of such standard formats include ETIM, commonly used in the electrical industry, or cross-industry standards like eCl@ss and proficl@ss for parametric procedures.
Manufacturers increasingly use PLM systems - Product Life-Cycle Management. This is a management technology that collects all economically relevant information from the product concept stage onward. Products are usually sketched, market potential is assessed, offers are obtained from suppliers, and, of course, product data is recorded. In later stages of the product life cycle, sales figures are integrated, along with results from competitive monitoring.
In most cases, the product data from PLM is insufficient. It's necessary to combine it with morphological data from enterprise software (ERP). Gross weights and dimensions, as well as various packaging units and sizes, are examples of this.
Don't forget DAM systems like TESSA DAM, through which assets - such as images, drawings, documents, and any other files - can be correlated with products. Precursors to DAM tools were the so-called MAMs, Media Asset Management Systems, mainly used for managing images and videos.
When extracting the data, a PIM works with interface software like Lobster or Synesty, forwarding data to e-commerce systems or systems for automatic catalog publishing.
Which PIM solutions are available?
The market for PIM solutions is relatively complex. There are over 80 solutions listed on www.pim-verzeichnis.de. Broadly, these solutions can be categorized as on-premises or cloud-based. The critical factor is whether the software runs on-site or in the cloud. The most widely adopted professional solution nowadays is likely to involve deploying a dedicated server in the cloud.
In our assessment, Akeneo is the most widely adopted professional system. There is both an open-source community version and a professionally managed version offered by service providers. The TESSA DAM works with Akeneo through a dedicated interface.
PIMCORE falls into a similar category. It offers an open-source solution, and services are also available. Informatica and SAP provide enterprise solutions.
How much does a PIM system cost?
The costs of a PIM system can vary significantly. On one hand, there are free open-source solutions, and on the other hand, there are tools from enterprise providers such as SAP or Informatica.
As is common with many software products, there are:
- Setup costs,
- Annual costs for server operation,
- Costs depending on the number of accounts, i.e., the number of people using the system,
- Costs depending on the number of products (SKUs).
Additionally, some modules or interfaces might be billed separately.
Apart from these, there are costs associated with customization and updates that should not be overlooked. And, of course, personnel within the company will be needed to manage product data and operate the system.