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Product Information Management (PIM)

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.

What does the Product Information Management process look like?

The PIM process, also known as the product lifecycle, consists of various steps aimed at creating, managing and distributing high-quality and consistent product information. Here is a common representation of the PIM process:

1. data import

Product information is imported from various sources, including suppliers, manufacturers and internal systems. This step ensures a centralized collection of all relevant data.

2. data cleansing and harmonization

Imported data is checked for quality, cleansed and standardized in a uniform format. This includes the standardization of attributes, categories and other relevant information.

3. enrichment of product information

Additional information such as product descriptions, images, technical data and marketing texts are added to complete and improve the product information.

4. classification and taxonomy

Products are organized into categories and classifications to ensure a consistent and logical structure. This makes it easier to search and access information.

5. translations

Where necessary, product information is translated into different languages to support international marketing.

6. quality control

A comprehensive quality check is carried out to ensure that all product information is accurate, consistent and up-to-date.

7. data release

Approval and release processes are implemented to ensure that only verified and authorized information is published.

8. publication

Product information is exported to various sales channels, including e-commerce websites, catalogs, mobile apps and more.

9. monitoring and updating

The process is continuously monitored and updates are made as needed to ensure product information remains accurate and relevant.

This PIM process helps to increase efficiency in the management of product information and ensure a consistent presentation across different sales channels. The exact design can vary depending on the specific requirements and the type of products.

What are the areas of application for PIM?

Product Information Management (PIM) is used in various areas of a company to ensure the efficient management of product information. Here are some of the main areas where PIM is used:

E-commerce

PIM is crucial for the management and optimization of product information in online stores. It enables a consistent presentation of product data on different e-commerce platforms.

Trade and retail

Companies in the trade and retail sector use PIM to centrally organize product information and use it in various sales channels, such as brick-and-mortar stores, online stores and catalogs.

Manufacturing and industry

In the manufacturing industry, PIM helps to manage complex product data, including technical specifications, BOM (Bill of Materials) and other relevant information.

Marketing and advertising

PIM helps marketing teams efficiently create and distribute marketing materials by providing high-quality and consistent product information.

Multichannel marketing

Companies that have a presence on multiple channels, such as print, online, mobile and social media, use PIM to ensure their product information is consistent across all platforms.

Publishing

In publishing, PIM is used to optimize the management of texts, images and other content, especially when it comes to the production of printed or digital publications.

Global markets

For companies that operate internationally, PIM is essential for managing and adapting product information in different languages and for different markets.

B2B sales

PIM is also used in business-to-business (B2B) sales to organize complex product information and make it available for sales to business customers.

The areas of application for PIM are diverse and range from optimizing e-commerce processes to ensuring consistency and accuracy in product communication across different channels.

Which market players benefit from a PIM system?

The implementation of a Product Information Management (PIM) system brings benefits to various market players. Manufacturers and suppliers can centralize and standardize their product information, which improves collaboration with sales partners and enables consistent product presentations on different platforms. Retailers benefit by optimizing their product catalogs, improving the quality of product information and increasing efficiency when publishing on different sales channels.

Brand owners ensure consistent brand communication and improve the visibility of their products. Marketing teams can access high-quality and updated product information to create consistent marketing materials. Purchasing departments keep track of supplier information, contracts and product catalogs. Sales and distribution teams benefit from accurate product information for effective customer support. IT departments are responsible for implementing and maintaining PIM systems to ensure data flow and integration.

Ultimately, end customers also experience an improved purchasing experience through accurate, comprehensive and engaging product information.

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:

  1. Setup costs,
  2. Annual costs for server operation,
  3. Costs depending on the number of accounts, i.e., the number of people using the system,
  4. 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.

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