What is a Product Catalogue?
A product catalog is a database with product information. On top of the database, software is added to communicate and use the product information. The user interface is often part of the software using the database, such as an ERP system and the look-and-feel of the function will be homogenous with the rest of the system.
The process of enrichment can often be improved using simple search features, imports and exports with Excel, import of images and similar features. The drawback is that the software using the product information database is created with a purpose and scope of another feature than product information enrichment. An ERP system is created for enterprise resource management and not so much for product information management as a pure PIM.
What is PIM?
PIM is an abbreviation of Product Information Management and is much more than just a product catalog. PIM is also using a database where the product information is stored, but the big difference is that the PIM software supports processes, work flows, and systems for integrations that improves the product information enrichment.
The whole purpose with PIM is to have a tool that keeps track of what product information that is fulfilled and what is not. The software will support work flows and parallel process to make for concurrent editing of product information. It will indicate what mandatory information that is missing, and when the product information is complete.
By using an approach with channels it is possible to create the same experience of a product regardless of sales channel and language. A channel may be a web site, a physical store, a printed folder or any other sales connection that exposes product information. It is also common practice to enrich campaigns using PIM to be able to share the campaign information between the channels together with the product information in a consistent manner.
The functions and features in a PIM are all focused on one thing – to enrich product information. The PIM software developers are specialized in this area and do create a solution that is optimized for this purpose. The user interfaces are never limited to features for other purposes.
The reason to use a PIM
To be able to describe when a PIM system is needed, and when it’s not, we need to understand the organization that creates the product information, and the end users that will consume the information in the channels exposed.
In an organization where the product information is spread in the organization is a PIM software always needed. Product information such as images, technical specifications, documents, translations, prices and other financial information are spread in the organization in different divisions and departments. The PIM system will collect and gather the product information from the different isolated areas in the organization into one product information base that all will share and use.
Organizations that have channels over many countries are usually in need of a PIM system since the product information that is shared often is equal between the countries. With a PIM system, the enrichment of the product information will be optimized and easily translated to the different languages.
In a manufacturing business, the PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) system will not be enough for the marketing and sales information needed in the channels. The product information is often imported from the PLM system into PIM where marketing information is added to the PLM information.
Images and similar assets may be created and managed in a PIM system to simplify the process of editing and adding visual content to the product information. In a very media intensive business, a DAM (Digital Asset Management) system will support the PIM with references to the actual visual media.
A PIM will make it possible to work with parallel product enrichment processes. Many editors may share the product information and update it. The PIM system will keep track of the information shared and updated and prevent that information is overwritten.
The PIM system keeps track of the product completeness and knows what information that is required to be able to publish the product information to the channel. A product should not be exposed to a channel unless all completeness rules are fulfilled and the information is validated against format rules. There are administrative interfaces where the editors can see the completeness of the products and what information that is missing. They also may see what assigned users that hasn’t completed their tasks.
Information that is used in PIM
Some information is never moved into a PIM system. Information such as prices, discounts, stock information and warehouse information are fetched from other systems. The reason is that the information is updated in a high frequency that makes it inconvenient to use it in PIM. The PIM system will be a bottleneck in the work flow and integrations of the solution.
The main principle is that PIM always contains marketing and sales information. Other type of data should be merged with the product information from the PIM afterwards.
Start small – think big – scale fast
A PIM includes lots of features to shorten time to market for your products, while the amount of information can be increased. The rich content will affect your conversion rate in a positive way, so look at the whole picture when it comes to the positive benefits a PIM solution would provide.
But for a successful implementation, you should create a solid foundation first. Look at the horizon so you know where your goals are, but focus on high quality of the first delivery of the PIM system. Then identify bottlenecks and prioritize your requirements, and a success will follow.
Avensia has long experience in inRiver implementations with strong focus on e-commerce. Our belief is that with clear content of your products is driving up sales on your e-commerce, provide more traffic and convert more visitors into buying customers. To manage the increased demands for efficient enrichment process, a PIM is needed that ensures that you can get better quality of your content in less time, using same resources. If you need to create product-related content faster and with better quality, you are welcome to contact us for more information.