The challenge for companies to efficiently meet the dynamic demands of product data for omnichannel is increasing exponentially. This is especially true for businesses attempting to support multiple stores, geographic regions and marketplaces.

Unfortunately, many businesses;

  1. Are unaware they have an issue
  2. Excuse laborious, manual and expensive processes and tools as a “part of business.”
  3. Have no idea to how to alter their current system architecture and workflows.
  4. Attempt to solve their product data issues with methods and tools that do not fit their specific needs.  

Fortunately, the answer is out there. Enterprise businesses everywhere are successfully achieving operational excellence with streamlined and lean back end operations that allow for heavy customizations and control to front end shopping experiences.

However, the first step to successfully addressing an issue it to admit you have one.

In this post we’ll discuss 3 ways to evaluate how your business handles product data and 4 instances where you may need to implement some course correction.  

3 Signs You’re Ready to Implement a Solid PIM Solution

Having worked with many large-scale brands including; Berlin, Avery Dennison, Delasco, Skullcandy, Me to We, Powell’s Books, Chuck Levin’s and Spinning.com, we’ve found several, common signs that a business is ready to assess their current technology suite architecture, revisit their operational workflows and evaluate how leveraging a PIM can help them scale the way they do business.

Sign #1: Balancing Product Data Across Multiple Storefronts, Geographic Locations and Marketplaces

Companies working to expand globally or seeking ways to optimize the way they sell across multiple stores, geographic regions, physical retail and third party marketplaces, like Amazon and eBay.

Growing brands spend a considerable time and/or require an enormous staff to launch new or update their current product catalog. It’s challenging, often expensive, and makes it tough to expand and companies can quickly fall behind their competition.

Sign #2: Inconsistent Imports for Product Data

Typically, each product data supplier provides product data via a specific system, tool, or even email.

Product Data Sourcing Examples:

  • Manufacturers
  • Product Suppliers
  • Warehouses
  • Translation Agency
  • Legacy Systems
  • Procurement Systems
  • Photographers
  • SEO/Marketing Agencies
  • Data suppliers
  • Content Delivery Network (CDN)

These inputs produce a wide range of product data types, leading to a messy retrieval and management process which initiates the need to purchase more technologies, hiring of more staff and stand up more error-prone and inefficient workflows that negatively impact the entire business (e.g., cost, time, customer sentiment, poor data quality, etc.).

Sign #3: Inefficient and Fragmented Technology Stack Architecture

If manual processes are in place, error prone data and inefficient workflows are likely running rampant across an organization.

By lacking a PIM system to govern and validate information, important data is easily outdated or lost. You’re also denying your organization the opportunity and benefits of maintaining and sharing product data across your entire commerce technology suite.

A PIM not only centralizes and sanitizes product data, but a solid PIM solution will provide an Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) enabling a two-way sync across all business applications including;

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Order Management Solutions (OMS)
  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
  • Master Data Management (MDM)
  • Business Intelligence (BI)
  • Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
  • …and additional legacy systems

4 Signs You May Want to Re-Evaluate Your Current “PIM” Solution

Although many companies come to us ready to tackle product data for the first time, it’s not uncommon that we work with companies who have already have a “solve” in place.

Here are some frequent ways in which brands work to address the way they manage product data, but end up setting themselves back.

Attempt to Solve #1: Manipulating a Manual PIM

As you can imagine from the examples above, this is the most common way organizations attempt to solve their product information woes. Teams attempt to work with Excel sheets, pivot tables and cross scripting SQL. As discussed, this method is costly, prone to error, time consuming, frustrating for staff and leadership lacks confidence in data to guide their strategy.

Attempt to Solve #2: Attempting a Custom PIM

When companies attempt to implement a PIM on their own they almost instantly find themselves under water. It’s not uncommon to underestimate the depth of their product reach integrations. Teams are left, inundated with tools, half-baked integrations, broken data workflows, mounds of technical debt and wasted resources.

Attempt to Solve #3: Selecting an “All-In-One” Solution

One size does not fit all and all-in-one solutions are ridged, bloated and expensive. They lack the ability to handle the delicate mix of mitigating consumer front-end load and internal performance. Meeting you specific business needs including; customizing front end merchandising workflows, inventory and accounting back office process are simply too large and complex a software challenge.

Attempt to Solve #4: Current PIM Provider Isn’t a Good Fit

It happens, tools are selected and implemented only to find that that they don’t live up to expectations. Sometimes business purchase what we like to call a “PIM-like” product that doesn’t scale as their business evolves or does not provide all the features needed to support operations from start to finish. Either that, or companies find themselves attempting to stitch together connections or begging for the features and functionality they were promised when they signed.

No matter the case, it’s never too late to pivot and no technology and/or workflow should be too complicated if a PIM solution is a solid one.

If you need assistance, you’re welcome to reach out as we offer a free optimization consultation that will help you better understand your business’s needs and requirements. We’ll help you ask the tough questions regarding your company’s current challenges prepare you to evaluate PIM solutions that are best suited for your business.

Thanks for reading!

Recently we discussed the inner workings of a PIM solution, and how it unifies internal systems and workflows for mid and enterprise businesses. However, the benefits of a PIM truly shine when they are tied to the specific team(s) and/or individuals(s) who will directly leverage the tool to manage and promote products.

By taking a look at how specific responsibilities tie together in a seamless workflow, it becomes easy to understand the benefits of PIM’s features and functionality. Adding on the fact that a native Information Platform as a Service iPaaS centralizes product data across all business applications, it becomes a no-brainer for mid and enterprise businesses looking to scale or optimize their international efforts.

How a PIM Streamlines Commerce Workflows and Teams

By understanding the entire workflow and checkpoints products go through, solutions to workflow problems become apparent. The beauty of a PIM solution is that the work of many disparate teams across an enterprise-grade product catalog(s) may be handled far more efficiently and potentially, with a smaller team.

Role #1: Data Importers

These folks live and breathe spreadsheets which everyone loves (said with mild sarcasm). Their days are typically filled by manual manipulation and working their magic to try and import, sync and correlate product data from multiple sources.

The life of a Data Importer can be greatly changed with the implementation of a PIM. During the onboarding process, information is mapped and imported into the PIM, lessening the amount of manual vetting and manipulation. The role of a Data Importer is not reduced, but rather the amount of product information they can handle will increase allowing for the business to expand.

Once the initial mapping from client data to PIM is complete future imports can be self-service with the use of SFTP or S3 drop offs or direct import, making scalability easier. Plus, at least with Jasper PIM’s iPaaS, this information will be pushed to a company’s technology stack and other roles put the finishing touches on data before presenting it to the public.

Role #2: Product Building Team

Depending on how your organization is structured, this role may or may not be combined with data imports. No matter the case, the Product Building function is responsible for ad-hoc product creation on a manual basis which is separate from mass imports. This team will spend their time in the PIM making manual adjustments to imported data and ensuring it conforms to style guidelines, vet for errors and assuring assets are properly imported and configured (e.g., language, currency, photography, pricing, supplemental materials, etc.) to help streamline the rest of the workflows.

Role #3: Merchandisers

These are what we call “PIM Power Users.” Merchandisers spend time manipulating data created by Data Importer and Product Builders in order to categorize, sort, tag and present specific subsets of products to the ecommerce platform.

By using key PIM features (see below), advanced elasticsearch parameters and powerful bulk editing features, Merchandisers can create product associations, dynamically update categories or featured product sets for easy use by a Marketing team.

Merchandisers can also easily maintain healthy catalogs in the PIM by managing product revisions, discontinuations, updates, and so on.

Role #4: Marketers

Marketers use product information provided by the Merchandisers to create campaigns and promotions within the ecommerce platform (Magento, Bigcommerce and Shopify), on-site search providers (SearchSpring, Nextopia and ATTRAQT), distribution channels (multiple ecommerce storefronts, Amazon, Ebay, Google Shopping, etc.) and even marketing automation tools. The Marketing team can function confidently when creating landing pages, banners, campaigns, etc. and syndicate products easily because they are aware that the previous teams are not only dealing with a central set of product data, but that the teams before them have been able to successfully touch each data point.

How a PIM Completes Commerce Operational Workflows

By using a PIM that provides native Information Platform as a Service (iPaaS) functionality, you’ll finally have a closed loop commerce workflow.

 

What is a PIM image

An iPaaS provides a two-way sync for product data (e.g. sales details, customer details, inventory, etc.) via custom APIs to a long list of business applications and systems so product data is always up-to-date and accurate.

Here is a list of functionality, features and application types we support to help streamline your entire commerce workflow.

Jasper PIM Features Functionality WorkflowsIf you’re interested in learning more about what a PIM and native iPaaS can do for you business, feel free to reach out!

Being in touch with your customers’ shopping behavior and desires is the ultimate goal of any ecommerce company. However, product merchandising and marketing are often laborious, manual processes that require multiple systems and data sources to be effective. Things like pricing information, digital assets and product descriptions are often stored in separate systems and only to be forced manually inside of the ecommerce platform itself.

It is this lack of a centralized data hub from which to import, format, manipulate and publish data is why Product information Management (PIM) software was created. Not only does a PIM centralize product data across your entire technology suite (which comes with its own, separate set of benefits), but it makes product merchandising and marketing easier and more effective than ever.

By leveraging all product data stored in a PIM, a single person is capable of creating a successful campaign in a short amount of time. This is especially important during the holidays and other peak shopping periods when time is an issue, but the ROI is even higher.  

By using powerful, advanced elasticsearch parameters and bulk editing features, creating product merchandising campaigns can be as easy as identifying the relevant fields.

Real-World Example: Let’s say a retailer uses “Skill Level” as a product attribute for filtering musical instruments. By using Jasper’s advanced search feature, one person has the ability to set up 5 different holiday landing pages from two fields: “Price Range” and “Skill Level.”

Beginner Level instruments were grouped together in a new dynamically updating smart category. Intermediate and Professional Level instruments were each split into “Under $X.XX and $X.XX and up.”

The product merchandising capabilities of PIM go beyond product data, extending to categories as well. The PIM stores category data and assets as well, allowing these newly created categories to be published complete with banners and rich descriptions and SEO meta data.

Combined with the ability to schedule the publication of content, PIM is a fully-capable product merchandising tool.

Where PIM truly shines is the ability to connect with on-site search engines such as Search Spring or Nextopia. E-commerce platforms can be limited in their sorting of products, this is where on-site search providers shine. For instance, in the case of our musical instrument merchant, categories were pushed to Search Spring and their product ordering was initially set to promote based on inventory levels with the highest showing first. From there, by tracking customer interactions with products on those pages, popular items were elevated to the forefront automatically. The entire campaign from inception to publication took only a few weeks and one person to accomplish, all thanks to Jasper PIM.

The beauty of the centralized structure of a PIM is that users gain an overarching point of view into all aspects of product creation, organization and publication. The more time one spends in PIM, the more informed one becomes and the easier it is merchandise products for any occasion.

Although PIMs are currently popular among mid and enterprise businesses any business looking to streamline and scale can benefit. 

Every day as individuals and teams work to manage sourced data, inventory, item numbers, price lists, references, catalogs, SKUs, images, videos, language translations, localizations, supplemental documentation, web collateral, web pages, promotions, custom attributes and more, the product information management problem compounds.

Every time an individual or catalog of products is edited, especially at the scale and pace required to successfully sell online today, product information becomes scattered, duplicated, reformatted, error-ridden and held captive by people or applications.

Immediate Benefits of a Product Information Management (PIM) Solution

What a PIM does is allows multiple, disparate teams to unify their efforts into a seamless workflow. Back office teams can to import and manage every product data point, merchandisers can make adjustments to best meet demand. Then, Marketers can create and schedule targeted landing pages, banners, etc., and push them to multiple marketplaces and localized, international sites.

A PIM empowers businesses to quickly meet the demand of a dynamic omnichannel shopping experience, enter new markets, balance international efforts and beat competition to market.  

Unique Advantage of a Native Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)

If a PIM offers a native iPaaS as we do at Jasper PIM, product information will continuously sync across all business applications within a technology suite. Individuals and teams confidently use data to share with stakeholders, suppliers, manufacturers and more.

This is a key point as our iPaaS, provides a two-way sync keeping your entire stack up-to-date at all times.

Where a PIM is used to contain all the details of your product data, an Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is what integrates existing applications with the PIM. This is how the PIM can push the information across a technology stack so accurate product information can be sent and received by Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, Order Management Systems (OMS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, and additional systems for cohesive omnichannel management.

 

The Benefits and Value of Jasper PIM

 

Here is a comprehensive list of the benefits we’ve heard from our clients including; Powell’s Books, Berlin Packaging, Me to We, ToyMate, Mad Dogg Athletics (formerly Spinning.com) Avery Dennison, Chuck Levin’s, and more:

  • Centralize and sanitize data
  • Enrich product descriptions and specifications
  • Track progress and product completion
  • Link images, documents and media to products
  • Categorize products and files
  • Manage upstream data and prepare it for sales channels
  • Offer vendor or affiliate portals to partners
  • Delegate product management and content approvals
  • Optimization of international sales workflows
  • Manage relationships between products
  • Create and publish product catalogs
  • Build custom product feeds
  • Format product data for multichannel syndication
  • Automate catalog creation and maintenance
  • Find everything in one central database

EXAMPLE: As Skullcandy’s preferred PIM, we enable them to sell worldwide in 6 languages and 4 currencies. Here are the benefits they’ve been so kind to share;

 

“We’re currently using Jasper as a digital PIM, but by the end of the year we’ll be expanding Jasper to be the PIM for the entire Skullcandy organization.

In addition to digital, we’ll use it for retail marketing, creative, sales, and any other teams who need product imagery or product information. It will be the first point of contact when people have questions about a product and need an answer.

In our short integration time to date, Jasper’s PIM has proven essential to our business and is highly adaptable. It is capable of meeting our needs in more ways than maybe a PIM should!” 

 

– Kinsey Butler, Manager of Ecommerce Strategy at Skullcandy 

 

Advanced Optimizations and Automation Features of a Top PIM Software Solution

Once your onboarded and products are added, barcoded, photographed, categorized, merchandised and lit up to various portals or publication channels inside your PIM, automation rules can be created that publish to a limitless number of platforms.

A top PIM software solution can also be setup to automatically aggregate sources from multiple inbound feeds. Say for example as a retailer you’d like to automatically create products that you can publish to your ecommerce store, while also setting rules so that your staff can go in and simply:

  • Review the data that’s come in from the inbound feeds or ERP ingestion pipeline
  • Massage the data, adding custom photos and pricing where needed
  • Setup merchandising rules such as categories, attributes, tags, promotions, sales, etc.
  • Define its publication channels (i.e. on which stores does this product sell?)
  • Define custom price groups & tiers or other override data like names or imagery depending on publication channel
  • Finally, decide which store(s) or output channels you’d like to publish too (and at what frequency) and the PIM takes care of the rest 

What is a PIM? 

The question “what is a PIM?” isn’t uncommon as the technology is rather new compared to well-known terms like “ecommerce platform.” 

A PIM system stands for Product Information Management; a middleware software solution that centralizes your organization’s unique product data and provides advanced features and functionality for simple management and distribution across all sales channels.

A strong Product Information Management (PIM) solution will serve as a central source of truth for all product information across every business application within an commerce technology suite. This includes things like; SKU data, product photography, merchandising, SEO meta-data, pricing information and much more.

Additionally, a solid PIM unifies workflows between back office operations and front end shopping experiences. All existing workflows starting with product data sourcing, to merchandising, to product syndication and fulfillment will function seamlessly.

This speeds time-to-market, improves internal collaboration, reduces errors and cost, boosts customer experience, improves branding and merchandising, and more. However, most importantly, it provides the ability to scale (e.g., internationally, multiple stores, additional product launches, staffing, etc.)

What is a PIM image

In short, a PIM is used to provide your overall modern ecommerce infrastructure with the flexibility and accuracy required to improve.

EXAMPLE: Products for your online store(s) are often mastered directly by hand inside a Content Management System (or another similar web-based management tool). While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it presents challenges for multi-channel publication which has become essential for retailers who want to sell products in their physical brick-and-mortar stores and through various online channels.

A PIM can be used to publish products to Amazon or eBay and through a variety of alternative online stores that may be branded differently or contain products that are meant for different consumption audiences (such as B2C versus B2B customers).

Manage Your Product Data Once and Customize Publication Everywhere

Imagine mastering your products easily in one centrally hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution and then publishing it to many places at once, automatically. This is what a PIM, in the modern omnichannel sphere, accomplishes. It is critical for mid to large sized enterprises as part of their efforts to streamline workflows and create more sophisticated information management stacks so they can easily expand into new markets.

EXAMPLE: A product is designated to be pushed to your USA store with geo-specific assignments including; English description, US currency, local photography, specific PDFs, and so on. However, this same product must show up on your Brazilian store with a Portuguese description, price displayed in Real, with customized creative assets, and any other supporting information that may best resonate with that target audience.

Having a geo-specific strategy is essential to success throughout the entire year. This means you must have the ability to easily tailor web pages, banners, ads, product information, pricing, etc.) across every custom storefront and each sale channel. this can prove exceptionally challenging, especially for mid-market and enterprise businesses with large product catalogs, multiple stores and numerous, targeted promotions.

A PIM is what enables teams to be able to accomplish these types of initiatives. It is especially imperative for brands who wish to successfully internationalize and manage translations, localizations, currencies and languages.

Carrying a Wide and Shallow Inventory Assortment

Nowadays your sales are processed through a number of channels. Be it online, 3rd party marketplaces or just the good-old brick and mortar retail store, having an efficient and effective system manage these orders with your warehouse is more crucial than ever. PIM allows for one smooth and streamlined communications between your sales channels and inventory.

Disadvantages of Multi-Storefront Software

Multi-storefront software responded to the first instances of these channels opening up to businesses. Unlike a PIM they focus on one end of the order process rather than bringing the whole system under one digital roof. This software tends not to be so user-friendly, so it can be very time consuming and prone to errors. Manual entry is not easy to work with and when your orders come in multiple formats, they can be tricky to process and receive without mistakes.

With this type of system, you’ll often find your employees are stretched thin with your resources quickly lacking. This will ultimately lead to disruption in your overall customer service. These systems require a lot more time and resources to work with compared to PIM systems, especially when it comes to inventory management and communicating with the warehouse. You’ll need to invest more in training your employees more intensively.

You will also find these systems do not mix too well with applications integrations, which are imperative for things like offers of promotions. It can take hours to implement these over your channels, opening up windows everywhere for mistakes. With a PIM however, all it takes is a few simple clicks.

Why use a PIM?

PIM systems allow you to centralize your sales channels and inventory for a more streamlined retail offer. The software will speed up the overall efficiency of your operation allowing for a more positive shopping experience for your consumers. Thanks to a central ERP system that your multiple sales channels go to, it is much faster to find and process your orders due to the consolidation of order data. You can efficiently distribute and share the information across the channels that you are using so that all information is updated at a single time. All of this comes together to ensure better inventory management.

PIM systems offer efficient data delivery, too. You can quickly update all information across the board, no matter the business system or channel. You can organize information on services or products for your clients, making it easy for them to find what they need. Only enhancing the customer experience is enhanced

This system offers easy integration. You will quickly integrate with ERP, ESB and other enterprise systems or any third-party systems that you utilize. Communication between the systems is seamless and it is easy to tackle all required tasks as they are necessary.

You can see that compared to multi-storefront and similar software types, PIM is superior for maintaining store inventory. It allows you to accurately track what you have available and it ensures greater accuracy. It also makes it easier for your customers to get updated information about the services and products offered, improving the overall customer experience.