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.

At Jasper PIM, we focus our efforts on providing a seamless PIM integration for mid and enterprise technology stacks.

We have clients like Skullcandy, Mad Dogg Athletics (formerly Spinning.com) and Avery Dennision, who publish their content not only to BigCommerce via our PIM integration, but also to third party professional search services such as Nextopia, Google Merchant Center (for remarketing ads), Amazon, and eBay. Having your staff master product only once and not countless times in multiple back-end admin consoles, is the only sane way to manage anything more than a few hundred SKU’s, let alone tens of thousands.

A PIM really shines when integrated to your inventory management system (IMS), such as JDA, MS Dynamics Navision, NetSuite, etc. Many of these older legacy all-in-one back office platforms don’t offer an incredibly vast selection of product merchandising or meta-data capability on their own however, and usually fall down with respect to professional media management and provision for very fine grained customization.

What’s more, a PIM enables sophisticated and extremely granular user access controls all centered around the product data itself, which becomes important in keeping your more junior staff away from pricing data in your ERP, or any other sensitive financial information in your accounting platform. You might not believe how many times I’ve seen junior staff with usernames/password access to the entire financial platform, including views of the balance sheet and income statement, just so they can also update web descriptions for their bosses’ online store!

Another additional architectural nicety of a PIM is that you can train your staff on one solution to use, instead of having to train them on manually publishing product data to various storefronts one-by-one. Imagine the margin for user error here.

In fact, when you’re done imagining, here’s a concrete and less imaginative stat to illustrate the point. The ratio for erroneous entry to accurate entry is typically 1:4. No wonder manually managed product data or (even worse, inventory counts) result in stock count fill issues and customer satisfaction & returns fallout rates of 25% or more.

Publishing Products from Our Professional PIM to BigCommerce Enterprise

Now that I’ve detailed what a PIM is, and hopefully articulated some of the unadulterated sanity in using one, let’s outline below what was involved in connecting our PIM to the BigCommerce API.

Our PIM was developed atop the increasingly popular Laravel MVC framework and the original prototype was developed specifically against the BigCommerce Product API in April of 2014.

The first goal was to ensure that our PIM could support a significant number of SKU’s that would doubtlessly come from a professional ERP source or multiple inbound feed sources via automation. That necessitated in our case running creation tests against the BigCommerce API involving an estimated 150,000 SKU’s. Yes that’s correct… 150,000 SKU’s. That’s more than any one minimum wage product data entry clerk could ever hope to accurately manage manually – via the gorgeous and user friendly BigCommerce admin console no less – even if they had fifteen lifetimes to do it in.

Automation here was key, and while we assumed the BigCommerce API was built for this sort of thing, we needed to run a battery of tests to corroborate the fact that the platform could stand up to our needs for timely and integral operation. Otherwise, we’d have been shopping around for another commerce platform.

Speed Test

Adding tens or a few hundred products via the API we postulated would predictably take seconds or minutes. What would happen if we tried to add 150,000 products within the same hour?

Our first attempt in using the Product API did take an unholy amount of time, unfortunately; on order of 3 days to complete, as we were also attempting to add as many as 35 custom product attributes to each product record. Product attributes are things such as color, size, SKU, series, brand, weight, height, condition, etc.

We needed to get the ingestion time down to something more palatable and thus opted to package all of our attributes from our PIM into a single product entity field as a JSON object. Once we did that, we were able to get the creation time for 150,000 SKU’s down to a matter of 4 hours and 36 minutes. That’s not altogether shabby, since we weren’t planning to add 150,000 SKU’s every 15 minutes, or even every day. We just need to do this once when we onboard a new client during the initial load (or ingestion) process before a new store goes live.

Since we predicted that most of our customers would likely only peak at about 30,000 SKU’s or so, we now have the initial ingestion time down to about an hour, which was totally reasonable.

Integrity Test

At no point did we encounter any integrity issues with the BigCommerce API.

An integrity issue is simply a case where we attempt to add or update a product by making a REST call to a function inside the BigCommerce API, and the function call either:

  • Leaves the data in a corrupt state
  • Deadlocks or hangs the calling process
  • Crashes the server or bungles up the store or database powering the API

No such issues were encountered and thus we were able to move on with our final test.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Integrity Tests are meant to give us comfort in a go-forward plan to execute with a given partner. If this test fails, our development team loses faith in the product and has no choice but to move its integration plans elsewhere.

Reset Test

The joy of using a PIM comes into play when you wish to make detailed wholesale changes to product content. At the time of writing, the BigCommerce API doesn’t have the provision for search and replace functions of product data, modifying attributes with special prefixes, adding watermarks to all product imagery, for example(s). All things a professional PIM could support, but would require a wholesale reset of the products inside BigCommerce.

We tested a wholesale UPDATE and a wholesale DELETE. In both cases, the experiments produced satisfying results.

pim-blog-table

BigCommerce Support Kudos

Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong. Once our PIM had been developed and approved by our client, things were going along quite nicely leading up until the planned launch. We did encounter however some last minute challenges in using the API that was a result of bugs (i.e. faults) in the PHP. However, the BigCommerce support team worked closely with us to pinpoint and resolve the issue in hours. This could have potentially delayed launch by days or even weeks. 
Sharing that story makes me want to take a moment to say that the BigCommerce support experienc,e from an enterprise integrator’s perspective, is that of legend. Having access to such an amazing team  is essential to any solid project management planning efforts.

My experience working with BigCommerce support was unparalleled in the industry, for the following reasons:

  • The support rep answered the phone quickly, was empathetic, and helpful.
  • The support rep wasted no time in putting me directly in touch with someone more technical, who was himself both pleasant and astute; with a mastery of English that was refreshing. The rep was very patient as I described in painstaking detail the precise symptoms as best we could tell from our diagnostics.
  • As soon as the rep realized he was out of his pay grade, he directed me to one of the engineer’s that was involved in mastering the API itself. Surely, if this individual didn’t know what the issue was, no one likely would.
  • The API engineer provided clear direction and we iterated over the phone on a number of attempts to solve the problem, until the solution was at least sorted out.

In all, we’ve found working with the BigCommerce API to be a first-class due to their documentation, honest design and overall speed. 

We’d just like to tip our hats to a support team dedicated to world-class customer service such as they are. Thank you, BigCommerce!

Recently, during Bigcommerce’s MAKE IT BIG Online Conference, Tracy Wallace (TW), host of the video and Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce, sat down with many commerce thought leaders including;

Among these industry leaders, our very own Jon Marsella (JM) CEO of Jasper PIM discussed the ever changing technology landscape. More specifically, the SaaS technology evolution and how Product Information Management (PIM) integration streamlines information from multiple back office systems leading to company growth and success.

TW: Jasper PIM, if you are not familiar, they’ve created a PIM solution, they have a systems integrator background. Also, they work with some crazy, cool brands helping to reduce the complexity in their ecommerce operations. Whether that’s B2B or B2C. On the B2B site it’s like Clarion and Avery Dennison. On the B2B side there’s Skullcandy. You’ve been in the ecommerce industry for a long time. How has it changed and how is it shifting?

JM: What we’ve observed over the past ten years is that ecommerce has really matured and for us we started when ecommerce was just really getting started. At that stage we found that a lot of merchants were developing their own systems and it was a really unsophisticated landscape in terms of packages and platforms. A lot of merchants were trying to solve problems themselves. Many of them were quite technical and hands-on so they would build their own sites in WordPress.

TW: You needed to be then.

JM: You absolutely did, yes. So you need to either be enterprising or get a big agency behind you. It has definitely matured so now we have all these great platforms and technologies. Now we’re starting to see that the industry is starting to consolidate and we’re seeing that some of the SaaS players are really starting to come together and putting more unified solutions together. Merchants are getting better and better solution platform opportunities without having to make that big investment and take that leap. So things are getting a little bit more affordable for them but there still are some challenges and gaps that we see there.

TW: So you work mainly with large organizations and I’d imagine a lot of these folks have been online for a while or have had operations for a long time. So they come from that background of having created their own solutions or having experience with that. How do you educate them or bring them along to the newer stuff that is happening now?

JM: Let me tell you that is challenging. I can say it has been a process for some of our customers and prospects. So yes, you’re right. A lot of the clientele we served are large enterprise merchants or mid-market merchants and they had big, sophisticated back office systems. So they’ll have dynamics and Oracle and SAP. They are used to, in many cases still used to, it’s more control. Their IT departments want a certain amount of control. Leadership doesn’t want to have a lot of dependency on what they perceive in the SaaS space as maybe too many different throats to choke or too many fail points. So there’s a lot of challenge there, but what we’re finding now though is that as these SaaS players are getting more sophisticated and consolidating and have better toolsets and offerings. You think about the past five years how much it has changed. How many of these platforms now are more robust, they have more features and more tools, they integrate with your systems. They just integrate better with what you naturally and organically have. Getting back to your question, you take the large scale mid-market customer who has Oracle or SAP back office you educate them and say take a bit of a risk, take a test or sample of your audience or market. Try out a SaaS offering. Integrate it deeply and connect that nice piece of middleware and connect that with a PIM, a Product Information Management System that we produce. That entire solution set then empowers the customer to start using SaaS platforms and not just shopping cart platforms, but other SaaS technologies. So you can still have your super secure deep office environment and it is protected and so on. On the front end you’ve got a lot more malleability and fluidity.

TW: It sounds like you’re educating these folks on a lot of new tech stack or more modern tech stack.

JM: It does, what we’re really trying to do is take some of the mid-market solution set and bring it more down market and say if you don’t have the big back office experience, you’ve got a little more lightweight ERP accounting platform. You’ve got a lightweight, more modern SaaS inventory system. What we see in the industry is the need to be sort of in the middle of that and connect these systems together with a really malleable front end and shopping environment. Since we’re all synergistic, everyone plays together really well. So that solution now for the merchant is really tightly integrated from a control standpoint. Some of the customers get a really good sense of “Hey I can still have a good measure of control over these things and I can also have some accountability”. Depending on if they partner with us to provide some of that accountability and how do we put these things together and solve some of these problems.

TW: Do you see or think that need for speed and innovation in the market right now is just massive? Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla in the room always kind of pushing. Do you see the need for speed and innovation on the marketing side of these organizations kind of being a push for some of the guys that are IT and are really looking for more control?

JM: Definitely, I think that’s where we found most of the friction between marketing and IT and those sort of differing needs. I think what we’re getting and finding though is the IT and back office teams, as they’re starting to adopt SaaS and moving away from on-premise, as they identify that there are some really great platform solutions that they don’t have to host themselves. They’re starting to fall in love with cloud and starting to get that done properly still secure. The shift, we’ve seen it happen really over the past five years I’d say. Prior to that there was a lot of resistance so we’re still educating merchants and saying “you guys may want to consider letting go of some of these big systems”.

TW: This allows the IT team to not be the tech dead-center right? It allows them to be part of the innovation and moving forward.

JM: Absolutely, right. Along with that loss of perceived control they now gain control of a different way because now what they’re looking at is the systems that bind the systems together, rather than having to control that one behemoth system. If it goes down it’s all on them. So the business is looking at how they don’t have to be attached or tied to that IT control center because at times it is not healthy for the marketing team or the business as a whole.

TW: Right, let’s talk about some of those integrators. So, Jasper PIM had a background in system integration and you guys have built a fantastic PIM, which I’m going to ask you about in a little bit. You guys work of off APIs on modern SaaS technologies. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of APIs and about how these APIs give IT guys a little bit more security and control?

JM: Yes, so I would say that eight out of ten times we’re on a phone call we get a question from someone in IT asking about our API, about the other APIs that we’re going to be connecting with and about how tested are they, how robust are they, what their rate limits are, things like that. It’s becoming this constant. We’re spending a lot of time talking about the importance of having the right APIs in place. Not just the fact that they’re feature-rich, but they’re integral, they’re robust. That the people that have developed the APIs have thought about all of the different ways that systems integrators can break this thing. Typically, that a myriad of ways, but generally it is on things like “I want to model more of an enterprise context, I want to set up a staging environment and see what happens if I throw a bunch of load at this thing and will it respond properly. Does it have integrity issues, and so on and so forth.” The APIs for all of the various systems that you’re going to be connecting with are key.

TW: So those APIs seem like a very important conversation with a lot of these IT folks.

JM: Absolutely.

TW: I don’t know if you work much with the marking side at a lot of these places, but on the marketing side are APIs known or talked about a lot?

JM: I would say not as much, they’re definitely aware of the APIs, but not as much as the IT group.

TW: Sure, let’s talk more about this PIM then, I want to use Skullcandy as an example. I know you guys are incredibly excited about Skullcandy . To give everybody a little bit of background here, Skull Candy is using the Jasper  PIM essentially as a single source of truth. So, pushing product information out to a variety of localized international sites, as well as off to marketplaces. I also walk around the airport and see all this Skullcandy  stuff and am like “They’re suing PIM too; I know they are”. That kind of model, where you’re using the ecommerce site as kind of a cog in a much larger wheel, it reminds me of this commerce as a service thing that we’re hearing lot more about. Can you talk a little about what Skull Candy is doing, why it is so helpful for them, and maybe how others can get in that mindset?

JM: Yeah, I think so one of the big transformational shifts with other platforms they’re moving off of and on to has just been an empowerment, with not only having the central source of truth in the PIM, but having one that enables them very rapidly to connect to multiple markets and manage multiple languages and currencies. So it’s a platform for scale if you’re a merchant that wants to scale form five million a year to ten million a year, from whatever stage you want to be at from one to two. Everyone has aspirations, you know, let’s double, let’s triple, let’s increase our footprint and so the solution as a whole, and what they’ve identified is that it has empowered them to get new markets up and running very quickly, but with integrity. I mean it has been tested through and is working really well. It has been quite a success.

TW: So a lot of it then is about the innovation, the quick go to market but you want to make sure you’re not messing up the backend processes that have made them so successful to being with.

JM: Yes, correct you are. Again, so what we find, commerce as a service. Mid-market customers are not typically going to go into the back end of a shopping cart and manage their orders and manage those things manually, especially not to scale. This is what is often happening and is often what becomes a bottleneck for merchants. So, if you bring all that content together and tie it in with your back office, which in many cases is already working. So, a lot of merchants don’t want to mess with their back end, maybe they’ve invested a lot in it. They do want to be nimble on the front end. We, or others, there needs to be this piece in the middle and is really connecting everything, its professional, it’s an enterprise environment. Yet, it also allows us to connect to those commerce as a service platforms that are really good at not just being tender but being the fact to the customer. Right, and handling all of that load and demand, all of those things that typically, in your holistic environment when you’ve got your IT department sort of controlling everything, you’ve got one big platform. That big platform is trying to manage all your inventory, it’s trying to manage all of your accounting stuff, all of those elements as well as its trying to be the front end of your commerce platforms. So, often times the whole thing becomes way too rigid and you can’t modify it quickly enough.

TW: Right, so this commerce as a service model seems like it is empowering the marketing team to do what it does best, grow, as well making sure the IT guys have the control that they need and that a system in place to make sure the business is running properly.

JM: Absolutely.

TW: If there is one thing everyone that is watching should take away from this, what is one piece of advice you might give?

JM: I really like to challenge my customers, prospects, and the industry as a whole to really think about investing in not just systems, but invest in people, process, invest in new technology, prototype tests. Take risks, take calculated risks, iterate quickly. Yeah, the one thing I’d really like to just tell everyone is just go for it.

TW: Yeah, and for you, you founded Jasper PIM. What gets you so excited about the changes in the industry that are happening now? Every time I see you, you’re pumped.

JM: Yeah, wow that’s such an awesome question. I think that what really gives me the most rise is seeing merchants’ eyes pop open when they’ve seen that expansion happen in front of their own eyes. Form their perspective and from our perspective. They’ve really seen transformation; they’ve seen their growth double. For me, what gets me out of bed and helps me keep Jasper moving forward is just seeing merchants succeed. We live or them to succeed in that sense.

TW: Final Question here, is a lot of the folks watching right now are probably in this scaling moment. Probably facing the same difficulties that a lot of the folks you talk to are facing. When they say they’re having trouble with, I’m not even sure what to say, a lot of times they can’t even verbalize it. What kind of advice before you move into the tool selection might you offer?

JM: So with a systems integration background our goal is to always work with the customer and try to find if there’s a way we can help them on the business side too. A lot of times the tools are not failing them. It can be a bit of a grass is greener situation where they’ll say “Hey I’m on this platform and my sales are flat, what can I do? Why is that?” A part of that is to loom at their business challenges, but also to look at their business systems and say “We’ll here’s a few ideas as to how you can be more lean, nimbler. What are your goals, what are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to double your growth? Well, this is how you can go about doing that.” We’re a Software company, and we’re a Product Information Management System. Because we’re living in the middle we’re always trying to figure out how best to help this customer navigate the sea of bits and pieces here and there. It’s a really complex problem.

TW: Well thank you so much for being here with us today. If you want to know more check out Jasper PIM John writes blogs there and for use here at BigCommerce. He is on my speed dial for complex and complicated stuff. He is always having the most sophisticated ecommerce conversations so please check him out.

AUSTIN, Texas and TORONTO, Ontario, September 18, 2018

 Jasper PIM, the SaaS platform helping retailers expand globally and into new channels, today announced the opening of its first American office in Austin, global expansion efforts into Australia, the appointment of executives to its leadership team, and a partnership with ecommerce platform Magento, an Adobe company.

Jasper PIM’s first US office is situated close to some of the company’s biggest partners, including Magento, an Adobe company, and BigCommerce, and will create jobs in engineering, product, and sales roles.

Helping Retailers Scale Globally

Jasper PIM's CEO, Jon Marcella Head Shot

According to Deloitte’s Global Powers of Retailing 2018 report, two-thirds (66.8%) of the world’s top 250 retailers have foreign operations, in 10 countries on average. Retailers that only sell domestically are missing a big opportunity.

Jasper PIM helps mid market and enterprise B2B and B2C merchants internationalize their operations with ease. It creates a central repository for all products and data syncs, multiple languages and currencies, across all channels.

This means they can seamlessly manage, merchandise, and market the inventory anywhere in the world. Jasper PIM makes it easy to publish that information to a new online marketplace such as Amazon or eBay, or sell to an international market.

“We’re at an interesting moment in the world of online retail, where it’s easier than ever to get a business off the ground but much harder to scale it,” said Jon Marsella, Founder and CEO, Jasper PIM. “The dominance of major retail marketplaces is both a threat and, if handled right, a huge opportunity.”

“Retailers that use a PIM can now have one central location for information about the products they sell, whether they stock ten item SKUs or tens of millions, and quickly propagate that information across any channel, language, currency, or store around the world. We also help retailers connect their sales orders across these new channels back into their ERP accounting and inventory management solutions.”

“We’ve helped retailers for many years, first as an enterprise systems integrator supporting brands one at a time, and now as a SaaS technology platform available for much larger audiences,” said Marsella.

Executive Appointments

Jasper PIM has announced a number of executive hires to help it enter its next phase of growth, supporting retailers around the world:

  • Michael Durance, Chief Strategy Officer — Michael’s background includes taking Call Genie to an IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange as CEO, and running xiVentures Fund. At Jasper PIM Michael will work directly with Jon Marsella to lead the strategic direction of the company.

  • Peter Daly, VP of Technology — Peter has a track record of delivering enterprise scale technology solutions to customers in ecommerce, with a proven ability to lead development of SaaS solutions. He will lead Jasper PIM’s continued product and technology innovation.

  • Derek Rosenzweig, VP of Business Development — Derek brings years of ecommerce experience from the likes of BigCommerce, Web.com, and Brightpearl, to this newly created role. He will oversee channel development and sales globally.

“Michael, Peter, and Derek bring tremendous experience and passion to Jasper PIM, and all our clients will benefit from their smarts,” said Marsella.

Magento Names Jasper PIM a Select Technology Partner

Magento Select Partner Technology PIM logoJasper PIM also announced that it has become a Magento Select Technology Partner for leading PIM technology.

“Jasper PIM is a global leader in Product Information Management, and we are pleased to welcome them as a Select Technology Partner,” said Ryan Murden, Head of Business Development at Magento, an Adobe company. “We brought in Jasper PIM to deepen their Magento product integrations and help merchants expand globally and into new channels.”

Who Uses Product Information Management (PIM) and Why

Jasper PIM is already being used by international brands like Skullcandy, Chuck Levin’s, Avery Dennison, and Mad Dogg Athletics, creators of the official peak pilates and spin cycle brands.

“Before Jasper PIM, we lacked a central system of record and outdated data was being presented to our consumers,”  said Jenny Buchar, Senior Manager of Digital Operations, Skullcandy.

“Jasper PIM enables us to focus on accelerating our ecommerce business, versus managing our data. Since implementing Jasper PIM, we can’t imagine a world without it.”

Having a central place to manage inventory is not a new challenge. Retailers have faced this issue for years, and they’ve had to contend with various unsophisticated or pricey solutions in the past. Many retailers handled their product information manually by wrangling spreadsheets, which is prone to errors and impossible to scale. Larger retailers developed their own bespoke PIM at great expense and frustration. Some attempted to use all-in-one platforms, which are often bloated, expensive and lead to compromise in both performance and flexibility.

Jasper PIM integrates seamlessly with leading ecommerce platforms and marketplaces such as Magento, BigCommerce, Shopify Plus, Amazon, and eBay, and supplements them with a wealth of merchandising and workflow management capability.

Media Contact

Vuki Vujasinovic
jasper@slingstone.com
310-910-3169

About Jasper

Jasper PIM is the leading Production Information Management (PIM) solution, empowering mid market and enterprise brands to scale globally. The SaaS cloud-based platform centralizes product information across entire commerce technology stacks via its unique Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS). Jasper PIM’s advanced controls and features allow for the refinement of back office operational workflows and optimization of all sales channels, online stores, markets, currencies, languages, ERP systems, catalog printing, and more. Brands like Skullcandy, ME to We, Berlin, Powell’s Books, Barcodes, Avery Dennison PFS, and Mad Dogg Athletics (Spinning.com), use it to help them easily expand into new markets and stay ahead of their competition. Jasper PIM currently integrates with Magento, BigCommerce, Shopify Plus, Brightpearl, SAP, Netsuite, Google, Amazon, eBay, ChannelAdvisor, and many more.

Re-work can have a huge bottom-line impact on any business.

So much so that organizations of all kinds that produce products or offer services work hard to ensure they do the job right the first time to avoid having to correct mistakes, remanufacture products or rebuild trust with customers. Everyone from manufacturers to retailers keep close tabs on the key metrics they use to track rework, all to protect their precious—and often precarious—profit margins.

The process of choosing the right product information management (PIM) system can present similar challenges. Many organizations will select a PIM, devote hundreds of hours to its implementation and to training employees on its use, only to realize that it isn’t the right fit for them after all. By that point they may have sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars—often more—into the exercise before it becomes apparent that they should have spent more time in the due diligence phase to avoid being sold a product that was never ideally suited to their needs.

Still, it’s not always their fault.

External factors impact PIM utility

In many cases organizations do select the right PIM for their current needs and use it to run alongside their eCommerce platform of choice such as Shopify, BigCommerce or Magento, to name only a few options available across the marketplace.

But a quick change in the business stemming from factors such as rapid growth into new sectors or geographic markets, or the addition of new product lines, make the product obsolete based on the organization’s fast-evolving business requirements. With their eCommerce infrastructure suddenly outmoded, online sales begin to lag and the business faces a significant loss in revenue-generating opportunities. In worst-case scenarios, they get lapped by more sophisticated rivals and eventually succumb to that competitive pressure.

A quick refresher: organizations tap PIM platforms to centrally manage attribute data across both offline and online channels, eliminating the need to painstakingly edit information on multiple platforms. The utility of PIM software is impossible to overstate. For any eCommerce-focused business that hopes to grow sales into overseas markets or across sectors, a robust PIM system is absolutely essential to enhance information management (think categories such as product pricing and attributes, among many other content categories) for everything from warehousing and distribution requirements to dealing with multiple accounting platforms and ensuring legislative compliance across jurisdictions.

A challenge for enterprise

We see the PIM-procurement challenge playing out at the enterprise level on a daily basis. While many PIM suppliers offer solutions that are suited to small and medium-sized retailers, manufacturers and distributors, enterprise-level players often find these products to be insufficient for their requirements—namely, finding a system robust enough to aggregate product data from hundreds of vendors and then publish that content to a host of downstream systems.

So, what’s the IT or marketing team of an enterprise-level organization to do? Start by choosing a PIM carefully, and ensuring that it’s designed for enterprise use. How? Ask these seven questions to help ensure you not only select the right system for your organization today, but also years down the road:

Does it offer consistent workflow?

Any comprehensive enterprise-level PIM system will require the input of base level data when a new product is added. This typically includes key attributes such as pricing, a SKU or a description of the product, as just a few examples. Most importantly, this base data will be required when adding any additional content—consider it the system’s ongoing informational workflow foundation. A requirement to add that same data helps ensure consistency and helps to avoid failed product searches on the part of customers. Bottom line: better workflow results in a more effective end-user experience.

Does it require the creation or use of consistent taxonomy?

When it comes to eCommerce, words matter. One of the biggest challenges that enterprise-sized organizations face when it comes to using a PIM is the sheer size and number of employees using the same system within their organization. Each employee might have a different take on product naming and data organization, or taxonomy, which can render product searches far more challenging for customers and, ultimately, negatively impact sales. By properly structuring data by ensuring consistent taxonomical deployment, product search and filter features become far more effective and that only serves to boost sales conversions.

Does it offer a coherent repository for vendor/supplier information?

While this might seem like a standard feature, remember that not all enterprise-ready PIMs are created equal. It would be generous, at best, to concede that some systems are ‘clunky’ when it comes to providing a user-friendly way to add new product information or edit existing content such as pricing data. Without such a repository, search functionality and time to market can be slowed as your team struggles to make regular updates. Robust PIMs should allow you to disseminate data from a single, easy-to-use interface.

Is it fast and flexible?

This is a question that’s often overlooked. We often see PIM providers glossing over this important consideration by providing performance data that may not always be tested in real-world conditions. Regardless, the only way to determine whether a PIM is fast and flexible enough to address your organization’s eCommerce needs is to have your team test it over a prolonged period. Any reputable provider should proactively offer a trial period with support. If not, continue your search for a new PIM platform.

Does it allow you to cross-sell and/or bundle products?

One of the most effective ways to increase your organization’s revenue and profit is to cross-sell and/or bundle products. If a customer buys product X, remind them that product Y might also be of interest to them. In a retail environment, for example, top retailers will often inform shoppers that customers also bought similar items to the ones they’ve just added to their cart. Whatever the case, remember that not every PIM is robust enough to offer such an indispensable feature.

Is it scalable?

If your organization is like most, odds are your revenue forecasts include some level of short- and long-term growth. Can your PIM keep pace? If it’s designed for enterprise use, it should offer at least some level of scalability and flexibility to meet your fast-changing operational needs. But not all do. Ensure yours can accommodate foreign transactions. Also, confirm that the system is set up to handle foreign currency transactions and can publish product information in multiple languages.

Last point: we can’t stress enough the importance of carefully considering your organization’s choice of a new enterprise-level PIM. Selecting the right system is a huge decision and should include ample research. Taking the time to make the right decision is the best way to protect your bottom line and position for growth across channels in the years ahead.

It’s a busy and exciting week coming up for the Jasper team. On June 5-8th we will be returning to one of our favourite conferences of the year IRCE 2018! Hosted at McCormick Place West in the amazing city of Chicago, join us at booth #769 in the main Exhibit Hall.

The Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition is a world-class event like no other, with over 600 vendors and over 130 educational sessions throughout the 4-day event. It’s the largest e-retailer event in the world and offers solution and technology vendors for every facet of business.

That’s where we come in. We will be there for the whole stretch with select members of our team present to fill you in on any aspect of our PIM and how it can enhance your brand’s online retail presence.

To get your hands on passes and all information on the event head over to:
https://www.irce.com

We have a bunch of great things happening around the event, keep reading to find out more…

BigCommerce Experts Hour

On Wednesday 6th at 10:30am, our partners BigCommerce will be at our booth for ‘BigCommerce Experts Hour’. Their team will be on deck talking about our integrations and partnership as well as providing demos our two platforms working together.

BigCommerce Presents: eCommerce Growth Summit

We are excited to be sponsoring this complimentary event hosted by our partners BigCommerce at 11am – 6pm on Tuesday, June 5th. Located a short ride from the main IRCE Exhibit Hall at the historic Morgan Manufacturing building, you’ll be right in the thick of Chicago’s buzzing tech hub. We will be there throughout at booth #19.

“The Ecommerce Growth Summit activates a community of merchants, partners and thought leaders driven to lead the rapid evolution of eCommerce. Take part in this year’s immersive event to break new ground and overcome your top eCommerce challenges.”

For more information and to register click HERE

Time: 11am – 6pm
Address: Morgan Manufacturing / 401 N Morgan St, Chicago, IL 60642

Speakeasy Happy Hour with BigCommerce, Brightpearl, American Eagle, and ShipStation…and us!

If all that wasn’t enough, we couldn’t resist putting on a little something extra special with some more of our amazing partners. Join BigCommerce, Brightpearl, American Eagle, Shipstation and Jasper for our Speakeasy Happy Hour!

Whether you’re coming from the Growth Summit or the IRCE welcome reception, let’s get the party started as we transform the Untitled Supper Club into a not-so-secret speakeasy. There will be games, activities, all the extra networking you can muster, and of course, the food and drinks are on us!

It’s a short cab ride from the IRCE Exhibit Hall, and a 5-minute ride from the Growth Summit, there will also be a few shuttle buses shipping you right there.

Register HERE for the event

Time: 7-10pm
Address: Untitled Supper Club / 111 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654