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.