Enterprise-level clients have long endeavoured to work with creative agencies that can provide 360-degree eCommerce solutions. Managing their eCommerce needs under one roof allows marketers to minimize communications between multiple service providers, can reduce the chance of errors—or instructions being missed altogether—and reduces both costs and stress for the customer.

In recent years, that’s meant that agencies have worked to provide everything from strategic direction and branding, to digital support for organizations, particularly those rolling out global campaigns.

In the case of major retailers, for example, they not only want an agency that can come up with an impressive brand identity and potentially even an advertising campaign for their suite of products or services, they want full deployment across relevant platforms—and all under one agency roof. That means they want help integrating their eCommerce and enterprise resource planning platforms, ensuring a smooth online customer experience and setting the conditions to help drive the success of their brand through increased sales.

The trouble is that while a handful of larger marketing agencies are positioned to manage some of those requests, historically, they’ve struggled to satisfy clients’ expectations on the eCommerce front.

To overcome those obstacles, larger agencies have gone as far as to build in-house digital teams to develop their own eCommerce platforms. The results are often middling.

The industry transition

Others have turned to legacy ERP systems by industry giants such as Oracle to help their clients manage core business processes from eCommerce to human resources and accounting. Indeed, ERP solutions are critical to helping retailers implement and maintain effective omnichannel strategies. But as comprehensive as these systems may be, they still require significant monthly IT expenditures to install, operate and manage regular upgrades, among other operational considerations.

Others have chosen to integrate third-party software-as-a-service solutions by the likes of BigCommerce or Shopify with their customized websites—particularly with the advent of Shopify Plus and BigCommerce Enterprise to serve the needs of more sophisticated online retail operations. In many cases, agencies have partnered with third-party firms to manage these integrations instead of building and maintaining their own digital teams. Because software-as-a-service eCommerce platforms have become ubiquitous, inexpensive and relatively easy to integrate, many agencies have been able to satisfy client expectations while being able to cut the size of their in-house digital development staff.

Problem solved for agencies and their retail eCommerce clients, right? Not so fast.

As with ERP software firms that help medium- to enterprise-level retailers maintain their competitive edge with flexible solutions, agencies face limitations when it comes to product information management (PIM) software. Specifically, they mostly lack the software needed to manage dozens or even thousands of SKUs across multiple platforms. And that’s exactly what PIMs are designed to do.

By definition, PIMs are supplementary middleware that allows retailers to combine information from an ERP platform to create a comprehensive master system capable of handling all product merchandising. PIMs also help manufacturers and distributors manage products across channels, particularly when dealing in multiple foreign currencies or languages.

PIM systems are the missing piece of the eCommerce puzzle that boutique, mid-sized and even multinational marketing agencies typically lack—and they’re crucial for any of their retail clients who may be trying to expand into multiple marketplaces, particularly if they endeavour to sell internationally.

Agencies and PIM enhancing each other

That’s not to downplay the incredible eCommerce value that agencies deliver. Without their creative experience and expertise, strategy, brand identity development, marketing collateral, photography, illustrations, essential digital assets and other critical creative elements would be non-existent. Platforms are empty digital shells without their cutting-edge design and content.

But PIM systems allow agencies and their clients to bring that amazing content to life. They empower a retailer to centrally manage attribute data and publish to various channels and marketplaces, then aggregate all order information back to the PIM. Content can be published in multiple languages and currencies with ease from a single, simplified platform. Retailers can create multiple sub-brands across channels while managing product pricing and changes in product information accurately without the need to painstakingly edit information on multiple platforms. Information management goes from nightmarish to organized and uncomplicated with a simple integration—which in the case of a Jasper PIM, can typically be accomplished in slightly more than a month.
PIMs are also an essential tool when dealing with multiple accounting platforms and when attempting to satisfy legislative compliance requirements across jurisdictions.

Get more done, together

Perhaps most importantly for agencies, PIMs allow account managers to do drastically more with less. Imagine being able to pitch a worldwide campaign and product rollout, managed effectively, efficiently and affordably by just one or two people. That wonderful creative content can now be showcased globally, all while helping the client drive previously unimaginable sales growth across categories—and minimizing their costs along the way.

To be sure, it sounds too good to be true, but advancements in PIM technology have moved mindbogglingly fast in recent years, creating lucrative opportunities for forward-thinking agencies. The ones who leverage PIM platforms will find themselves with a significant competitive advantage over their agency rivals.