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What Is Product Information Management (PIM)?

Whether you’re a new entrepreneur or have been in the game for a hot minute, running an e-commerce business is a complex undertaking with a number of aspects to keep track of. Well known among these tasks are things like inventory tracking, sales, and customer experience. However, there are also more nuanced facets that may be more obscure, but that are just as important to understand when running a successful business.

One of these more nuanced aspects is product information management, or “PIM.” It’s an important part of a company’s overall marketing and distribution methods, and a key component to scaling an e-commerce business. A PIM system can be used together with a dedicated inventory management platform to take a company’s overall data management strategy to the next level.

Defining Product Information Management (PIM)

PIM is the management of all the data related to the selling and marketing of a product. Any information that relates to a product is tracked within a PIM system, including catalogs, product descriptions, SKUs and UPCs, marketing and SEO data, and manufacturer and supplier data. If it’s vital information that relates to the products a business sells, it will likely have a place in a PIM system.

Related Terms in E-Commerce

There are several terms that come up in the e-commerce world that are related to PIM both intimately and tangentially. Some of these include:

  • Product Resource Management (PRM): This term is synonymous with PIM, and is typically used in countries outside of the U.S.
  • Cross Media Publishing (CMP): This refers to the integrated use of multiple media platforms in the advertising and print industry to share the same assets and information.
  • Product Lifecycle Management (PLM): This is a strategy used by information tracking systems to record and analyze data over the life of a product to find patterns and optimize sales.
  • Media Asset Management (MAM): This is mostly used in the media industry to manage multimedia assets like images, presentations, and metadata.
  • Product Data Management (PDM): This is similar to both PIM and PRM and acts as a central data storage and management entity that all users in a business can reference and interact with.
  • Product Data Management (PDM): This is similar to both PIM and PRM and acts as a central data storage and management entity that all users in a business can reference and interact with.

Product Information Management Systems

A PIM system is a fantastic tool for e-commerce businesses that have many products and sell in a variety of markets. Each and every product a business offers has a slew of information associated with it, and having a centralized system that automates different processes and organizes data will improve productivity and quality immensely.

There are multiple aspects that make PIM software invaluable. Each part serves a specific purpose in the overall management of a company and its product data.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is used to control product-related business functions and resources within a company. These functions include inventory management, purchase ordering, warehouse logistics, and even accounting. The software allows multiple departments associated with these processes to collaborate via a single consolidated system without overlap.

While an ERP system can work on its own, combining it with a PIM system enhances the capabilities of both. The PIM system focuses on gathering data, and the ERP system uses that data and puts it into action.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Customer relationship management (CRM) is the answer to maintaining relationships with current customers while effectively reaching out to capture new customers. CRM platforms accomplish this by gathering and analyzing customer data from a multitude of channels, such as website interactions, live chats, marketing materials, and social media.

By combining CRM data with the data that PIM systems gather and manage, companies can develop ideas on how to improve existing products or ideas for new products altogether. This data can also give marketing teams a better idea of how to reach out to new audiences and potential customers.

Marketing and Online Channels

A PIM system will make a marketing team’s work easier by providing a central place to gather and sort marketing data and digital assets, such as photos, videos, and content. Any materials created by the marketing team can be stored, and data regarding its performance via different online channels can be assessed and analyzed.

The different online channels that marketing teams work with include such avenues as social media, search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing and blogging, video marketing, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. A PIM system can track and store all of the data associated with these channels and help marketers optimize their marketing campaigns across the board.

Sales Information and Technical Specifications

Having a place to compile sales data, from the prices that resulted in the most sales to the customer testimonials and reviews, can only be beneficial to a company looking to continue expanding their offerings. This is especially true for e-commerce companies that have an extra barrier to selling than an average brick-and-mortar store. When buying online, customers rely on technical specifications to ensure that what they are ordering is what they are getting — and the accuracy of these specifications is likely to heavily influence their reviews. These specs include items like measurements, materials, and ingredients. A PIM system will hold all of these details in one convenient location.

Webshop Information

Whether an e-commerce business has its own sales platform or sells on multiple platforms, like Amazon and eBay, a PIM system will manage all of the data associated with each webshop. That data includes product descriptions, titles, and images. It will also include translations and international information for those businesses that have expanded into other countries. These will often have their own webshop sites to accommodate the different needs associated with international sales.

Supply Chain, Procurement, and Manufacturer Information

Much like an inventory management system, a PIM system deals with every aspect of the supply chain, from the manufacturing and acquisition of products to warehouse orders and customer shipments. There are a lot of details to track in this process, and it’s imperative that everything is accurate every step of the way.

PIM and Inventory Management Integration

One of the biggest benefits of a PIM system is how easily it can be integrated with other existing software and applications, such as inventory management software. Every business with multiple products needs to have some kind of inventory management system in place, and pairing it with a PIM system will only enhance it, allowing for in-depth descriptions of products and inventory. For example, in a jewelry store — where inventory must be separated by carat, finishing, grade, material, and much more — a PIM system can help jewelry shop owners better manage a wide selection of products, both for online and in-store sales.

Of course, facilitating these kinds of integrations requires both PIM and inventory tracking systems operating out of dedicated applications or software, as opposed to an overstretched Excel spreadsheet. Specialized programs allow superior organization, multi-platform integration, and even easier leveraging of modern features, such as cloud-based storage and mobile access.

Managing a retail business can be tough, especially with the amount of products and company information that need to be stored and tracked. By adding a PIM system, you will make that work that much easier and accessible for everyone involved with the distribution chain in your company.