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When do companies implement a product information management system?
Managing product information is a tough challenge, especially for manufacturers, distributors and retailers who use multiple sales and promotion channels. As people and data grow in numbers, unstructured activities become a nuisance and inhibit development. Managers and owners of companies are forced to look for better ways to operate. It is often at this stage that they find out about the existence of IT systems dedicated to product information management (PIM).
What do companies use before they introduce PIM?
Manufacturers still primarily use Excel files for product data management. Various databases or ERP systems are also popular. Sometimes, the information is completed and stored directly in the e-commerce system. Many companies do not have a well-thought-out strategy in this area. They handle the new difficulties by introducing temporary, quick solutions. But to adapt a growing organisation to the needs of the modern market, more advanced and better structured actions are needed.
Companies that do not modify their strategy, while still following the old methods, face many problems. The data they manage are usually dispersed – processed by different employees and departments. The lack of a uniform structure of product information and tools for information control makes it difficult to maintain standards related to the presentation of the offer (e.g. photos with specific dimensions, complete and uniformly described parameters and consistent descriptions). The same work may even be done many times over, because it is impossible to find the files or descriptions needed at a given time. This situation definitely makes development and optimal budget management difficult.
With many channels, it is difficult to maintain the extremely important integrity of the brand image integrity. Growing companies export product information to many sales and promotion channels. Among these, the most common ones are:
– e-commerce systems,
– mobile apps,
– B2B panels,
– stationary stores.
– price lists,
– printed and electronic catalogues.
For the international sales, language versions are added and adapted to the requirements of specific markets. It is necessary to maintain a consistent data structure in all these places.
Updates are time-consuming and long-lasting. Even if only one product parameter is changed, it can take months to update the information at every location where it is presented. Mistakes or omissions can be very expensive for the company, increasing the risk of a customer receiving a product that does not match the description, picture or specification. Another problem is the inconsistency of price lists or offers. Some sales channels or partners may offer products withdrawn a long time ago or outdated prices.
Taking too long to market a product can result in the loss of many opportunities. Dynamic changes are a common occurrence on the market. Opportunities appear that only a few companies can take advantage of. The key factor of the success of such companies is their ability to react quickly. Ineffective management of product information and suboptimal processes constitute an impenetrable barrier at such moments. Even if a potential opportunity can be identified, it is impossible to react faster than the competition. This is when a company wants to enter a new market, launch new products very quickly or acquire a key customer.
Why do companies decide to use a PIM system?
Increased scale of operations
The decision to implement a PIM system is most often influenced by development. When the company is small, team members can easily communicate with each other. This means that they have good control over where materials are stored and with whom they are shared. However, as the organisation grows, it is necessary to build and optimise processes in order to allow for an effective cooperation within an extensive team on a continuously increasing amount of data.
At this point, there is a need for a tool that will serve as the central storage for product information and, at the same time, enable processing, searching, replenishment and automation of repetitive work. Safety is also becoming more and more important. Only authorised users should have access to particular resources, and only to a specified extent.
When choosing a PIM system, it is worth paying attention to its scalability, so that it supports the development of the offers, number of channels and data structure.
Implementation and development of multi-channel sales (omnichannel)
Multi-channel sales are a frequent impulse for the implementation of a PIM system in the organisation. Having complete and consistent product data is key to the implementation of an omnichannel strategy. The company needs to be able to effectively control whether all product information meets deliberately set standards.
In order to use the potential of a particular channel, the materials presented there should be adapted to its specificity. For example, a B2B partner has different expectations to an individual customer of an online store. Thanks to automation and central information storage, it is possible to generate appropriate data sets and update and export them to designated locations very quickly.
In the context of product information, expansion into other markets is always a significant challenge, not only in terms of translating all descriptions, instructions and materials into one or more languages. Often, there are also legal restrictions or business requirements that make it necessary to modify and supplement certificates, instructions or specifications with those expected in a specific market.
The amount of product information and its distribution channels grows dynamically at this stage. In order to be able to control its quality and consistency and ensure a smooth flow, it is worth preparing in advance by implementing a PIM IT system throughout the organisation.
PIM is a tool that supports remote cooperation. The restrictions of the COVID-19 outbreak have demonstrated the importance of good communication. Daily changes in working style were a necessity. In such a situation, the PIM system becomes a tool that allows for seamless work with product information, even when the team is dispersed.
What motivates companies: four main benefits of PIM
I. Product data centralisation
Thanks to a PIM IT system, extensive and diverse product data can be collected in a single location. Through the central system, authorised persons can jointly process, expand and update information. Everything is easy to find, and there is no confusion about which data are up-to-date.
II. Process automation and improvement
PIM integrates with many systems, both within the organisation and with the tools used by the customers and business partners. It automates data reception, processing and export. A majority of repetitive work becomes possible to automate.
Whenever you correct an error, make changes or additions to product information through the PIM system mechanisms, the information will be instantly and automatically updated in all integrated channels.
III. Controlled quality of product information
The PIM system allows you to specify which data for a given product, product group or product category are required, optional or redundant. A uniform information structure is achieved. When new products are introduced, the system will indicate which data need to be supplemented and what the quality criteria are.
IV. Eliminating mistakes and reducing costs
A successful implementation of PIM requires the relevant processes to be properly identified and automated. A large part of repetitive tasks previously performed manually is transferred to the system. This allows for a more efficient use of resources.
PIM implementation: Where to start
Investing in a PIM system is certainly beneficial for the development of any company that produces, sells or promotes products. The key to success is to adjust the tool to the real needs of the organisation. In most cases, the implementation is performed by an external IT company specialising in this type of tailor-made solutions.
Today, the market has increasingly high demands regarding the consistency, quality and completeness of information. The automation of the data flow and its rapid updating in all channels are essential. Therefore, it is worth starting by identifying your current problems, needs and possibilities. Based on these insights, contact the software house to organise workshops. The workshops will provide a solid basis of requirements and assumptions for building a dedicated system, which will be able to support the company in its development. This is a good first step before taking the process of product data management to a higher level.