Product information management (PIM) is the software-based process of storing and managing all the product information used to market and sell items through a variety of distribution channels.
Product information management centralizes product data and digital assets into a single location where companies can enrich and optimize products for sales and marketing channels. The central hub of product data serves as a single source of truth and allows businesses to handle changing product information to ensure all information is consistent and up to date.
With PIM, businesses can significantly improve product data quality, accuracy, and completeness while speeding up and simplifying catalog management.
Types of product information
PIM requires the processing of a variety of incoming, outgoing, and cross-platform product information, including:
- Essential product data: names, titles, descriptions, SKUs, UPCs.
- Taxonomies and relationships: categories, collections, variations
- Digital assets: images, videos, documentation
- Technical specifications: sizes, materials, warranties, ingredients
- Channel Specific Information: Google, Amazon, Etsy, Walmart
- Store-specific information: POS registers, product catalogs
How PIM Works
PIM is performed using software solutions, commonly referred to as Product Information Managers (PIMs). These systems enable businesses to upload, edit, and distribute their product data across distribution channels such as Google Shopping, Amazon, other online marketplaces, and owned channels such as direct-to-consumer (D2C) websites. PIM systems come in a variety of forms including hosted cloud solutions, bespoke, or set up on premises.
The PIM process
The product information management process involves some variation of these four steps:
Step 1: Collect
Product information is uploaded to the PIM system for storage and management. PIM requires flexibility to enable adding different formats of data into the system to create a centralized source of product information.
PIM systems are able to automate the importing of data by integrating with important sources such as ERP systems, DAM systems, spreadsheets, box folders, and more. The systems also accept flat files (Excel/CSV) via FTP as well as support direct integrations via an open API.
Step 2: Validate
To act as a single source of truth, PIM systems must ensure all information is complete, valid, and reliable. For example, errors such as misspellings, multiple abbreviations of the same word, and other ambiguous data like bullet points can hurt data quality.
Validation can occur while importing by using text format validation or advanced data cleanup through customizations to import features. Along with these, businesses can set up workflows to manually validate the information in their system.
Step 3: Enrich
Once product data is in the system, marketers, e-commerce managers, and other appropriate personnel can enrich and optimize the product information to align with their business objectives. This can include enhancing product descriptions, clarifying specifications, and translating information into multiple languages.
PIM enrichment also involves classifying products by placing them into categories and collections, as well as defining relationships for products that can be used for bundles or cross-selling.
Step 4: Spread
Once optimized, businesses can distribute their data across a wide range of channels including e-commerce platforms, marketplaces, comparison shopping engines, and social media platforms. Like imports, flexibility is needed for outgoing information.
Each endpoint will have unique requirements for content and format, so PIM systems need to be able to apply transformations to data as it leaves the system so it is viable for the intended channel.
Common export formats are Excel/CSV files and specific JSON or XML formats. PIM systems can also integrate easily with popular distribution channels through the use of an open API.
There are three primary deployment methods for PIM systems.
- Software as a service (SaaS): The application vendor maintains everything from the application to the infrastructure. This method provides ease of use as the system is maintained externally.
- Platform as a service (PaaS): A third-party hosts the application and data. Usually, the deploying organization maintains the application and data while the third-party host handles the underlying infrastructure. This method allows for a high level of flexibility and customization.
- On-premises: The business deploys and maintains all applications and data on their own servers. The organization handles the maintenance and underlying infrastructure. This method allows for the most flexibility but is the most resource-intensive.
Examples of PIM
Fabric’s Product Information Manager is a viable PIM solution as it provides an intuitive interface for enriching product information and allows flexible options for importing and exporting data. Users can easily migrate product information from anywhere, whether it's a website or a database, and the headless solution can be used alongside your current commerce setup.
With Fabric's PIM, you can create consistent and up to date content that is optimized for your sales channels. AI-powered features allow you to enhance product descriptions and attributes using customer intent and demographics data. The taxonomy and categorization setup makes it easy to manage products based on promotions and campaigns.
- The purpose of PIM is to collect product information and digital assets to enhance and spread across a range of distribution channels; it provides a centralized hub for product information by organizing all data in a single system.
- The PIM process involves collecting, validating, enriching, and spreading product information. PIM systems must be flexible to handle the various formats of incoming and outgoing data. A viable PIM solution will easily integrate with important sources such as ERP and DAM systems.
- PIM systems can be handled in-house, by a third-party software provider, or a combination of the two. Maintaining the system yourself allows for maximum flexibility but is the most resource-intensive.