Implementing a product information management (PIM) system helps companies manage product data efficiently and improve customer experience. When it comes to PIM implementation, there are several steps you should take care of before you launch the software itself.
In this blog post, we'll outline our proven step-by-step process for introducing a PIM system to an organization. Before we get into details, let's briefly explain the most important benefits of implementing a PIM solution.
What are the benefits of PIM systems?
A PIM tool is where you can store and edit product information and digital assets concerning all of the products your company sells, distributes, or makes. It enables you to easily manage product data across different sales channels: your online store, a printed catalog, or your brand's mobile app.
When your team manages product information via PIM, it's easy to spot inconsistencies or missing data. The whole product data management process becomes much more efficient, and your customers can enjoy comprehensive, high-quality product information wherever they browse your offer.
PIM implementation when you run a non-ecommerce business
Having worked with a wide variety of organizations, we've noticed a significant difference between e-commerce and non-ecommerce companies when it comes to implementing PIM. Businesses with online stores typically already have some sort of product data management process, although it may be quite rudimentary. Other companies often start from scratch when it comes to gathering and organizing product-related data. This is why we've decided to describe these two cases separately, starting from a situation where you have no system for organizing product information.
It's important to remember that a solid tech partner can help you with much more than simply activating the PIM software itself or adding necessary integrations. At Macopedia, we collaborate with our clients to create a coherent product data structure and design the whole product information management process. One of the first steps is usually to look at a given company's offer and try to identify distinct product families.
Creating product families
When you're a manufacturer or a company distributing products to multiple stores, you likely don't even have a dedicated space for storing product data. Perhaps there's a spreadsheet you share with your business partners, or you utilize your company's ERP tool to store basic product information. Either way, when you plan to implement a new solution and embrace effective information management, we should start by analyzing the different products you offer.
For you, one of the first tasks will be to collect all product data available to you from different sources. Our next step will be to distinguish product families. What are they useful for?
In order to describe any product in your catalog, you will use a set of attributes. Sometimes, these attributes are specific only to a particular type of item. For instance, "heel height" will be very helpful for describing shoes but rather useless for other types of clothing or accessories. Now, imagine that you have a common template for entering product attributes, one that includes all possible attributes from multiple kinds of items. Filling out such a form will be time-consuming, plus many fields will be left empty. With product families, you can define a list of attributes for a certain family and only fill out relevant details about each product. You'll make sure that the process is more efficient, plus your clients will only see important information about a given item.
Defining product attributes
You already know that specifying relevant attributes for each product family can be very beneficial. Still, it's essential to be practical about coming up with attributes. We usually recommend our clients set an MVP for product attributes, for example, 20 per product. Once this milestone is completed, we can add more details for different products. If your plan is too ambitious, the process of gathering and filing in product data will take much longer, and you won't be able to introduce new products to your offer quickly. It's much better to start with essential product details and move up from there.
Identifying data sources
When implementing a PIM solution, we have to find out potential data sources. Sometimes your team will be 100% in charge of creating product information, especially if you're a manufacturer. However, in other cases, it may turn out that you can acquire information about products from your business partners or product content databases. Imagine being able to save many hours of your team's work just by doing some solid research in this aspect.
Analyzing data export options
During the PIM implementation process, we also discuss requirements regarding future data expert needs. Looking at your business goals, we can decide that, for instance, your distributors will appreciate having access to comprehensive product information from your PIM database. If that's the case, we can plan appropriate export options ahead.
Integrating PIM with other systems
Naturally, most organizations today rely on different apps to support their business needs. Introducing PIM is an excellent opportunity to connect it with other systems in your team's toolbox. One integration that seems to be crucial for many businesses is the one between PIM and ERP. Its advantage is that it will help you to maintain a unified identifier for each product in your offer across different tools.
Designing workflows and granting permissions
This phase of the process will be of utmost importance for larger teams. Robust PIM systems like Akeneo allow for advanced rights management and creating validation workflows. In order to design them effectively, we should analyze your company's current processes and map them in the PIM app. A well-designed acceptance workflow will save a lot of time for your employees, plus you'll minimize the risk of, e.g., publishing erroneous product descriptions in your catalog.
Data migration & launching PIM
Once all of the previous steps are taken care of, we can move product information to PIM and let your team enjoy an easier way of managing product-related data.
PIM implementation for e-commerce businesses
As we've already mentioned, e-commerces usually already have their product data stored somewhere. Sure, they might not be happy with the way they manage product-related information now (hence the PIM implementation), but we rarely have to start from scratch. This is why the data migration step is all the more important here.
Continuous data migration
When it comes to e-commerce, we don't rely on one-time data migration but instead set up a continuous process for moving the data across systems until we're ready to launch PIM as a single source of truth regarding product information.
Integrating PIM with other systems
Similar to non-ecommerce businesses, we often integrate PIM with ERP. Still, integration with one's e-commerce platform is also crucial, as it allows you to publish products to your online shop with ease.
Designing workflows and granting permissions
Even for large e-commerces, it is not rare to publish things online that shouldn't have been accepted yet. Typos might not be terrible, but making a mistake in a key attribute (e.g., "size") could result in higher return rates and frustrated customers. In order to make sure that only scrutinized information makes it to your online store, you can introduce a validation workflow directly in the PIM. This way, changes will have to be reviewed and accepted by selected employees. You can also select which team members should deal with which types of products. It's a very useful thing for larger organizations with highly-specialized employees.
One last thing to do is to make sure that from now on, the product information will be displayed from PIM, not, e.g., the e-commerce platform where it may have been stored until this point. Thanks to the continuous data migration process, we can smoothly run this operation.
Which PIM should you choose?
Of course, your decision as to which PIM system to choose will largely depend on your business needs, and you'll still likely need to add custom elements to any solution you pick.
The PIM system we recommend to our clients is Akeneo because it's a truly flexible tool that can be tailored to different organizations' requirements. Powerful API makes it possible to integrate this PIM tool with other systems you use at your company. You can read more about these and other benefits of Akeneo here.
We hope that this blog post helped you understand which steps you need to take in order to implement PIM in your company. Regardless of the system you choose, you will likely need to do some prep work to organize the data you have and find optimization opportunities in your team's processes. An experienced technology partner will be able to guide you through the stages of implementing PIM and make sure you see a quick return on investment.
Are you still on the lookout for reliable e-commerce developers? Drop us a line and schedule a consultation to see how we can help you boost your business with cutting-edge technical solutions.