PIM Do’s and Don’ts: 7 Steps to Picking the Right PIM

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PIM do’s and don’ts – the biggest DO when it comes to selecting a product information management (PIM) solution is also the biggest DON’T:

You DO need to choose the PIM that solves all the problems you have, so DON’T buy one if you don’t need one.

But how do you know if you need one or not?

To help you with this important decision, we’ve created a simple, step-by-step guide. With it, you can determine whether or not your operations would benefit from PIM integration.

How does it work?

Easy, if you answer any of the 7 questions below with large amounts, or worse, you don’t know what the answers are, it might be time to start thinking about a PIM.

But first, let’s talk about value.

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What value does PIM bring?

One key feature of PIM is greatly simplified functionality for inputting, updating, and managing product content across channels, manufacturers, products, and variants. If you’re repeatedly having trouble finding specific pieces of product content, how can you enrich your product pages?

What is product content?

Product content can be divided between the following two categories.

  • Product information
    • Descriptions
    • Specifications
    • Feature benefits
  • Digital assets
    • Images
    • Videos
    • CAD drawings

*These lists are not exhaustive.

As the numbers of these increase, so must the complexity of your organization.
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1. How often do you update your product pages or catalogs?

Complex operations necessarily require ever higher degrees of organization.

In 2010, research into 1,150 senior executives at companies of at least 1,000 employees resulted in 2 major revelations:

“Companies reporting low levels of complexity … had the highest returns on capital employed and the highest returns on invested capital.”

(McKinsey & Company)

Further, 80% of companies that minimized complexity also saved money, with some having slashed nearly 20 percent of personnel costs by prioritizing value of activity over its complexity.

Ecommerce today is overburdened with automatable busy work.

PIM makes keeping product content up to date and accurate far easier than with traditional spreadsheet management. These benefits minimize complexity, but are best understood at scale. So if your products don’t change from month to month or year to year, updating your product pages and catalogs often is probably unnecessary.

For example, companies that sell seasonal products likely have an annual updating schedule, giving them a year to foresee and avoid product page and catalog updating problems. Companies that provide a set of products proven to sell year after year may not need to update their catalogs and product pages at all, except to change their overall aesthetic.

So if you’re consistently certain your product information is accurate and up to date, and your company falls into one of the categories described above, you might not need a PIM.

Unless you want to increase sales by selling on more channels…
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2. How many channels do you sell across?

And how complex are their processes?

Do the sales channels you work with provide standard templates to create new products in their systems? Are those templates ready to accept attribute information for new products immediately? If not and you have to send in a general description, how long do you have to wait for them to get back to you?

Multi-channel campaigns that bring limited or no results might be suffering from a lack of the enrichment capability of PIM.

One channel might be fine with several different file types and sizes, while another might want your images to correspond to highly specific parameters. One channel might require a small number of specific pieces of information, while another might need dozens per product page.

PIM makes this, and many other jobs, easier.

Another key function of PIM is automatic translation and conversion. Do you sell products in other countries? Only 20% of the world speaks English, so if you don’t have a way to convert your product pages into your customers’ preferred languages, you’re not going to sell to them.

Likewise, if your spec sheets discuss your products in Imperial terms, with inches and gallons instead of centimeters and liters, it’s likely you’re just confusing 7.3 billion potential customers who use the Metric system worldwide. Ultimately, PIM ensures product content coherence across channels.

Just how many markets do you want to sell in anyway?

Selling across multiple channels is complicated at best, but it’s relatively easy to maintain high quality product content on one channel if you don’t update your product pages or catalogs often. In that case, you may not need the functionality a PIM provides.

Unless you sell products made by several manufacturers…
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3. How many manufacturers do you work with?

If you only work with one manufacturer, you probably don’t need the organization PIM provides.

Again, the more simple your operation, the easier it likely is to manage. But as product information comes to you from ever more manufacturers, several possibilities become more and more likely.

  1. Standardizing information entered with different systems requires more and more work to coordinate
  2. Formatting that information for your sales channels adds a second level to standardization
  3. Some manufacturers will inevitably be worse at supplying you with error-free information

To a certain degree you can mitigate some of these difficulties in Excel. But if you don’t know how to build, maintain, and feed standardized information into macros, managing more and more manufacturers will only require more time and effort.

So, if you only work with a single manufacturer to sell on one platform and your product pages or catalogs don’t need much updating, you probably don’t need a PIM.

Unless you sell a large number of products…
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4. How many products do you sell?

Is a hard number really a useful measure?

It can also be helpful to think of this question in terms of people, amount of work, or simply time. Regardless of the number of products you sell, if one person can get all the work done in 40 hours a week, do you need to buy a PIM?

But is the work REALLY getting done?

Ultimately, you know your operation well enough to confidently say all the product content management work is getting done. Think about how well organized your products appear to be, and whether any associated information is ever missing from your product pages. PIM is a way of getting even more done in an equal amount of time, which means organization that leads to robust product pages that convert.

Do you provide a personal experience?

Personalization driven by tailored content is the engine of modern ecommerce, something consumers have come to expect from shopping experiences. PIM functionality makes personalizing your brand message easier, so you can keep the promises you make to your customers, increasing sales and decreasing returns.

What about new products?

How long does it take your company to bring new products to market? Ecommerce success is typically measured in dollars and cents, not hours and days. But the fact of the matter is PIM can reduce whatever that amount of time is.

If you dread bring new products to market, because meeting deadlines and quality standards is so difficult, PIM can help. With PIM, product pages aren’t just complete, they’re dripping with the most accurate information possible and set off with rich, detailed pictures, descriptions, and feature explanations.

To sum up, if you don’t have trouble bringing new products to market, sell a small number of products from one manufacturer on a single channel, and your product pages or catalogs don’t require regular updating, a PIM likely isn’t for you.

Unless your products have a lot of variants…
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5. How complex are your products?

Product complexity increases with the number of attributes.

How did you estimate the number of variants for your products when you completed the tool at the beginning of this post? If you have a large operation it’s likely this was the most difficult question to answer, because some products are simple and some are impossibly complex.

In any case, most products vary to some degree.

Another key organizational feature of PIM is variant organization, known as parent/child relationship. A parent is like a master product template, including a comprehensive list of all possible attributes a given product has. The children are the variant products sharing an identical set of attributes, but with varying values for them.

For example, if a parent product is a t-shirt, one child would be an extra-large, blue t-shirt. This is a very simple example, as complex products can have virtually any number of attributes and those attributes can have a huge variety of possible values.

Product content enrichment, accuracy, and completeness drive sales conversions, so the more variants you have, the more digital assets you’re going to need. A PIM with digital asset management (DAM) capability simplifies this by giving you the option of tying a single image to each child product. One benefit is that your product pages will be tidy, making more sense to your customers and the search engines they use to find your products.

Think about the example above, if you’re selling 10 sizes of blue shirts, do you need 10 different pictures?

If your operation is simple, you have a small number of business partnerships, and you sell a narrow variety of simple products, you probably don’t need to invest in a PIM.

Unless your prices change often…
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6. How often do you update your prices?

If you sell a lot of different, highly complex products, you’re probably adjusting your prices often.

Selling in highly competitive markets tends to call for adjusting prices more frequently. Under certain circumstances you may need to display discounted prices next to original prices, to entice potential customers to take advantage of savings.

If you run sales, promotions, or special offers frequently, you’ll probably need to set and reset prices often. If those offers take place at random, or if you have to manually calculate prices precisely, adjusting your prices may be taking up a significant amount of your time.

PIM can be set to do all of these automatically.

So, if everything above leads to you to believe you don’t need a PIM and your products have stable prices, then a PIM probably isn’t going to help you do business.

Unless your product content comes from multiple internal sources…
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7. How many employees do you have?

Getting this far through the list means you’re probably running a big company.

PIM collects product content from multiple sources to maintain product information consistency across internal teams and external sales channels. If yours is a small operation, you’re less likely to need that kind of management control.

However, large operations require a significant investment in inter-team organization. PIMs often include workflow capability to increase efficiency and productivity. Workflow allows you to assign tasks in a specific order with messaging and reminders set to trigger automatically. This makes it easier to ensure operations more forward smoothly, and that each of your employees gets what they need to complete their work right when they need it.

To Recap:

If any of the following are true or if you’re planning on expanding to the following capacities, a PIM might need to be in your future.
  1. Your product pages or catalogs require regular updating
  2. Your company sells on two or more channels
  3. Multiple manufacturers provide you with products
  4. You sell a wide variety of products
  5. The products you sell come in a variety of configurations
  6. Your prices are volatile
  7. You have more than a few employees who directly control some amount of your product information
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What the Best PIM Will Do for You

Owning the digital shelf means delivering the rich, accurate product pages most likely to convert visitors to your site into paying customers. Remember, accurate product information is one lever you have significant control over on the engine driving ecommerce sales success.

While human fickleness means you can’t keep people from changing their minds and returning products, you can help them make them up in the first place.

Do this with rich, compelling product pages full of accurate information.

Bonus Pointers

We promised a list of PIM do’s and don’ts at the outset, so here it is:

DO choose a PIM that…
  1. Solves all of your concerns, but don’t choose one that’s overly complex or provides functionality you know you won’t use.
  2. Includes DAM integration, but don’t opt for a DAM built to mimic the functionality of a PIM.
  3. Offers responsive customer service, but don’t simply take their word for it (see final thought below).

Final thought: To verify the PIM you’re considering offers all of these, you should conduct your own research and read reviews on sites like G2Crowd.

Now that you have everything you need to know to decide whether or not you need a PIM, click here to see what Catsy can do for you.