When a business has a top-notch data model and product organization system, all processes run better. Everything on the front-end, from marketplace listings to ecommerce stores, reveals the state of product information. If well-managed, product content will be accurate and complete, propelling conversions. Otherwise, businesses will see high return rates and lower customer satisfaction. Despite the importance of centralizing product information, many businesses still hesitate to jump into PIM implementation.
Getting started with a PIM system is rough, especially when product data siloing has been occurring for a while. Onboarding a PIM system can be challenging in terms of transitioning from an old way of doing things to a new one. Because no matter how inefficient a traditional system is (email, spreadsheets, CSV files, a cluster of various tools) businesses might have trouble moving away from the familiar.
Furthermore, with various PIM systems on the market with varying offers, it adds a layer of complexity to the decision-making process. Understandably, there’s much confusion about PIM implementation; how it works, and if the initial rocky start leads to a worthwhile journey.
In this article, I will discuss some common myths or preconceived notions many businesses may have about PIM. Additionally, I’ll clarify these myths and help you understand why they’re wrong and how PIM implementation works. With actionable tips on how to prepare to get set up on PIM if that’s what you are considering, this will close the gap to make it easier for you to implement PIM smoothly.
Dispelling 10 Common Myths About PIM Implementation
The following misconceptions or challenges might come up in the process of researching PIM. If you’re a business looking into establishing PIM into your processes, these might apply to you.
Myth 1: Using other SaaS Work As Well as PIM
With the rise of multiple types of software-as-a-service programs that seem to do the same thing, it can be a complex process to figure out your business needs. For example, trying to explain what PIM is may overlap with the description of a PLM, PCM, or even MDM. In some cases, businesses wonder if their ERP can be enough to support their product content needs (that’s a hard no). Let’s explore the differences between these systems to see why they are not interchangeable.
A PIM is a set of tools that dictate the flow and export of product data, aiming to maintain data accuracy and support content enrichment before publishing. In the most basic sense, PIM oversees all product content marketing.
PIM vs. CMS
CMS or content management systems might sound like the perfect replacement for PIM software. When it comes to CMS, there’s the general type for any sort of organization to create content not specific to selling products. For example, WordPress or Wix are web hosting programs that double as CMS tools. For these, making content like website pages and blog posts are features that PIM software takes no part in.
Then, there are CMS options specific to online retail. The top CMS on the market are usually those integrated with an ecommerce platform, like BigCommerce, Shopify, Magento, Prestashop, etc. But let me ask you one question: If you have multiple online stores on various platforms and channels, can any of those CMS programs work for all? Usually, no. You may need to use each one separately and recreate content for each one. Furthermore, they are completely siloed from the processes that collect and organize your product data. This doesn’t make sense considering it is the lifeblood of product page content.
Now, PIM takes the best parts of ecommerce CMS and adds even more value. For instance, a PIM in a lot of cases tailors content for whatever platform you sell on straight from its interface. Accordingly, product data comes in from your sources, is cleansed, organized, and prepared for creative enrichment. Then, whatever ecommerce sites you distribute content on, the PIM system automatically tweaks your master content to match the requirements, like the word or character count, bullet count, and even image size. Therefore, a PIM cuts out the process of jumping back-and-forth between your various channels to input data from separate product data files.
PIM vs. PLM
PLM, or Product Lifecycle Management system, follows a product from creation to launch. It’s more about the actual product engineering and quality assurance than creating and publishing product information on the customer-facing platforms. Meanwhile, PIM deals with already established product information coming in from manufacturers, ERP, and other sources.
PIM vs. PCM
PCM, or a product content management system, essentially hones in on the enrichment aspect of PIM. A PCM is solely in charge of creating, storing, and optimally elevating product content. What it doesn’t do is gather and centralize product data. Nor does it govern that data by checking for errors and missing fields, or grade content for quality. Furthermore, depending on the PCM, it may or may not provide channel-specific specifications for product content, like varying product description requirements.
PIM vs. MDM
MDM, or master data management system, encompasses all possible data across an organization. An MDM definitely cannot substitute for a PIM due to its expansive, generalized capacity. In other words, it oversees all business data and enterprise, for better interdepartmental fluidity. However, MDM takes no part in centralizing and enriching specifically product data, digital assets, or multichannel exporting. Certainly, it doesn’t deal with catalogs or optimizing marketing material. An MDM system provides an analysis of the broad spectrum of data a business needs to keep up with, from analytics to financial information. Thus, it’s far too heavy and costly to strictly deal with creating enthralling product pages.
As you can see, trying to make any other software try to conform to the functionality of PIM doesn’t work. No matter what, your business will be missing out on the critical combination of features that make PIM distinct. For instance, data gathering and governance, mixed with product page content creation and digital asset management (which even some PIM don’t have), alongside the ability to collaborate with teams with workflow, and finally export out to desired platforms. All other similar software fall short in meeting these features.
For a more in-depth guide on the differences between all these acronyms, check out the article below.
Myth 2: Any PIM Can Apply to Any Business Goal
Some businesses falsely assume that any PIM can apply to any business, regardless of model or goals. In actuality, it’s so vital that a business first establishes its business goals before implementing any PIM system.
Setting business goals should be the first step in the PIM decision-making process. Since choosing a PIM depends on the functions that it offers, the aims of a company is the determining factor. Clear business goals help narrow the focus of the PIM. For example, it’s easier to point out high-priority features that the ideal PIM should offer.
Goals drive powerful decisions
To summarize, setting business goals comes with the following benefits.
- Hones in on high-priority PIM features
- Helps in building a strategy that addresses business challenges
- Contributes to setting ways to measure progress after PIM implementation
To create concrete business goals, start with the main challenges your business is facing. For example, you may look at feedback to your customer service team to find dissatisfaction about the speed at which the reps provide information. This is a major clue to the challenge of limited accessibility of product information to your customer service team. To address this, you might focus on PIM systems that offer a hub for your customer service reps to easily find all products. To measure the outcome of implementing this feature, you might keep an eye on feedback ratings or customer retention rates.
Examples of business goals:
- Increasing sales
- Opening new channels or expanding into new global markets
- Aiming to onboard a new product line
- Increase brand awareness via organic traffic.
- Cut project management timelines by a certain percentage.
- Integrate ecommerce platforms to boost revenue
Overall, you may have specific goals depending on your business model – if you are B2B, D2C, if you are hybrid brick-and-mortar plus online – and your needs. To implement PIM properly, businesses must start with a focused approach. By closely analyzing the current company trends, seeing the gaps, and understanding what could be vastly improved helps create a specialized PIM implementation that can target those needs. Then, it’s easier to set KPIs to measure and get an accurate assessment of how well PIM met business goals. Subsequently, businesses can better rework their strategy or decide if that particular PIM was or wasn’t a good fit.
Myth 3: Only the Executives Have a Say in PIM Implementation Decisions
Because PIM will impact every aspect of the organization, involving all relevant teams is remarkably critical. While the executive team may have the final say, the teams that will be using the PIM regularly should be a part of the process. Their input is immensely important for tailoring PIM for the utmost success.
Implementing a PIM should consider the following departments:
- Product managers are the spokespeople for properly organizing all products. As such, they should be the first people in on the conversation. For them, they need PIM to jumpstart new product introduction workflows. Furthermore, they can manage the distribution of product content to ecommerce platforms, reducing time-to-market across all.
- The marketing team includes everyone from designers to copywriters, the marketing team will use PIM for most of their work. From design marketing collateral to writing product page copy, the marketing team should be a prominent part of the decision-making process. With full control over the brand experience, PIM must cater to them, allowing them to establish themselves seamlessly on PIM. With that, PIM can drive the efficient creation of compelling images, descriptions, and significant marketing campaigns. Usually, this will include designers who will need PIM to set-up templates for product sheets.
- Sales representatives – Sales teams require PIM to quickly find or create sales material to customize and send to prospects. Being able to find product information quickly is a huge plus during sales calls or meetings.
- Customer Service representatives – With the customer service hub, reps can easily locate product information to relay to customers.
Myth 4: PIM is Too Complex to Implement
A product information management system can seem like a goldmine for engineering teams and technology enthusiasts.
Mainly, this is because PIM is heavy on API connectors to establish the flow of data in and out of the system. Otherwise, an aspect like workflow may seem like an overcomplicated feature to less tech-savvy. Some may hesitate to establish a tool that might require a learning curve.
However, PIM software was developed to cater to teams like marketing, product managers, sales and customer service, designers, and e-commerce managers. The whole point is to enrich standard, technical data into high-quality, people-facing, customer-pleasing content.
That’s why PIM can be easy to adopt, no matter the team. The user-interface of PIM is navigable, made with all business roles in mind. Many PIM providers offer in-depth training to all users, with ongoing support throughout implementation. Ordinarily, users might find it simple to acclimate to PIM – especially once they realize firsthand the positive impact of centralizing all data in one place. Compared to the time-wasting frustration of old product data management methods, PIM proves to be a breath of fresh air.
Furthermore, PIM onboarding is a one-time occasion. It’s one that will save so much time and costs down the line. So if all your business runs into PIM implementation with a rocky start, know that you will finish strong in all subsequent projects.
Myth 5: Initial Data Migration Will Pause Business Processes
The idea of gathering product data into one place sounds great at first – until you have to do the work. Depending on where your company is in its lifespan, this part of the PIM implementation process could be the hardest. However, it’s also the critical first step. After all, the entire purpose of PIM is to consolidate data in cloud-based storage to maintain accuracy from here onward. That being said, it’s cleaning up the result of a long period of mismanaged product information and assets.
Regardless, it’s understandable why some businesses might want to consider how long their data migration will take. The prevalent concern is that this data migration might put the business at a standstill.
Generally, collecting and gathering product data might look something like this:
- Figure out your major data sources
- Gather product data
- Consider what product information is a top priority. Separate trusted, clean data from the trash – the stuff you don’t want (duplicates, etc). Yes, you may have to do this manually at first, when it comes to certain PIM systems, but once it’s officially in the PIM system, it maintains accuracy and high-standard data.
- Decide on the standards. These are the basic units and terminology you use for all your attributes.
- Create or officially establish your product categorization structure.
- Set up these standards on PIM as you upload all your product data. This will usually be a bulk upload from all the trusted sources you established at the beginning.
- From here on out, after testing the system, PIM will automatically continue to categorize new products based on family and child relationships.
While these steps may vary from organization to organization, and even from PIM to PIM, the conclusion remains the same: product data migration is the most time-consuming step. However, since it will be the stronghold on which you build your success with PIM, this measure is necessary. Besides, this intensive first task will mean preventing data troubles in the future.
Lacking PIM forces you to haphazardly clean, organize, and enrich data in a roundabout means, making every product onboarding or updating project more costly than necessary. Before the work becomes insurmountable, take care of this initial data migration. PIM will cut your average project duration immensely. Teams can finish weeks-long tasks in days, new ecommerce platforms can be easy to hop on, and creating marketing and sales materials like catalogs can be completed in minutes.
Myth 6: Less Control Over IT and Security
If you’re not a tech whiz, this is relatively good news. Otherwise, some businesses might be concerned about tech and security issues being out of your hands when it comes to an open-source PIM.
In reality, PIM has strong security measures and the provider takes care of all the backend. Everything from fixing up technical difficulties to routine software upgrades for you is on the PIM provider.
Open source SaaS comes with a plethora of benefits regarding data governance. As a cloud technology, unlimited storage is reliability protected by the backend teams. As a result, your business’ IT department (if any) can focus on more important things. You save on security costs while still ensuring adequate protection against potential security breaches. If there is a down system at all, there is no need to fear losing data as per PIM’s robust cloud backup storage.
You can monitor what all users are doing when it comes to authoring content, and you can see all the details of any unauthorized edits. Overall, this also means more control on the business end over user roles and content auditing.
Myth 7: Full PIM Implementation Could Take a Long Time
Going along with concerns about initial data migration, you may wonder how long PIM implementation might take on average. The common misconception that businesses assume is that complete PIM onboarding will take ages. Particularly, if the state of product information is daunting to a business, it can seem like it could take forever.
The good news? The more plausible time length might take far less than you assume. Generally, it could take you anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months to wholly embrace the PIM system.
First of all, how to go about the PIM implementation process is up to the business. Depending on the PIM vendor, there are two options: to completely adopt PIM or to ease into it gradually.
With complete PIM adoption, businesses will abandon all previous systems to move onto the PIM software. This is an immediate, full migration of all product data, materials, files, and departments onto PIM. As for gradual implementation, businesses might slowly disconnect from previous systems. For instance, this might mean uploading certain sets of product data at a time – usually for those with a high volume of products or extensive information and specs. Others might even prefer to use PIM alongside other product data tools simultaneously, either temporarily or for an indeterminate amount of time.
What do we recommend? Again, that depends on the business’s specific needs. Take into consideration the previous systems you used to use, the extent of their integration with your departments, and other factors.
Regardless, how long it takes to fully onboard PIM is not as important as how long before you can see real, positive progress with PIM. The true measure of success depends on how meticulous and exhaustive you are with the initial PIM implementation process.
Myth 8: Retail & Supplier Partners May Require a Learning Curve
Businesses might wonder how utilizing PIM will shift how they interact with partners. Would their suppliers or distributors be okay with uploading product data onto PIM directly? Or would that require manual work? In that case, wouldn’t that offset the benefits of PIM automation? Furthermore, would partners require training upon PIM implementation as well?
In this day and age, the traditional means of collaborating with these partners is pretty inefficient and unsustainable. For instance, sending spreadsheets back and forth via email is pretty slow in terms of turnaround time. Certainly, it is not the most secure form of transmission. Other organizations prefer using FTP (File Transfer Protocol servers), DropBox, or other document sharing methods. In some situations, files might be too heavy to send, especially with an abundance of images, videos, or other quality digital assets.
Fortunately, PIM software has the perfect fix:
A hub to share data between partners.
In other words, PIM software offers a secure way of serving all retail partners simultaneously with a vendor portal. Using a portal allows suppliers access to upload new, incoming product data and specs. As new data enters the interface, PIM automatically standardizes it to match your brand. As a result, there is much less manual cleaning later on, with little need to continually double-check that all data is present. If any information is missing, you can notify the supplier or manufacturing partner immediately. Even better, you can work with more than one partner at the same time, while managing all formatting standards.
Since PIM is completely secure, the organization administrator can set desired accessibility settings for the partner, allowing them to read-only or edit existing product information.
Some might describe the PIM vendor hub as almost a social network (strictly business) for businesses to swiftly send and receive product data updates with suppliers. This immediate system reduces the risk of communication getting lost in one’s inbox.
All-in-all, PIM implementation lessens the load on all parties. Resulting in high-quality data at a nimbler rate than traditional processes, PIM vendor portals make life more manageable for the business and the relationship.
Myth 9: PIM Implementation is Only for Larger Enterprises
The false idea that PIM is better suited for larger enterprises is a major misconception that could prevent a lot of companies from reaching the full potential. That being said, I’m not saying that PIM is for everything. It’s critical to look at this topic in a nuanced way.
Is PIM only for larger enterprises – businesses with thousands of products, well-established on a plethora of marketplaces and channels?
For large businesses, it’s pretty clear that PIM is helpful to get the data sorted for an immense inventory. But PIM can be a huge leverage for small to medium businesses as well. Smaller organizations could benefit from PIM to set up a strong structure if the plan is to scale later. Doing so ASAP protects from costs in the future, even if there are few issues now. Sometimes, even a manageable amount of products could require PIM for seamless content distribution to multiple sites, marketplaces, and channels. Speed and efficiency are important factors to consider. Additionally, any organization might enjoy the ability of PIM implementation to upgrade its content quality.
Today, the complexity of business is not measured only by the number of products or variants. You also have to think about department size, locations, product type, multi-channel networks, and even partnerships with suppliers, retailers, and distributors. In other words, the issue is not the business size.
Rather, it’s important to look at PIM-need on a case-by-case basis. Ordinarily, it’s a good idea to delve deep into the challenges your business faces and from where they stem. If, for example, your business is struggling with consistently inconsistent product data that leads to product returns and bad reviews, you need to reassess your product information management process.
Myth 10: PIM Will Handle Product Taxonomy Automatically
While PIM does take over the maintenance of your product taxonomy, the business is in charge of the initial set-up. In other words, you have free reign over your product categorization and tagging system.
Product taxonomy is so vital, as the basis of your customer-facing navigation system. It is the logical structure of your product organization, making products easily findable. Therefore, it’s a relief that PIM can automate the process. That doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t have responsibility for the initial setup of the product taxonomy.
When onboarding PIM, some businesses might consider looking at the current state of their product categorization. Usually, if they’re using outdated means like spreadsheets or FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites, and there are issues with maintaining data cleanliness, there’s probably an issue with their product taxonomy.
The building block of a strong product hierarchy structure is clear attributes.
Product attributes create relationships with other products, variants, and options. If you’re manually inputting these attributes to create a hierarchy on every platform, you open your business up to a lot of risks.
A way to figure out how well your current system is doing is to ask: Is there any product or group that seems to be lacking in sales or popularity? While this can point to many issues, one possibility is that a disorganized product taxonomy system could be shielding this product from visibility.
With PIM, you still have full control over your product categories. Yet once you implement your desired organization structure, PIM keeps it consistent. Building and maintaining the rules and relationships you have in place becomes effortless. The same taxonomy structure occupies fields across all platforms.
Furthermore, PIM improves product visibility by making upselling and cross-selling easier. With everything in one place, marketing teams have a much better time creating merchandising strategies.
Rather than a strict automation program, think of PIM as a controlled place for streamlined creativity. Once you take care of the holes, marketing and designing teams can spend their efforts on really enhancing the customer experience. You make the rules, PIM propels excellent, ongoing performance.
While PIM onboarding can seem like an overwhelming feat, know that the returns are endless.
Know that regardless of your business type, PIM implementation is a flexible process. It can vary widely for each organization, so data migration or setting up taxonomy and user roles might differ. Despite that, perhaps dispelling these misconceptions can jumpstart your business into action. Having trouble keeping up with your online platforms, product updates, and customer expectations are major red flags that something isn’t working – and how you manage your product information might be the culprit.
If you’re interested in seeing how PIM implementation could work with you, check out Catsy PIM software and sign up for a free live demo.