What is Product Information Management?

By James Horne | 01 Apr 2016

James Horne takes us through what a product information management system is and what the various benefits are for online retailers.

Product information management (PIM) is a relatively new term — the concept itself only really started to gain global momentum in the early 2000s. Its popularity in Australia is rising fast with the rapid growth in multichannel commerce and online retailing.

Consider these five trends or challenges:

  • The complexity of managing product data: Selling and marketing online via your website, marketplaces — such as eBay, Amazon, TradeMe and TMall — and marketspaces such as Shoptbot, Getprice and Google Shopping require clear, accurate and customised product information. Additionally, product information is required for ERPs, mobile apps, tablets, sales assistant interfaces, store POS, marketing automation and printed catalogues/flyers means the complexity of managing product data can grow exponentially.
  • The need for detailed and accurate product information: The consumer now demands more, better, deeper and consistent product information. So do the search engines. Take a look at the research and you’ll see that detailed and accurate product information is in the top three requested features by consumers when looking to buy online.
  • The number of products sold by retailers online is rising rapidly: Some retailers have thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of products. In these cases, product data spreadsheets can become a nightmare.
  • The types of products are changing: Retailers are selling bundles, configurable products, grouped products, cross-sells and up-sells and informational products. Retailers are selling products like tickets, downloads, training courses and digital books. These products may need reviews, demos, photos, videos, FAQs and manuals in order for customers to buy.
  • Different product data is required all along the supply chain: The product data required by your business and its partners — from manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, packaging, freight, marketing, search, intranet and sales — can lead to hundreds or even thousands of taxonomy sets, i.e. families, categories, attributes and variants. Ideally, you need one shared source of product information and a “golden record” for product data all the way through a product’s lifecycle.

These challenges require a system to manage and enrich the product information across an array of inputs and outputs.

Enter the PIM

A PIM system is software designed to centrally manage product data by assisting retailers, wholesalers and merchants to centralise and harmonise all the technical and marketing information related to their products. The purpose of a PIM from a technical perspective is to extract, manage and prioritise data to and from different sources. The purpose of a PIM from a functional perspective is to assist in translating and enhancing the product information.

PIM is a software solution used to efficiently manage a large number of products across multiple sales channels and locations. PIM allows businesses to increase product data quality, make content more relevant to customer needs and expectations, reduces time to market and enables collaboration on product data governed by an agreed governance framework.

It consolidates product data available internally (ERPs, data warehouses, operational support systems, knowledge bases, websites, etc.), data provided by product data aggregators (GS1, CNet, Icecat, SKUVantage, etc.) and data maintained and provided by manufacturers, vendors, or suppliers.

PIM also provides access control and enforces data management processes that facilitates transparent and efficient collaboration on product data by internal stakeholders (e.g. vendor managers, channel managers, marketing, supply chain, e-commerce managers and others), external parties like vendors, manufacturers and others such as digital agencies, copywriters and SEO managers.

Globally, more than 50 PIM systems exist. In my opinion, the systems worth considering in Australia are Stibo, Informatica, inRiver and Akeneo PIM. AkeneoPIM is open source and highly compatible with Magento.

Depending on the side and scale of your requirements, it is worth looking at a number of platforms and seeing which one has the right features and price point.

What can a PIM do?

So let’s explore what a PIM can do. A PIM supports four core product data development processes outlined in the diagram below.



A PIM will enable you to collect and extract data by:

  • Collecting data from existing sources like your ERP or your suppliers databases
  • Scrape product data (with permission) from supplier sites
  • Import data via formats and standards such as CSV, API or XML

A PIM will enable you to consolidate and control data by:

  • Creating one “golden record” for each product, as single point of truth
  • Cleaning and choosing the data you want to integrate to your catalogues
  • Defining priorities between different data sources
  • Merging and consolidating product data into an agreed taxonomy
  • Defining and agreeing data including marketing (e.g. descriptions, labels, media assets), user (e.g. comments, reviews, rates), technical (e.g. measures, composition, identifiers), price tiers, packaging, freight and logistics

Once your data is collected you will be able to enrich and translate the content by:

  • Enriching your products with marketing or technical data
  • Optimising data by channel to ensure maximum sales and conversion
  • Classifying your products and associating them to one or several catalogues
  • Translating your data to multiple languages
  • Managing the lifecycle processes of your data (workflows and audits)
  • Improving the quality of your data (completeness, duplicates)

Finally you can easily distribute and spread to any channel via:

  • Management of multiple sales and device channels (e-commerce, marketplace, marketspace, print, mobile applications, social networks, etc.)
  • Selection of catalogues and data you want to distribute through each channel
  • Sending data to web-to-print softwares to create your printed catalogues

For more information on PIM, check out Power Retail’s How Does a PIM Work

If you need more information on how a PIM works you can contact James at: james@balanceinternet.com.au 


1 Comment

One thought on “What is Product Information Management?”

  1. Dan says:

    James, a very interesting article!
    When talking about centralized data management, which is achieved through the provision of access to various users, I would advise to indicate the existence of so-called portals for distributors and suppliers. For distributors, they provide the latest information to promote the product, and for suppliers, they allow to participate in the process of editing and updating information that is also beneficial to them.
    With such portals I have already experience when using TreoPIM (it is often compared with Akeneo). If you are interested in about these portals you can read more here: https://treopim.com/features

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