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Feb 17, 2021

Taking an Agile Approach to PIM

Everyone’s saying it — taking an agile approach to omnichannel commerce is a key ingredient for success in the modern age.  In fact, it’s...



Everyone’s saying it — taking an agile approach to omnichannel commerce is a key ingredient for success in the modern age. 

In fact, it’s said so often that it often becomes rote, leaving merchants confused about what exactly taking an agile approach means for their business. But just because taking an agile approach has become somewhat overused doesn’t mean it’s not important. On the contrary, that’s exactly why the phrase became so common in the first place.

So what does taking an agile approach really mean when it comes to managing product information? What are the benefits of adopting one? And how can you successfully and sustainably apply an agile approach to your business?

The need for an agile approach

First, let’s take a look at what an agile approach to product information management really means. Taking an agile approach to PIM means prioritizing flexibility and adaptability both in your technology stack and in your product enrichment processes. It also allows for increased learning and experimentation by promoting small, incremental innovation steps rather than huge projects where it’s easy to fall behind, allowing companies to adapt better when the need arises. An agile approach also calls for cross-functional teams to improve product data. That way, if product catalog and product data specialists are part of these cross-functional squads, they’ll develop a new perspective and better understanding of the role of said product data. Why does all of this matter? Because market conditions and trends are ever-changing (just look at the past year if you need proof) and you need to be able to roll with the punches in order to keep up in the quickly shifting omnichannel commerce space. The number of channels, as well as the amount of innovation on these channels, is ever-increasing, and new ways to reach customers are always arising, leading to new buying habits and expectations with customers for both B2B and B2C companies. Many companies have also changed their assortments — and added new suppliers — in response to changing customer demand during the pandemic. That means you need to be able to flexibly accommodate changes to your product information and catalog and ready to make changes on a dime.

There are no shortcuts

Okay, so speed and agility are clearly crucial to success — how do you pick up the pace? It can be tempting to find shortcuts to help you gather, standardize, enrich, contextualize and distribute product data. But you can’t take shortcuts when it comes to product enrichment! A waterfall methodology for product enrichment can be a barrier to moving quickly. In this approach, you need to wait for each step to be complete before moving on to the next one. If your product enrichment process is slow and inefficient, it will slow time-to-market, which results in lost selling days and lost revenue. To speed things up, you may be tempted to take shortcuts, from which a host of bad things can result. This includes low-quality product data filled with errors, inconsistencies, and incomplete information, which leads to lower customer trust, decreased conversion rates, and increased returns. A great example of a company that benefited from a more agile, easy-to-use PIM tool is Midland Scientific, a distributor of scientific instruments. They needed to change their product enrichment process in order to keep pace with a rapidly growing product line. They were able to rapidly onboard remote seasonal workers such as college students to successfully use Akeneo PIM to enrich products in a matter of weeks, helping them move more quickly without sacrificing data quality. Other agile PIM success stories include companies like French grocery chain Franprix, which was able to use PIM to fix product information problems in just 45 days, and SLV, a German lighting manufacturer and seller that used a minimum viable PIM strategy to cut enrichment time and costs by more than 80%.

Take an agile approach to product information management

So how do you take an agile approach to PIM without taking shortcuts? The key to rapidly getting value from the agility a flexible and adaptable PIM can bring is to take a “minimum viable product” (MVP) implementation approach, one that can help you get your PIM solution online quickly in order to provide accurate, consistent, and compelling product information and better product experiences for your customers. Start by looking for a solution that allows you to start quickly with an “MVP” execution. But not all PIM tools are alike — some take a more waterfall-style approach and require all decisions about the structure to be designed at the beginning. So, make sure you choose a solution that allows you to implement PIM in an as-you-go manner so that your catalog structure can be easily modified and extended as your PIM implementation matures. If you are not sure how to begin taking an agile approach, it’s a worthwhile investment to get an expert on board who can help you to develop agile methods. It’s easy to think you’re agile because of new software or solutions, but it is actually a whole set of methods and a new mindset that takes a bit of effort to adopt. The results for those that are willing to adopt this new mindset, however, can be significant. They include accelerated PIM implementation times, shorter enrichment times, accelerated time-to-market, reduced enrichment costs, increased adaptability, and better product experiences. Add that all up, and with help from Akeneo PIM and an agile approach to product experience management, you’ll see climbing conversion rates and increased revenue!

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