Feb 16, 2023
8 min to read
There are so many factors to consider when choosing a PIM vendor that it can be overwhelming. Lucky for you, we've put together a guide for the first three steps you need to take when selecting the right PIM software for your team.
product information management
You did it!
You’ve convinced your higher-ups that this nightmare, hodge-podge system of spreadsheets and outdated technology platforms that your team has been getting by with for years to manage product information is inefficient and ineffective.
Great! Then what?
You turn to face the market and realize there are dozens of options for product information management, all claiming to be the best, with a thick haze of buzzwords and acronyms clouding your vision. How are you supposed to differentiate between them all, and more importantly, how are you supposed to know which PIM software vendor is the right one for your organization?
There are countless factors to consider, but when you’re starting your journey towards product experience excellence, here are the three steps you should take first to evaluate PIM vendors.
PIM is used by a wide range of internal teams, including marketing, IT, inventory management, sales, product/product support, eCommerce managers, and more. All of these stakeholders need access to the product record in varying degrees; your IT team needs to feel comfortable that your PIM solution can integrate seamlessly into your existing technology ecosystem, while your marketing and sales teams may be more concerned with how many languages your product information can be translated into or how quickly you can enter a new market or channel.
External stakeholders such as suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors will need access to your product catalog as well in order to ensure high-quality, accurate product listings across the board. While you may not need to, or want to, share every piece of product information with every stakeholder, a PIM software solution can ensure that the right information is seen by the right people at the right time.
Ultimately, any team or organization that needs access to product information and is involved with curating a strong PX strategy can benefit from a PIM system.
Before choosing a PIM vendor, it’s important to identify the pain points and goals you want to address. Some common PIM pain points include:
The PIM vendor that you eventually choose to implement into your organization should have the functionality you need to support your overarching strategic growth goals. Depending on what’s a priority for your organization, certain PIM solutions may work better for you than others, so it’s important to decide which product experience goals you’re looking to achieve.
Create a cohesive omnichannel customer experience
A PIM solution doesn’t live in isolation; it’s an investment in a piece of technology that will act as a central source of record for all of your product information, and act as the keystone to your commerce strategy. Simply put, you can’t create coherent, compelling, and up-to-date customer experiences without the right people, processes, and technologies in place to support these experiences.
React faster to new markets and channels
How quickly is your team able to react to new channels? New social media outlets, new marketplaces, new technologies like Artificial Intelligence(AI) and VR? Chances are, this is an area you’re looking to improve on (but don’t worry; so are most organizations). Whatever the case may be, you don’t want to be building from the ground up every single time a new marketplace or channel emerges. Implementing a PIM solution enables your team to keep your entire product record in one place, ensuring that you’re time-to-market is reduced and activating your existing product data to a new channel is as easy as clicking a few buttons.
Optimize internal operations
Poor product information management practices often result in a whole lot of redundant work as siloed teams upload and reupload the same product information and spend thousands of hours hunting down the specs that they need. If you’re looking to streamline your internal operations, maximize efficiency, and ensure that every internal and external stakeholder has the product information they need when they need it, a PIM solution should act as the foundation for this enhanced process.
Like we said, there is no one-size-fits-all PIM offering. But there are some basic core functionalities that your PIM vendor should be able to offer, regardless of what your strategic goals are. Let’s take a look at a few of the most important ones.
1. Centralize, organize, and optimize product information
At its core, your PIM should make it easier for your team to manage and enrich product information — a process that starts with collecting and centralizing your data in one place. A good PIM system should provide a centralized repository for all product information, making it easy for teams to access and manage this information in one place. This includes optimizing product data, such as ensuring consistent formatting and removing duplicates, to make it easier for teams to use and maintain this information. It should also provide a deep roster of capabilities designed to make it easy for you to collect and centralize product information, such as accurately mapping and consolidating raw data from different sources.
Lastly, strong PIM solution should make it much easier to categorize products, including supporting product variants and organize your product data for the requirements for different channels and languages. Ideally, it will also help you identify errors in product information, fix them, and define a minimum level of quality and completeness required for a product to be published to ensure that the product experience you’re offering is consistent and up-to-date everywhere.
2. Localize and contextualize product information
Beyond the basics of creating a single source of record for your optimized product information it’s more important than ever before that your PIM system can adapt product information to different regions, languages, and markets in today’s global marketplace. A good PIM should provide the ability to localize and contextualize product information, making it relevant and usable in a variety of contexts.
The right PIM vendor will help you improve your data quality and product experience by crafting localized and contextualized product descriptions, images, and other data for each channel you sell on and every locale you sell in. It also should measure and improve your data quality by identifying low-quality product information and offering suggestions to enhance it.
3. Activate your product record everywhere
The PIM system you choose should be able to activate product records across all channels, including your website, mobile app, social channels, third-party marketplaces, physical stores, and more. This means that product information should be consistent and up-to-date across all channels, improving the customer experience and reducing the risk of errors.
Your preferred PIM should be able to quickly and efficiently deploy your catalog to your owned and unowned sales channels. A good solution will also track when your products are ready to sell, offer export capabilities designed to ensure your team only exports the right data to the right channel, and enable your marketing team to save these profiles for future usage.
4. Be intuitive and user-friendly
A PIM system that is intuitive and user-friendly can help improve adoption and usage by your team. Look for a system that is easy to navigate, has a clear user interface, and provides the tools and features that your team needs to do their job effectively.
5. Be cloud-based and composable
Nowadays, your PIM software vendor should be a cloud-first offering that’s built with modern SaaS architecture, and should support a composable architecture framework. What does this mean? Your PIM will easily fit into your tech ecosystem and communicates mainly via API so new technologies can be integrated or removed seamlessly as you grow. A PIM vendor that supports a composable commerce architecture gives you more flexibility and control over your product information even as your organization scales and changes are made to the tech stack.
6. Improve internal operations
A good PIM system should help improve internal operations, making it easier for teams to access and use product information, reduce errors, and streamline workflows. This can help improve the speed and efficiency of your teams, reducing time-to-market and helping you reach your growth goals.
The right PIM vendor should shorten your time-to-market and make the enrichment process easier and faster for your employees. It should have collaboration tools that streamline your team’s day-to-day tasks, reducing manual enrichment effort and providing a mechanism to measure product data quality to ensure a high-quality product experience.
What is your budget and timeline, and is it realistic? While there are a few PIM tools that offer free versions of their product (like Akeneo!), most robust PIM systems are going to not only cost you a decent chunk of change, but also may take longer than you realize to implement; on average, anything from a couple of months to over a year. You’ll want to make sure that you and your team are setting realistic expectations from the start so that your PIM adoption and implementation process are as smooth as possible!
What other technology do you have in your ecosystem that you’ll want to integrate with your PIM, and what technology are you looking to adopt in the future? Every PIM is different and works with different technologies, so before you begin evaluating PIM systems, you’ll want to make a list of existing technologies in your stack and platforms you plan to implement in the future to ensure that the PIM you select is compatible with your ecosystem. This could include Digital Asset Management software (DAM), Master Data Management (MDM) software, Product Lifecycle Management software (PLM), Order Management Systems (OMS), Enterprise Resource Planning software (ERP), and pretty much any other acronym you’ve stumbled across in your research.
Can everyone who needs access to the PIM get access to the PIM? This includes all the teams mentioned earlier, such as marketing, IT, product, sales, eCommerce, and more, but also external stakeholders who will need access to your product information. Ensure that your PIM enables you to collect and communicate product information with suppliers and distributors, and is easily accessible; if only your technical teams are able to navigate your PIM, it’s probably not the most scalable option.
Can the platform activate your product record across all owned and unowned sales and marketing channels at an efficient pace? Your product information is rendered almost useless if it’s centralized in one place but stuck in your PIM system with no ability to syndicate that information out to all the channels you need to be on. Whether the functionality is built directly into the product, or the platform has an extensive network of best-of-breed technologies to support this type of omnichannel product activation, you’ll want to ensure that the PIM system that you opt for is able to activate your product record across all channels and marketplaces.
Though it may be half the battle, deciding that you need to implement a PIM solution is only just the start. Then, you need to focus on aligning your teams around what you’re looking to get out of a PIM tool and analyze the software vendors in the market. While every organization is different and will need a different PIM vendor to support their needs, there are a few key functionalities that all PIM software tools need to have in order to activate compelling and up-to-date product experiences across all channels.
Are you evaluating PIM software vendors? Check out Akeneo – we have a range of offerings to fit all your needs, whether you’re a global enterprise organization looking to take your product experience strategy to the next level, or are a small company just starting out on your product experience journey.
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