IDC Spotlight Report: The Power of a PX Strategy in Omnichannel Commerce



Jun 28, 2018

Expert Interview: PIM Market and Trends with Mark Smith, CEO of Ventana Research

In any business, creating and maintaining a great customer experience is critical to driving sales. One of the most influential components of that exp...




In any business, creating and maintaining a great customer experience is critical to driving sales. One of the most influential components of that experience is the presentation of product information. Evocative product descriptions, accurate product specifications, and compelling media all contribute to the customer experience and increase the chance of purchase.

However, developing and maintaining impactful product information can be a challenge. There’s a gap between supplier information and the final customer experience that must be bridged. The number of product SKUs and markets served keeps increasing for growing companies. What’s more, in an omnichannel world, those final customer experience platforms are becoming ever more varied and customized: online marketplaces, mobile, voice, print, and POS to name just a few.

Every channel has different requirements and global companies must use the correct pricing, size charts, measurements, and language in accordance with the region they are selling in. Customers are wary of purchasing products from sources that have inconsistent or incomplete product information.

For many organizations, implementing a PIM solution provides the functionality they need to improve their product information management, and in turn, their customer experience management.

For more details, check out this interview with Mark Smith from Ventana Research. Mark explains why organizations should invest in PIM solutions and talks about the current PIM market, trends, and future expectations.

Interview Transcript:

Hi I’m Mark Smith, the CEO and chief research officer at Ventana Research. And I specialize in many areas, but one of them being the product information management (PIM) market.

What is Ventana Research’s focus?

At Ventana research, we do a lot of market research that helps provide insights and best practices to help organizations drive better time to value and to make sure they pick the proper vendors to help them achieve their goals. So one of the things we accomplished this last year, was our benchmark research on product information management (PIM), which looked at the state of the PIM industry but also looked at the objectives and the opportunities organizations face in front of them. That provides really important insights where companies need to get rid of spreadsheets, they need to find dedicated tools, and trying to find better value from their overall products.

What are your current observations on the PIM market?

At Ventana research our views of the PIM market have basically been the same over the last decade. Businesses need to take control of their own destiny, manage their product processes, and have the right information to be able to support it. Part of those market trends include the need to not only better enable business professionals to manage the information but also work together as a collective team and share product information across the supply chain of their customers to their manufacturers in a much more efficient way than they ever have before.

What emerging trends do you see in Product Information Management (PIM)?

Some of the key emerging trends in the PIM market involve stepping back and thinking about, “how do we actually get more people to not only support the management of PIM product information but also how it is consumed ”. One of the key trends is around product experience and understanding what is the product experience that customers and consumers expect. But how easy is it to manage that information or to be able to share it, right? Customers expect to have beautiful information about the products that they are searching for or to potentially purchase. When I mean beautiful, those things might be video, they might be images, they might be ratings, there’s a whole collection of attributes that are really essential for product information management.

Is PIM a business imperative or simply a nice-to-have?

PIM has become not just an important business imperative but a required one. For product processes to run efficiently across organizations they need to be able to invest in products and the information that describes the products. In fact, the information is probably more valuable to a company than the product itself. Because we have to market it, we have to sell it, we have to service it. We have to be able to understand that PIM is a foundational piece to how companies actually operate both internally and externally. The business imperative is that PIM becomes the investment place for all participants to get access to product information. And that really is seven days a week, 24 hours a day for consumers or for the people who support it on a daily basis. This is how they collaborate and work together to have a better result.

How can companies justify investing in a PIM tool?

Building a business case for PIM involves stepping back and thinking about some of the practical dynamics of what companies are supposed to do. “How do we provide product information to our customers and consumers?” Typically, organizations will find issues they currently have with customer satisfaction, customer experience within their digital commerce systems, or their website doesn’t provide the right kind of product information that actually describes the product, so what do they do? They actually then go online and chat and call the call center. If you step back and think about that digital commerce, sales and marketing, contact centers, all those have access to and a need product information. If we want to be efficient in our organizations, we need to understand how to prioritize those requirements to drive a business case for making investments in PIM. If organizations do that, it’s a pretty simple equation. It’s a requirement to be effective in supporting the needs of the company and the value in the products and services that they actually provide to the marketplace.

PIM has traditionally been for B2C companies – is PIM relevant for B2B companies?

PIM is just as important to business to business (B2B) marketplaces and organizations as it is for B2C. Manufacturers have suppliers who have information about parts and that information that comes in to make a whole product or manufacturers need to share that product information to their distributors or end retailers. That whole B2B spectrum requires having a common set of business information around the products. Products are the centerpiece of the efficiency and the value equation in a B2B organization. And in fact, it’s actually a little bit more complicated with different organizations who have demands for varying interfaces in which they need to share information on a real-time basis comparatively to B2C where I’ve got to make sure I have the right information in my commerce system, those things can be actually much more easily automated compared to the core of what B2B’s mission is. Their mission is to be efficient, to drive the value from the supply chain all the way out to the demand chain of their retailers or customers.

What if I don’t have access to the product information I need?

For organizations that don’t have all the product information, they can start to establish a shareable product catalog. Establishing a product information network where information can be provided or supplemented by manufacturers or distributors and brought into a product information network, as we call it at Ventana Research, is a starting point to build a more robust set of PIM processes. Now augmenting information can sometimes be challenging without having the right kinds of technology because now we actually need to be able to enrich it from multiple parties, not just inside the enterprise but across the entire value chain.

Is PIM the same thing as MDM?

In the PIM market there are a set of different views on the marketplace. Is it master data management (MDM) where we manage the masters of our product data? Or is it on the PIM side as a business application? At Ventana, we take a business-centric approach. We look at PIM as an application that’s used by business professionals and as well as the extended customers and consumers that access that information. PIM has master data management built inside of it. Many organizations have other issues in regards to data and enterprise where they go to manage customers and products and employees and all those multi domain types of responsibilities. Now a company’s MDM infrastructure may or may not be useful to PIM but PIM can operate as a standalone environment because it’s focused on the business, the people who are actually held accountable for the product processes and the outcomes from them.

What’s the next big thing in PIM? Will AI and machine learning (ML) have a role?

The PIM software market is going through a pretty interesting transformation because it’s not just about the administration of the product data itself, but it’s about the usage of it, it’s about the consumption of it. How do we enrich that product experience? By using things like artificial intelligence and machine learning we can start to better understand our own product data. Looking at challenges and issues, we can automate the exception notification, we can prompt people, and we can also then drive further automation. If we know there’s a high confidence level that product information’s being enriched by particular sources or a network of certified sources, that actually can be brought together in a much more automated way.

We need to streamline the process around product information, and to do that AI and ML play a critical role. Just as ensuring that product information is up in the cloud, cloud computing and sharing information becomes easier. It all becomes much more streamlined when we have access to that information. And I think the other thing that comes from the both of those is that PIM is going to dramatically change over the next three years because customers and people in the enterprise are going to frankly want to ask about products, they’re going use their voice, they’re going use chat bots and voice bots. They’re going to want to actually get information delivered to them in the way that they actually understand it in the natural language that they hear and that they understand. It’s a pretty dramatic change where PIM will go and changes are already happening in other software segments as we started to use mobile devices, consumer devices to get access to information that we expect any time of day anywhere on the planet.

Has the PIM research conducted by Ventana revealed any interesting findings?

At Ventana Research, one of the interesting pieces of work that we did recently was the work to understand about how to build high quality and complete product information. One of the challenges that companies face in building complete product information is areas around product information quality and how do they have the opportunity to improve the outcomes of their product management processes. So this white paper help provide the insights and some opportunities to learn how to drive better results from their existing investments.

Want to learn more about the business values of PIM?

Download the complete report from Ventana Research: Building High Quality and Complete Product Information: Using Best Practices and Technology Investments to Optimize Product Value.

Or if you’re interested in learning more specifically about Akeneo PIM, contact us for a demo.

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