Expert Interview: Why PIM is Strategic with Brian Beck, SVP of eCommerce and Omnichannel Strategy at Guidance


We recently sat down with eCommerce expert Brian Beck, who works as SVP of eCommerce and Omnichannel Strategy at Guidance, a leading commerce services provider. At Guidance, Brian and his team help retailers and brands define their eCommerce strategies, develop their digital transformation roadmaps, and select the right technology platforms and point solutions.

Brian, who has worked with companies including Epson, Vitamin Shoppe, Kate Somerville, and Sole Society, has seen first-hand how retailers and manufacturers are grappling with the ever-growing challenge of managing their product data across myriad sales channels. In the interview below, he reveals his thoughts about PIM and why he views product information as a critical part of every company’s eCommerce foundation.

What’s your experience and understanding of PIM?

I’ve had PIM on my radar for years. The topic comes up regularly in our eCommerce discussions with clients, particularly B2B and B2C sellers that have a large and diverse volume of products. Companies often underestimate the importance of solid, clean product data, not to mention the effort it takes to organize it well and the tremendous value it delivers to both buyers and end consumers. We at Guidance believe that PIM is an important part of the eCommerce ecosystem, particularly as product SKU counts grow larger.

What makes PIM an important part of the eCommerce foundation?

In eCommerce strategy, we talk a lot about building scalable and stable foundations, and we view product information as a critical part of that. Product data feeds multiple facets of eCommerce systems, and having it available in a consistent format is increasingly important, particularly as sales channels evolve. PIM ensures that product data is configured and delivered in a fast and consistent fashion to all channels, which is an enormous advantage for merchants. If you look across manufacturers, retailers, and brands, the places where they need to use product data have continued to expand. So PIM is becoming an increasingly important part of most eCommerce foundations.

What value do you see in PIM for businesses?

Data can be very powerful when it is properly used. For sales teams in the field selling products to B2B buyers, having the right product data in front of them is really important so they can pull up information like product compatibility right on the spot. We have clients that sell medical equipment, for instance, and it’s really important for their customers to know which parts go into a given piece of medical equipment to make it work best for its intended use. PIM provides everyone an excellent way to obtain and grasp that detailed, accurate product information.

I would argue PIM is more important than ever. Too often we see companies trying to move into digital commerce or expand their eCommerce channels without having a core product data foundation ready, and they have to step back, rework things or invest in ways they wouldn’t have had to otherwise.

What are the top three reasons why eCommerce sellers should adopt PIM solutions?

Number one, PIM offers a structured approach to creating, organizing and standardizing product data. Too often, it can become cumbersome and unwieldy for companies to manage product data using spreadsheets. This traditional method prevents businesses from effectively normalizing product data, that is creating very specific yet flexible formats for data that can then be presented in a range of environments like a website or an Amazon product listing. In a nutshell, PIM allows for the easy structuring and formatting of product data for different intended sales channels.

Number two, PIM empowers businesses to collect product data efficiently. For companies that are not using PIM, one of their key complaints is the difficulty of identifying and assembling product data. For instance, when one of our clients received a request from one of their large retail partners, Home Depot, employees had to scour through 15 different sources, talk with six departments and even call its factory in China to obtain the exact product data they needed. The whole process was very time-consuming and inefficient. In contrast, PIM allows a company to be nimble and to respond instantly to market demand for quality data. As a result of that, PIM can be a competitive advantage to a company if it is doing this better than a competitor.

Lastly, PIM ensures data quality, because it provides merchants with a structured workflow for reviewing and finalizing product information. For example, if you have different levels of people within an organization responsible for the accuracy of product data, PIM has a system in place that allows a particular data unit to be systematically circulated and sent to the right people for final approval. Ultimately, with streamlined data management workflows, businesses can create higher quality product data to help them sell their products.

Do you see an interest in the market for open source PIM solutions?

I do see a real market interest for open source solutions like Akeneo. Just as companies responded positively years ago when Magento provided its open source eCommerce platform, companies now are similarly looking for open source solutions for PIM. The flexibility of an open source PIM is exactly what many companies in this market need.

About Brian Beck:

Brian Beck is an eCommerce expert who brings more than 20 years of experience helping top-tier multi-channel retailers, B2B firms, and high growth eCommerce companies achieve business results worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He currently serves as SVP of eCommerce and Omnichannel Strategy at Guidance.

About Guidance:

Guidance is a customer-centric commerce service provider dedicated to growth-oriented mid-market and enterprise branded manufacturers and merchants in both B2C and B2B with industry-leading practices in multichannel retail strategies, mobile, customer experience, innovative design, and complex system integration. Since 1993, national flagship retailers and consumer branded manufacturers have relied on Guidance’s expertise to facilitate more than $5 billion in web, mobile and social commerce. Brands such as Foot Locker, Johnny Was, Robert Graham, TOMS Shoes and others, have engaged Guidance to build hundreds of world-class, omnichannel solutions that enhance customer experience and increase business performance.

Learn more about Guidance at http://www.guidance.com/about.

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