If you're a retail business, you and your team have probably felt the pressure of juggling thousands of SKUs, digital assets and other types of product information by hand every day.
And as your business grows and your product catalog expands, manually processing this data becomes a major challenge.
This is a problem that many omnichannel companies face: Managing massive amounts of product data across multiple points of sale such as websites, mobile apps, retail locations and online marketplaces becomes downright impossible without the right technology.
It's clear that a better approach to data management is needed to scale your business efficiently with this constant growth and ensure that your customers and your teams receive accurate and consistent product data.
This is the task that Product Information Management is designed to fulfill.
In this guide, we'll show you how you can use a PIM solution to not only increase your productivity and sales, but also create a better and more engaging shopping experience for your customers. We'll also show you how to evaluate PIM vendors and choose the most suitable PIM partner for your business.
What is PIM?
Product information management (PIM) is the storage, enrichment and distribution of product information (e.g. descriptions, metadata, photos, etc.) in a centralized system that can help maintain data quality and ensure consistent, up-to-date product content across all sales and marketing channels.
Many retailers, whether they sell online or offline, struggle with many issues like the following:
Product data is stored in different systems or files without interoperability, often resulting in different versions of data for the same SKU
The details for thousands of SKUs are entered manually in all systems and channels
Each time an SKU is updated, the change must be manually transferred to each system and channel, one by one
Difficulties in assigning a large number of digital assets such as images, videos and other media to the respective SKUs
Lack of data governance, i.e. the data is disorganized and scattered and needs to be cleaned up before it can be used
As a result of these issues, data errors can occur, your team uses incorrect or outdated information for their business activities, and ultimately your company either loses a potential customer or disappoints them with a product that doesn't match what they read on the product detail page.
To get a handle on these problems, you first need to set up a Single Source of Truth (SSoS) for all your data.
Any system can be used as an SSoS. Small businesses are more likely to rely on Excel spreadsheets or their content management system (CMS). Larger companies may opt for Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) or Master Data Management (MDM).
However, an ideal SSoS for your product information should be able to implement a data governance framework and also offer features such as automatic data mapping, product enrichment and catalog creation so that you can create attractive, sellable product content at scale with little time and effort.
In this case, a dedicated product information management system is the best solution as it offers all these important features in one powerful platform.
What does a PIM system do?
Without the right technology or tools to rely on, product information management alone can be a chaotic process.
A robust PIM system or software brings structure and workflow to this process. It's equipped with tools and features that make collecting, refining and distributing product data much easier for everyone on your team involved in onboarding products, and marketing and selling them to your customers.
Essentially, a PIM system can fulfill the following core functions:
Centralize product data in one platform
Reduce the effort of manual data entry. No more spreadsheet battles in search of the data you need.
Gather data: Integrate product data from all other channels and business platforms in a single place and define the master data source for the entire company.
Import data: Transfer data into the PIM system in various file formats or with a template customized for your business needs.
Standardize data: Prevent data errors and inconsistencies by enforcing a set of predefined rules for naming, structuring and storing product information.
Enrich product content
Create a great product message and offer your customers an engaging product experience. Enrich product descriptions with relevant attributes, media, relationships and translated content.
Manage rich media: Organize and process your media content with the integrated digital asset management function. Link them to products, packages or even entire categories.
Link media to products: Associate images, videos or any other form of digital media with your products. Offer your customers rich, appealing visual and multimedia content.
Set language and localization: Set up multiple versions of product data to suit different contexts and scenarios, e.g. country-specific or translated content, and reach customers around the world.
Syndicate to external channels
Display accurate and up-to-date content wherever you want. Make your product information accessible for every digital sales channel.
Customize product feeds: Tailor your product feeds and bring the data into the required format and structure of each sales and marketing channel.
Stay compliant with requirements: Ensure that market-specific requirements, such as data fields or image sizes, are adhered to. Optimize the product data automatically and adapt it to the required format.
Track product performance: Use the Completeness Score, a metric that helps maximize the success rate of products in sales channels and online marketplaces, to check which products are ready to go live and which require more work.
Collaborate with everyone
Harness your colleague’s expertise, knowledge and collective efforts of your colleagues in one place. Avoid duplicating work and keep track of work progress.
Delegate tasks: Invite colleagues, partners and suppliers to collaborate on product information. With defined roles and permissions, you retain full control over your data at every stage.
Streamline the workflow: Enable communication directly via the platform messenger and exchange information, feedback and approvals without having to exchange emails.
Collaborate with suppliers: Host suppliers and invite them to upload and update product data directly into the PIM system.
What are the benefits of PIM?
Essentially, PIM improves the efficiency of your data operations through smart automation and simplified processes. This means you can accomplish more with fewer resources and maintain top data and product content quality without burdening your team with additional tasks.
In a study we conducted with Ventana Research, we found that 74% of the companies surveyed want to use a PIM solution primarily to avoid data errors and mistakes.
But the benefits of PIM go beyond improving data quality! Let's explore the other key advantages that companies can unlock through the implementation of a PIM solution:
Create an omnichannel product experience
Your customers don't just buy a product; they also invest in the entire experience that surrounds it. Thanks to PIM, marketers and eCommerce managers can create personalized, contextual content that resonates with customers and tailor it to the various sales and marketing channels.
This ensures that customers enjoy a consistent and frictionless shopping experience, whether they're in a brick-and-mortar store, browsing online, using mobile apps or engaging on social media, and receive accurate and relevant product information no matter how they engage with your brand.
Eliminate product data errors and inconsistencies
When product information is scattered across different systems, it often leads to data discrepancies. When repeatedly copying and pasting the same data, errors such as misspelled words, outdated content or prices in the wrong currency can creep in.
However, a PIM solution not only provides a centralized hub for your data, but also serves as protection against these errors by automatically enforcing uniform rules for data formatting.
This means you can confidently share your data across multiple customer-facing platforms without worrying about unintentional errors such as inconsistent pricing or date formats that occasionally slip through when team members aren't aware of the specific formatting rules.
Automate manual work
Your time is valuable and should be better invested in moving your business forward rather than dealing with data entry. A PIM system takes the reins on these data-related tasks and takes care of tasks such as cleansing data, improving its quality and evaluating its overall performance.
Furthermore, managing products across different sales and marketing channels can be quite a challenge, especially when it comes to keeping everything up-to-date and accurate. Fortunately, PIM simplifies this task and ensures that your product data is up to date everywhere with its automated product data syndication feature.
Ensure the quality of product content
High-quality product information is important for increasing sales and helping potential buyers make purchasing decisions. With PIM software, eCommerce companies can improve their product data by organizing and integrating different media formats using digital asset management, making it easy to maintain high-quality product data.
Bluestone PIM uses a Completeness Score to evaluate the completeness of product data fields and make suggestions to improve content quality. The higher your score, the greater your chances of success on the various sales channels.
Improve cross-team collaboration
PIM simplifies teamwork as you can invite colleagues, assign tasks, approve workflows and monitor project progress directly in the system. You have full control over who can access the platform, allowing you to engage all relevant stakeholders in a collaborative effort to ensure the timely delivery of accurate product information.
In the fast-paced eCommerce industry, companies need to streamline their product launches to gain a competitive advantage. Storing all product information in one organized location simplifies product launch preparation compared to searching for data scattered across different platforms and files, which can significantly slow down development.
With PIM, you can stay ahead of the competition, capitalize on market opportunities and get ahead of your competitors in the marketplace.
By improving data quality and consistency and providing customers with accurate and detailed product information at all touchpoints, you increase their trust in your brand!
Customers who visit a product page with detailed information and engaging imagery can make more informed buying choices. A better customer experience not only increases their satisfaction, but also boosts the likelihood that they'll become regular customers of your company.
Why is PIM important in today's market?
It's impossible to ignore the remarkable growth of the eCommerce industry in recent years.
The numbers speak for themselves: in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, US consumers flocked to online retail in droves, resulting in a staggering $813 billion in online spending. This was a remarkable 42% increase on the previous year. Just two years later, in 2022, eCommerce sales in the US surpassed the $1 trillion milestone for the first time.
These impressive figures are not a flash in the pan; they are part of a larger trend. Forecasts show that both sales figures and the number of online shoppers will continue to rise in the coming years.
As the eCommerce industry continues its upward trajectory, companies looking to capitalize on this growth need to present their products effectively, consistently and accurately across a variety of online platforms and channels.
This is where a PIM solution comes into play. It helps companies stay ahead by ensuring that their product data is not only part of this growth, but also the driving force behind it.
Many retailers are increasingly recognizing the importance of implementing a dedicated PIM solution. They understand that an online presence alone is no longer enough to succeed in eCommerce; they need to present the right product information alongside their offerings to appeal to their customers.
In our report 'The Next Generation of Product Information Management', which we produced together with Ventana Research, we asked a multitude of companies about their attitude towards building electronic commerce on the foundation of a PIM and discovered two major points.
The overwhelming majority felt that PIM integration is very important to achieve the goals of an eCommerce business. Only 1% of respondents felt that the integration of eCommerce and PIM is not important.
According to a group of vetted respondents in executive and management positions from various industries and organizations, a single, optimal PIM system is the best solution for effectively managing product-related content.
How do you know if you need PIM?
It can be a challenge to figure out if your business needs a PIM solution, especially if the signs aren't obvious or you're still in the early stages of needing one. By the time you realize you need a PIM solution, you may already be feeling the negative effects on your sales.
So, how do you know when it's time for a PIM solution?
Start by asking yourself these questions:
Do you find it difficult to update your product data on multiple channels and business platforms?
Are you frustrated with the time it takes to prepare your products for online sales?
Are customers complaining that your products don't match the descriptions?
Do you have a large number of SKUs or media files that are between 1,000 and 2,000,000?
Do you want to provide a consistent and effective product experience?
Do you want to create an engaging and delightful customer experience?
Do you want to expand your business into new markets?
If you've answered YES to most of these questions, then a PIM solution is what you need.
If you're still not sure whether PIM is right for your business, reach out to any of our experienced consultants for a chat? They are here to provide the answers to your questions and point you in the right direction.
How can PIM help your teams?
PIM isn't just a system that helps your bottom line. It's designed to eliminate data silos, encourage cross-functional collaboration and bring your teams together to enrich product information at different stages.
Here's how your teams can benefit from using PIM:
Your eCommerce teams can offer customers a better product experience, strengthen the brand's position and gain consumer trust.
With various features of a PIM such as the Product Completeness and Supplier Portal, eCommerce managers can monitor and optimize the quality of product information, import and export product data feeds for multiple marketplaces simultaneously and collaborate efficiently within the team as well as with suppliers or agencies.
Sales and marketing teams
With product data syndication and multilingual capabilities, your sales and marketing teams can create consistent and complete product reports for the international market and synchronize all product content across all digital channels.
The integrated digital asset management functions help you to optimize and manage your digital assets, such as images, videos and downloadable content.
Product and category managers
Product teams understand the strong link between rich, complete product content and better sales performance.
With a PIM, they can maintain accurate and up-to-date product content by updating it in the system and publishing it to all channels from one place. They can also build product relationships to cross-sell or upsell and accelerate new product launches.
The SaaS model offers new opportunities for eCommerce companies that are not possible with traditional IT.
Simplify the daily work of your technical team without having to invest in new server hardware or network equipment.
Security in the cloud is also a top priority for us. That's why Bluestone PIM is built and hosted on Amazon Web Services to protect and secure your sensitive data.
Online shopping is growing extremely fast worldwide and the digital representation of each product, also known as the digital twin, is the critical asset of every multi-channel retailer. Just look at it this way - long before your customers buy your products, they already interact with them — or in fact they interact with their digital twins. They look for photos, read descriptions, watch videos, compare prices, and study reviews on comparison websites. PIM is the best guarantee of taking control over the digital twin and thus, a solid foundation for eCommerce growth.
Einar Augedal, CEO at Bluestone PIM
What data can you manage with PIM?
PIM systems are designed to store relevant product data that your marketing and sales team needs to promote and sell your products. Here are a few examples:
Product identifiers (product name, brand name, SKU, GTIN, etc.)
Technical specifications (dimensions, weight, key features, safety standards, etc.)
Digital media assets (photos, videos, 3D/360° product images, PDF documents, etc.)
Marketing data (testimonials, reviews, brochures, product guides, etc.)
Taxonomy data (product relationships, product categories, product bundles, etc.)
Localized and region-specific content (translated text, local prices, customized images, etc.)
By storing all product data in a single repository, you can easily coordinate the process of communicating the right information to different sales and marketing channels, such as
- Internal or external databases
Whether for a new marketing campaign or for the creation of a product catalog, a PIM solution has automated workflows that help with the exchange of product data. There are really no limits to the use of PIM data — you can feed it into any platform or software that connects via APIs or accepts data import.
Key PIM features to look out for
A PIM solution is a long-term investment. Choosing a solution that lacks essential features such as scalability or interoperability can be an expensive mistake that forces you to re-platform.
To make sure you make the right choice, you should evaluate your options based on their technical capabilities and suitability for your long-term plans.
There are many features that a PIM solution should have to grow your business and support working with product data effectively, such as:
Scalability to meet your needs. Your PIM should grow with your business and be able to adapt to your increasing product data needs.
Integration with other systems. It should connect seamlessly with your business platforms, external tools and sales channels.
User-friendly. An intuitive, easy-to-navigate user interface for easy adoption and doesn't require a steep learning curve.
Digital asset management (DAM). DAM serves as a library for all your product images, videos and files. A PIM should have at least the basic, necessary DAM functions and be able to organize, edit and access these assets.
Control over roles and permissions. Decide who can access, edit, or publish specific data. Maintain control over who does what to ensure data accuracy and integrity.
App marketplace. Extend functionality, add new features, and improve overall productivity with additional useful apps and integrations.
Multilingual support. Create, save and publish content in different languages for audiences around the globe.
AI functions. Create SEO-friendly content, translate texts, recognize product images, and much more.
Support and training. Your PIM vendor should provide online training resources, be responsive, and offer prompt support whenever you need assistance.
Flexible pricing. The ideal PIM should be a cost-effective solution that offers a pricing structure customized to your unique business requirements, so you only pay for the features and capabilities you need.
Transparent costs. The pricing structure should be crystal clear, with no hidden surprises.
Once you've identified the key features of a PIM solution, the next step is to create a Request for Proposal (RFP) and send it to potential PIM providers. This RFP will help you outline your requirements, expectations and criteria so that you can proceed in a more informed and efficient manner when selecting a provider.
To help you get started, you can download our free, customizable RFP template, which already includes 70 key questions, and tailor it to your company's needs.
Power your retail and eCommerce sales with Bluestone PIM
Here are 4 reasons why Bluestone PIM is the best product information management software for eCommerce, retail or any other type of business that needs help managing its product content.
Enabler of composable commerce
Composable commerce is a modern business approach that allows you to easily customize and extend your eCommerce capabilities. The idea is that you build your online store like Lego bricks, adding new best-in-class features and tools as your business grows.
This flexibility means you can react quickly to changing market trends and customer demands. You're not tied to a rigid system or a single vendor, but can choose the tools and technologies that best suit your individual business needs and create a customized, dynamic eCommerce experience that makes you stand out in the market.
And all of this is made possible with MACH technology.
Built with future-proof MACH technology
A solid strategy for any forward-thinking company is not only to find a solution to today's problems, but also to anticipate the needs of the future.
Companies need flexibility and adaptability to stay competitive, and a PIM solution built on MACH architecture can help them do just that.
MACH stands for Microservices, API-First, Cloud-Native, and Headless. Each principle is designed to solve a specific problem:
Microservices: For companies that want to adapt quickly to changing market trends and new technologies by using modular, independent components that can be replaced individually without the entire system breaking down.
API-first: Ideal for companies that want software that connects seamlessly with other systems or business tools and enables efficient data flow between different applications, platforms and teams.
Cloud-native: For companies struggling with scalability issues and rising infrastructure costs. A cloud-native solution offers the ability to scale resources as needed, reducing costs without sacrificing performance.
Headless: For companies looking for an alternative to their rigid, monolithic systems. A headless solution offers the flexibility to adapt, integrate seamlessly with other tools and support new technologies as they emerge.
With the MACH technology framework, digital challenges can be overcome and companies receive a future-proof solution that protects their eCommerce business from technical inefficiencies and saves them from the need to re-platform.
Fun fact! Bluestone PIM is also the first MACH-based PIM certified by MACH Alliance, an organization that promotes the best ecosystem for enterprise technologies and educates businesses around the world about MACH and its benefits.
Dedicated project manager and project engineer
Our project engineers oversee the PIM implementation process and ensure that you and your team receive the right technical training to get the best out of Bluestone PIM every time.
We also provide project managers to ensure that any issues are resolved in a timely manner. With a responsive technical support team available 24/7, you can be sure that you'll get the help you need and that your business won't be affected by downtime.
Software updates every 6 weeks
Bluestone PIM is updated every six weeks according to the roadmap. What’s more, you can influence our roadmap!
We always listen to our customers' needs and look at what we can do to make their work easier. If there is a feature you need, let us know and we can customize our PIM solution to your needs.
Bluestone PIM is your best-of-breed solution for effective product information management, designed to meet the unique needs of eCommerce and retail and for a wide range of industries. We're here to empower your journey toward seamless product information management and composable commerce.
If you're ready to explore how Bluestone PIM can transform your business, our expert consultants are just a click away. Contact us today for a consultation or schedule a demo meeting to experience our platform in action.Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2021 and has been updated with the latest information.