What is a PIM System?

What is PIM and What is a PIM System?

Editorial comment: The acronym PIM refers to product information management and related processes: capturing, gathering, storing and maintaining product data. We only briefly touch on the management processes below.

PIM systems are often integrated with surrounding conventional systems or subsystems to complement product information with data from third-party systems. This could be content management systems (CMS), translation management systems (TMS) and off-the-shelf shop systems as well as sales channels such as an ERP system. There are also external service providers who support catalogue management (electronic product catalogues) and conventional suppliers providing additional information from internal sources such as digital asset management (DAM), document management systems (DMS) or systems that focus on master data management (MDM).

Click through to our SWISS KRONO PIM reference to find out more about the Akeneo Product Cloud.


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Why Do We Need a PIM?

Today’s wide range of products and the resulting product hierarchies force companies to store available product data centrally and media-independently. The challenge lies in the different departments within a company. Every department (e.g., sales, marketing, product management and shop management) has its own structure for specific core data, often using its own criteria. Product data then serve their purpose downstream, but across several departments, this leads to uncontrollable redundancies and outdated data sets. Often, departments use Excel sheets as an additional source of information so they can still work together with other departments in certain situations. These isolated solutions for individual departments are a key driver for the introduction of a PIM system. The goal is to harmonise all product information across locations and organisations so that all parties have equal access. Once information is available from a central location, relevant data sets can be accessed almost in real time. This supports the time-to-market strategy in particular – a key discipline in the age of digitalisation and the increasing relevance of e-commerce.

Another good reason to use PIM software is that different organisations within a company often also use different processes to handle the same product properties or data sets. What happens is that data is stored and managed on various media, often even locally within departments (see also Cloud Computing). This results in very time-consuming processes and data inconsistencies, or data silos.

Editorial comment: Terms such as product content management (PCM) and product resource management (PRM) are also used – both offer a similar variety of PIM functionalities. Particularly in the UK and France, the term PCM is used as a synonym for PIM.


Akeneo PIM – Your Product Information Hub


Which Product Information is Included?

For the owner of a PIM system, it pays to aim for a perfect data set. This so-called ‘golden record’ consolidates all information on a product. All stakeholders agree upfront on what product information to capture. The process steps and work required to maintain the product data set are: Gather information, refine and consolidate data. Once the intended golden record fulfils all criteria, it is a high-quality data set with high information density. The data set is usually delivered to devices automatically. From this point onwards, experts usually speak of the ‘single source of truth’ – the ideal master data set.

Putting Well-maintained Product Data to Good Use

The benefit of well-maintained product data for customers is evident from the filter navigation in online shops. Whether you look at Zalando, Amazon or IKEA; online retailers try to make useful features available to users from the first moment on, so they find their desired product quickly and easily. The same goes for the filter navigation: “This feature helps users individually preselect products based on set attributes,” explains estrategy-magazin.de.

Examples of PIM Attributes

  • Clothing: brand, colour, size, heel height, adult/child, on sale

  • Electronics: connections (USB, HDMI), dimensions, price, resolution, condition (used, new)

  • Furniture: material, dimensions, category, colour, price, available online

Different target groups have different requirements and use product information differently. That is why PIM providers rely on modular systems. Even though they can be adapted, their flexibility is limited. This is why they are rated differently by data-driven industries such as medical technology, construction materials and mechanical engineering. Depending on the industry’s needs, they either prefer different systems (which is usually the case) or the providers add functionalities to their systems. Large providers may then also offer master data such as prices, item numbers and stock levels on top of conventional product data.

Editorial comment: Every company is as individual as its product information. That is why specific ‘technical specifications’ are now usually maintained centrally in a master system, especially since industries such as mechanical engineering, timber construction or electrical engineering rely heavily on technical details for their purchase decisions. Providers maintain technical data in a central location and make the information available as a PDF download (datasheet) on product pages or in apps.

Ideal Support for the Customer Journey With PIM

Unic guides you through the launch and ongoing development of your PIM system, ensuring that you can capitalize on the added value within a short time.

Ideal Support for the Customer Journey With PIM

Who Needs a PIM and Who Might Be Involved in Evaluating a PIM?

  • Marketing – for addressing target groups in different ways.

  • Product management – for help with validating relevant data and project-based work.

  • E-commerce/social commerce – for an easy way to supply different digital sales channels with information.

  • Sales – for retrieving relevant content more quickly, whether from a catalogue, flyer or CMS.

  • CIO – for access to a central information system that lightens the load on IT systems and makes IT maintenance easier.

  • External agencies – for photos and advertising materials.

  • Legal departments.

How Do You Work With a PIM System?

The quality of product information is particularly important in the digital era because it’s easier than ever for customers to obtain information. Product data that is incomplete or incorrect may cause customers to become sceptical or even go elsewhere. Despite the wide range of options offered by today’s PIM systems, providing product information that is correct and compelling is a huge, time-consuming challenge for many companies. Too often, product data is managed in a decentralised manner using a variety of tools. Here’s how it works when you have a PIM system:

  • Product information is gathered from various internal and external sources (e.g., ERP system, Excel and product databases) and integrated into the central PIM solution.

  • The product data is classified and categorised in the PIM system by product managers, marketers, e-commerce and channel managers, for example. They add information and localise the data. This process is also known as enhancement.

  • An underlying set of rules and individual processes makes it easier to manage the data. Monitoring of the status and quality of the individual consistent data records, and any changes to them, becomes transparent.

  • The enhanced and prepared data or information is transferred automatically to the various platforms and channels (e.g., e-commerce, marketplace, print catalogues, points of sale or apps).

Product Information Management – Functionality

  • Data backup

  • Document management

  • Process management

  • Product structure management

  • Data classification/categorisation of information

  • Data transport

  • Translation management

  • Management of media assets (images, videos), if they’re not organised in a DAM/MAM

What Are the Benefits of a PIM?

  • Data quality management

  • Media-neutral information

  • Central management of data records

  • Specific approaches for different target groups

  • Short time-to-market

  • Omnichannel approach – different channels can be served in different ways

  • Linking of conventional product data with media assets

  • Fewer returns due to improved data quality and a wealth of information

  • Integration of peripheral systems or subsystems via interfaces

  • Internationalisation (multi-client capability, different languages)

PIM System Providers – Overview

Product information management systems tend to be very individual and project-specific. There is no perfect provider. Companies often rely on analysts to help them find a solution that covers 80–90% of their requirements. The analysts check the software and services and organise them by sector in a kind of grid. The following reports provide a good overview: Gartner’s ‘Magic Quadrant’, Forrester’s ‘The Wave – Master Data Management’ and ‘IDC Marketscape’.

Overview of the Best-known PIM Systems

  • Akeneo

  • Stibo

  • SAP

  • Informatica

  • Contentserv

  • Riversand

  • and many more.

How PIM Differs From PDM and PLM

Differences Compared to Product Data Management

Product information management differs from other product-related disciplines in businesses. When departments use a PIM, they work with sales-based product data (e-commerce, digital marketing). Product data management (PDM), on the other hand, involves process-related and technically relevant product data. The software manages specific product characteristics and their technical details as part of product lifecycle management (see below). According to Siemens, this includes CAD data, models, parts information, manufacturing instructions, requirements, notes and documents.

Differences Compared to Product Lifecycle Management

The product lifecycle management (PLM) approach manages (organises and controls) all the data from product information and processes that arise during the entire lifecycle of the product or plant. It enables companies to map the whole productive value chain of a product or plant, from design concept to end-of-life, and thereby discover business potential. This can lead to a rationalisation of unnecessary work or expenditure.

PLM asks how a company works and how things are produced. According to CIMdata, PLM solutions help to define, execute, measure and manage important product-related business processes. These days, production plans and operating schedules are also seen as an established part of PLM. It’s not generally PLM’s task to improve products by considering individual pieces of data. Instead, it aims to reveal how a company handles its product-related processes.

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