How to Implement a Product Information Management System: Plan and Common Mistakes
This is a guest article by Margo Sakova, Marketing Manager at Gepard
In this data- and consumer-driven world, dealing with every bit of product information can become a company’s worst nightmare. That’s when your business needs to launch PIM — product information management software that serves as a single repository to gather, manage, and expand product information and integrates with other data sources and eCommerce channels.
PIM, as a central hub for all your product content, helps to increase product data quality, improve your team’s communication process, drive more sales, elevate customer experience, and significantly boost your ROI.
Now you know what product information management is and its benefits. And that means it’s time to learn how to implement a PIM solution efficiently.
PIM Implementation Plan
The roadmap to PIM implementation can change from one business to the other, depending on the industrial sector, business vertical, its background, and history. Here are some common phases your team might go through:
PIM design and discovery sessions
This stage usually consists of several in-person practical workshops and interviews with stakeholders. The facilitated sessions will help to make sure that all the stakeholders have an understanding of business processes and establish precise business goals.
Functional workshops are valuable to get an idea of how data flows through the system, what the most important data sources for your business are, and who the data owners inside your company are. Also, you need a complete understanding of what departments and teams are the recipients of product data.
PIM system orientation and data modeling phase
At this stage, you can move on to a general overview of product information management features and functionality, its workflow. You’ll have to define the main requirements for the data endpoints to migrate into PIM.
It’s important to precisely ascertain product data and its attributes: structure, formats, taxonomy. Some product data might be modified along with the data flow. Your data should be adequately consistent to meet the requirements of data recipients. It’s also the right time to discuss the language localization of product data.
Ideally, these sessions should result in building a product information management data model, data attribute structure, design specification, and a data requirements document.
Building product information management architecture can be a time-consuming process, but it’s worth spending enough time and effort on it because PIM structure will define many future data flows.
Configuration process and PIM migration
After having a data catalogue structure and PIM database set up, it’s time to import data into your product information management platform. You’ll have to determine how product data enters the PIM platform. It can be either a manual or automated data import. Consider data formats to find out the best transportation layer for migration. The data transportation to PIM can be planned nightly or regularly, based on your company’s needs.
When you integrate PIM software with other business systems and tools, the product information will be synchronized between different systems. It will improve the data structure, reduce or avoid recurring data entries, and improve the consistency of information.
You can start testing the PIM system integration with a small group of people: Engage a few company employees to use PIM for creating a pilot launch, go through role-playing sessions, and test the data workflow. It’s useful to provide the training for admins, super users, as well as end users.
Define an output of the PIM solution
Now it’s time to shift from training to the actual use of your PIM software. You have to determine where to deliver your product data. Remember that each touchpoint is important to boost your sales. It can be different websites, eCommerce platforms, marketplaces, printed catalogues. Define the main product data consumers of your information ecosystem and learn the requirements for different consumer types.
Different sales channels might require different transportation methods and data formats. The more PIM output variations — the more complex your product information data model and design become.
Remember, the roadmap to PIM implementation differs depending on your company goals and expectations, so the one-size-fits-all approach does not work here.
To create an excellent product information management tool you and other stakeholders need to have a global view of your business and well-established communication within the company.
Working With Data During PIM implementation
In the process of launching a product information management tool, most of the work is centered around data. The next steps should be done to guarantee flawless PIM work in the future.
Try to locate all your data assets in one place before moving it to the product information management tool. Decide what information is important and should be delivered to the PIM system, and what needs to be cleaned. An organizational plan will be helpful if you are going to use a multichannel system for data management. Segment your product data early on, depending on its size and purpose. Categorize your files, so that it will be easier to work with information once it is moved to PIM. Make sure that the file attributes, such as names, match with the files and are not only SEO-friendly but also user-friendly. It will facilitate work with the PIM system later.
Product data validation is important to avoid errors and duplicates and assure data quality and completeness. Check data for misspellings and multiple abbreviations. Note, that data uncertainty is especially damaging to your information quality. Check out your data for errors and make sure it’s all formatted in the same way. Ideally, the product data validation process should take place before data migrates to the PIM platform.
Setting the data governance policy
This step is important to implement PIM where your product data will be secured and under control. When you set up a governance module within your PIM platform, the data administrators will have the right to lock down the system and the data will be accessible only by authorized users. The DRM (digital rights management) layer is useful when not all your product data is relevant to all data consumers.
Building data taxonomy
A structured hierarchical list where product data is organized based on its categories is a key to an excellent user experience. It helps consumers to easily find relevant information about the products they want to buy. There might be a couple of dependent structures that together make a dynamic taxonomy and help you create rich content to engage your potential customers.
Defining product data attributes
The essence of product information management best practices is the right data attributes. Put your attributes in groups (e.g., technical, physical, marketing, logistics, etc.). It will accelerate product enrichment. Make up compound attributes out of those that combine multiple data (when it makes no sense to display this information separately). The right product attributes and descriptions drive more sales, so make sure none of them are missing.
Before the rollout, conduct a PIM test with a small number of products. It is recommended to do it step-by-step, to assure the synchronizations are working properly. You will not only test data compatibility with the PIM system but you’ll check the data’s effectiveness.
There are a couple of ways your product data can migrate to a PIM platform (depending on your team and data size). You can move from your old system to a new PIM system, which can be done either all at once or, frequently, in stages. Another option is to keep using both systems and have them integrated, especially if you stored data in the ERP system (Enterprise Resource Planning) earlier.
Distribution of product data that is synchronized across various sales touchpoints is the next step (a.k.a. product content syndication). It’s not easy to set it up manually because it is time-consuming and error-prone.
On the other hand, with the automated product content syndication software, your business can benefit in many ways:
- It solves the challenge of product data transformation with the help of intelligent transformation algorithms.
- All the required information, imported from various sources, is automatically adjusted to the needed data models and formats.
- The content is automatically distributed across many channels, complying with the taxonomy of retail partners.
- The product information is kept up to date and products become easily discoverable, which leads to increased sales.
How to Implement PIM and Overcome Potential Challenges
PIM implementation poses some challenges that are usually related to information arrangement and distribution. These are some problems you may face:
Data inaccuracies and inconsistencies
The involvement of different users of the PIM system can cause errors and content discrepancy.
Solution. Product information management software with advanced functionality can solve this problem. PIM tools can offer backups, technical support, and activity logs. It’s important to optimize the database configuration and control the performance after each change. This will ensure the high quality for the tremendous number of database elements and their attributes.
Onboarding nontechnical users
As the information is distributed across different departments, nontechnical users in merchandising, sales, and marketing might think that it’s too complicated to use PIM without prior technical training.
Solution. The product information management best practices prove that this problem can be solved if the PIM software is user-friendly and adapted for use by non-technical employees with reduced technical support. Usually, PIM vendors conduct a few workshops to help employees learn how the system works.
Involving many parts
The number of people involved in the PIM integration process will increase as the channels and relations grow exponentially. It can lead to an increasing number of discussions when people can’t agree on certain points. This can result in slowing down the PIM system implementation plan.
Solution. A way out is having a professional that is solely responsible for PIM workflow. This should be a person with extensive knowledge and a global vision of your business.
With this guide on how to implement PIM for your business, you just need to find the right product information management software to handle your valuable data. Content is a king, but you want an organized kingdom, don’t you?
Margo Sakova is a digital marketing professional with 7 years of experience. Marketing Manager at Gepard, the product information management & syndication platform, helping to centralize diverse product data and deliver complying content to sales channels. Skilled in market research & analysis, building online marketing strategies, marketing funnel optimization, and content marketing.
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Originally published at AltexSoft tech blog “How to Implement a Product Information Management System: Plan and Common Mistakes”