24.03.21
All About PIM: Product Information Management For E-Commerce
PREFACE
When you have a small production and a limited range of products, you can use various office systems for managing product cards: accounting systems, ERP, or CMS.

As soon as the company decides to expand the product assortment, improve the quality of content or accelerate the process of distributing goods to various online sales channels, it is necessary to manage information about the products professionally. In this case, the company realizes the financial value of the implementation of PIM.

This article will showcase what is PIM and how the system can help e-commerce businesses to work with the information of products.
GLOSSARY
PIM (Product Information Management) is a set of processes and tools that centralize and manage an e-commerce business' product information to ensure a single, accurate view of product data.
Product card — a card which used to display a snapshot of an item and all information about it: description, size, color etc. It lets someone quickly identify a particular item of interest to them from a group, for example in search results on an e-commerce website.
Taxonomy (here) — a functionality of a PIM system that transforms information for a specific channel according to certain conditions.
Channels (e-commerce channels here) — people interact with commerce, both online and offline, in multiple ways and for multiple reasons. It is important for manufacturers and distributors to understand the role of each digital sales channel: mobile showcase, partner's marketplace, media ads, etc. Acknowledging and planning for the different use cases and roles involved with each channel can help drive increased productivity and uncover new revenue opportunities.
CMS — Content Management System of a website. It is software that helps users create, manage, and modify content on a website without the need for specialized technical knowledge. In some cases, CMS could be used as a basic catalog of goods also.
Back-office operations in e-commerce — include processes used by employees that help keep the business running. Accounting, finance, inventory, order fulfillment, distribution, and shipping are examples of back-office systems. They can be manual or automated.
ERP — Enterprise resource planning — a type of software that organizations use to manage day-to-day business activities such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management and compliance, and supply chain operations.

PIM optimizes all processes related to the collection from different channels - such as websites or product catalogs, enrichment, and delivery of information about product cards to different channels. PIM manages descriptions, media files, attributes, categories, and other product characteristics. Let's showcase how PIM works using the example of two client companies.

We are engaged by a major regional distributor of home appliances with hundreds of thousands of SKUs and several online sales channels to streamline their PIM system. This company was operating on an outdated system, which was simply a basic catalog of products.

The goods were stored in a physical warehouse. And all of them needed to be manually entered into the catalog when characteristics were changing in real-time thus creating a new product card for each variant of the product. There were many products and it was a costly waste of time to enter each of them into the system. Our client couldn't just replace the picture in the product card, they needed to create a new one from scratch. If the old product model had options in color or size, they also needed to have created a separate card for each of these options. While this information was being entered into the system, the goods were not accessible on the website until all cards were completed meanwhile the company lost profit and customer loyalty.

In addition, there were a lot of duplicates in the system due to the fact that one content manager entered the item as "Item 10", and the other — under the name"Item X". Duplicates negate all analytics and complicate the work with implementers.

Now let's see how this company works with powerful modern PIM. All information about their goods is structured, and the company can quickly bring any item to the market.

When the company has a new product, for example, a new phone model, entering it into the system takes significantly less time than before PIM implementation. This is due to the "prompts" of the PIM system.

When the content manager enters "Item 10", the system prompts him: "Do you mean Item X?" The employee clicks "Yes", and the system pulls up all the characteristics of the model.

And if the content manager enters "iPhone 33 GB", the system will say: "Sorry, but there is no such model. Choose: 32 GB / 64 GB or create a new product". Such preemptive hints help significantly speed up the work process and reduce the risk of duplicates.

There are standard PIM processes in the picture below. Beneficially with the development of technologies, PIM functionality covers the additional value. Air ticket aggregators demonstrate a classic example of how the correct modern PIM works. If you use the service during a working day and evening from an iOs, tickets could be more costly. And at night with Android, it is much cheaper. This is called a taxonomy — a functionality that transforms information for a specific channel according to certain conditions. For retail marketing, this is also necessary - to customize each channel according to requests, commands, and needs.
PIM VALUE FOR RETAIL
With the development of e-commerce, PIM is becoming an essential part of it. In addition, it is also actively used in wholesale and manufacturing companies. According to our information, PIM is necessary for every company with more than 1000 SKU's.

These are the statistics: to place 1 SKU at an online showcase requires 20 - 46 minutes/

1000 SKU's requires over 750 hours.

A million SKU's require huge resources and financial losses in the presence of an ever-expanding product showcase.

PIM automates up to 84% of human executed manual tasks, reducing the time and cost of establishing quality content, providing fast tools for validating and filling product cards.
The place of PIM in e-commerce in terms of a business model
The place of PIM in e-commerce in terms of technology
We can see that PIM is the key system for e-commerce projects. Let's review the scheme in the above infographic. Everything below the showcase and CMS (Content Management System of a website) is the back office of the marketplace. It is a complex system, and the work of large e-commerce projects (10 000+ SKU's) is impossible without it. Everything highlighted in blue is PIM. We can also understand that PIM deeply integrates with other services: the Merchant Administrative System (MAS or Merchant Portal) and the Order Processing Module (OMS).
MODERN PIM SUBSYSTEMS
What is DAM, MDM, TCM?
PIM solves several big tasks in e-commerce:

Task 1 — catalog systematization;

Task 2 — creating and storing content when placing a product on an online storefront;

Task 3 — optimizing the launch of a new product on the product/service online portfolio.

As a result - speeding the launch time ahead of a traditional schedule.

However, PIM with basic functionality solves these problems only partially. To meet the demands of today's marketplaces, PIM must work in tandem with MDM (Master Data Management), DAM (Digital Asset Management), and TCM (Transformations and Channels Management). Next, we will consider how valuable these systems are for e-commerce businesses.
DAM (Digital Asset Management) is a system for managing, organizing, searching, storing, and converting multimedia files. In PIM, this is a kind of subsystem that stores photos, videos, 3D product reviews. This data can be easily organized, made more portable, and easily accessible.

DAM is important for PIM in e-commerce because storing media files on a third-party, though related service, allows the system to flow faster. This means that the website of the online store also responds faster to customer actions: searches, filters, etc.

Accessing, managing, and securing media files are the main tasks of DAM. But there are more. For example, by allowing everyone to have access to the same digital assets, brand consistency is maintained.
TCM (Transformations and Channels Management) — data transformers depending on the channel requirements: storefront, mobile storefront, price tags, partners, advertising channels, and so on.

In retail and e-commerce, storing goods is just a first step. It is more important to distribute product information correctly to all system participants: a web showcase — in a standard way, but a mobile showcase — in a different way, partner showcases — yet in the third form, and for printing price tags — in a fourth.

If you have an offline store, you need to print product price tags describing the main characteristics. This data is often taken from accounting systems. But a problem arises since this system contains incomplete information about the product. It is complete in PIM, which is why the data must be taken from PIM first of all.

Unique fulfillment data is important for logistics. The package dimensions are not important to the buyer, however, for logistics, it is extremely important. And it is necessary to give logistic operations the most accurate information.

Marketing campaigns for target products need their own specific dataset to realize offered discounts and market demands. And this information is also contained in PIM. All of this information distribution - what data to give to which channel and in what format — this is decided by TCM. This is what enables retail to be truly omnichannel.
Reference or Master Cards in PIM is a pre-filled card system based on accurate source data management of goods. This data contains product segmentation, categorization, and other product card details.

We can see that all of the prompts from the examples of this article's 2 companies, which are given at the beginning of the paper, are possible thanks to the system of reference cards. In short, we are talking about preset-sets of attributes for a single product. What this set of attributes should be is a logical customizable internal system. If you have a marketplace, then you select in the settings that every phone model must have a certain set of attributes: screen size, memory, battery, delivery package size, etc.

The clearest advantage of using master product cards is that you can store not only product attributes but absolutely any data.
EXPRESS REVIEW OF THE PIM SYSTEMS MARKET
PIM systems are actively being developed around the globe. The world's largest companies IBM, Oracle, SAP, Amazon are bringing their solutions to the market. And about 2 dozen more competing players in this sphere. Scallium offers a more responsive PIM system.

There are 4 key trends for the development of an advanced PIM platform.

The First — is the development of DAM, MDM, TCM technologies, which we described previously.

The Second — PIM specializes in a client's specific market. For example, PIM Scallium has been developed for clients who needed efficient e-commerce and/or the creation of their own marketplaces.

The Third — is an advanced channel management system so that the user is offered different content, depending on their device, time of day, search history, and geolocation, similar to Youtube's user functionality with personalized viewing recommendations. The so-called rich channels are developing - the ability to work not only with a product in a specific channel but also with an order, price (markup and margin), promotions (marketing), communication with the buyer.

The Fourth — these trends are low-code technologies, virtually stupid-proof for any non-tech managers. These technologies are responsible for ensuring that the platform user can set up all business processes for their business.

When the user draws the business process with blocks and arrows directly into the visual editor, the PIM system anticipates what should be executed next for the products after the orders are received from the online store. This is the first step towards low-code.

The simplicity of such deep settings without the involvement of human programmers makes the business more flexible and adaptive because they save time and money. And adaptability is the №1 priority for any business today.
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