Skip to main content
The popularity of PIM systems is growing rapidly because of the strong growth in sales and increasing levels of professionalism in e-commerce. The COVID-driven digitalization push has been a major driver for the adoption of PIM tools as well. As Product Information Management or PIM shortly is a relatively new concept in business and IT, we will explain it in a nutshell.

Top 7 PIM Tool use-cases

Product Information Management
(or… PIM)

A PIM tool helps retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers to control their products in a central place. It provides one single point of truth about the product (and all its data). Product Information Management is the place to gather, optimize and distribute product content data. Thus, it is in a sense the central tool for Product Data Management, though it offers much more.

what is a PIM tool or PIM system?

To visualize the central role that a PIM system can have in your IT architecture, you can see how it connects internal sources of product data with external sales channels.

We underline the top 7 reasons:

Using a PIM tool to manage Complex products

Within a PIM tool, it is possible to manage complex products in an efficient manner. Companies introduce products that consist of a large number of combinations (f.ex. an outfit consisting of pants, shirts, and shoes) or variation possibilities (f.ex. a T-shirt in different colors and sizes). The challenge is to manage these assets efficiently. Thus, subsequently,  to be able to communicate them to various output channels. The system allows you to do this in a simple and unambiguous manner, making your PIM a source of “Master Data”.

Do you need more information on the link between PIM and MDM? Read our article on the differences between PIM and MDM.

Manage Relationships in a PIM system

Another important theme within eCommerce is relationships and dependencies between products. A PIM system easily maintains and displays relationships between spare or replacement parts, options, accessories, etc…

Follow International Standards using a PIM Tool

Besides the fact that products have their own specific characteristics, the trend is that more products are classified following international standards such as GS1 or eClass. One of the powerful tools within a system is the ability to assign classifications to specific products or product groups. This creates a ‘rich’ product, of which the content is easily shared.

Easily import product content with PIM

The content classification structure makes it possible to easily receive product data from central content repositories: they all use these international standards.

Want to determine your PIM profile for free?

We help organizations find the right PIM Solution for their organization. We match your PIM profile to our database of PIM solutions and find the best fit. For free.

Get your in-depth shortlist

Ultimately, the goal is to show the end customer as much information about the product as possible, which will improve conversion significantly.

An international business using PIM Tools

The deployment of e-commerce causes the blurring of country boundaries. Many companies are increasingly active in the international market.  The localization of products is easily tracked in a workflow with a PIM system. This way you can easily manage and implement translations and other regional adaptations.

Multimedia objects in PIM systems

A PIM system is not complete without a Digital Asset Management (DAM) section.  The DAM system manages the multimedia objects such as images in various formats, documents, and videos that are associated with catalogs and products. The additional functionality from the DAM system (searching, formatting and automatically converting, cross-referencing, exporting, etc.) is part of a mature PIM system.

To learn how PIM and DAM interact you can read our deep-dive on DAM and PIM systems.

Omnichannel in PIM

The PIM takes an important place in today’s omnichannel environment. It is the single point of truth concerning ​​the product. In many cases, it even takes over the ‘primacy’ of the ERP. In a future article, I will explain how a system can be positioned within the e-commerce ecosystem.

Why not use a PIM alternative?

Now you might be wondering: all these features above are already supported in some ways by my ERP system, my Content Management (CMS) system, and/or my e-Commerce system. And maybe some Excel to move data from one system to the other. Why not use a PIM alternative?

PIM versus ERP

When comparing a PIM with an ERP tool, it is important to note that an ERP focuses mainly on data “at rest”. It’s great at storing product information but often fails at the facilitation of editing or conversion of product information. Especially in more complex environments with relationships (upsell, cross-sell, spare parts) between products and multiple languages, an ERP falls short.

Finally, when it comes to publishing your product data on downstream channels (your own e-commerce system, print media, or your customers) an ERP often has just one way to export your information. It has very limited mapping capabilities (not to mention a complete lack of transformation or combination of attributes, if necessary).

PIM versus PDM (Product Data Management)

Though both PIM and PDM tools are very well suited for the task of managing product information, the key difference is in the “type” of data they are built for: data or information. “It’s in the name!” you might say, but let’s explore this a little deeper:

  • Product data is a more ‘raw’ set of attributes and product-related files, used in the early stages of an (often technical) product. It comprises CAD drawings, design documents, 3D models, test specifications, and other data related to early product lifecycle stages.
  • Product information is a more ‘applied’ set of attributes and product-related files, uses to sell the finished product to wholesale, retail, or consumers. It comprises stylistic photos, brand images, descriptive texts, and sales copy related to the final product lifecycle stages.

More information on PDM can be found here.

PIM versus Excel

Still, the most common competitor for a PIM is our favorite spreadsheet software: Excel. It’s a true Swiss Army knife that applies to almost any problem that has a data component. But just as you would rather not cut a tree with a Swiss Army knife (even though you could), you should use a tool to manage your product information. The robustness and features of PIM vastly outweigh the costs of changing your existing workflows and tools. Even Excel.

PIM versus MDM (Master Data Management)

A Master Data Management solution helps you keep track of various records (customers, suppliers, locations, and products) across the whole business. It’s tremendously valuable for keeping the whole organization in sync and makes sure that there can be no confusion about the “true” information of a product (or ‘golden record’), even if there are multiple versions (or ‘silver records’) of that product being used in different departments (using translated attributes, metric or imperial measurements, etc) at the same time.

Like the ERP however, it mainly focuses on information ‘at rest’ and keeping the information stable. It often lacks the flexibility and tools your commercial departments need and is not well-suit for publishing data (though great at managing different information inputs for one and the same product).

Selecting the right PIM

So now you know what a PIM is, why you should (or should not) use it to manage your product information, and you know the alternatives that are probably already in use in your organization. But what’s next?

Discovering requirements and aligning stakeholders

The first step is to determine what requirements for a PIM exist within the organization. These might be obvious to you, but talking to other stakeholders helps in two key ways:

  1. They approach PIM from their discipline: not everyone has the same use-case and goals with a PIM tool and as such has a limited view (but with deep understanding) of their own use-case. Talking with IT, Marketing, Product Design, and Sales helps you discover their unique PIM use case.
  2. It helps align key stakeholders: everyone will have to adjust their process to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of a new PIM implementation. Getting all key stakeholders on board early helps in removing barriers to the implementation and change management later on in the process.

Charting your current IT Architecture

It might seem obvious, but knowing which other systems work with product information and especially: how they integrate is very important in selecting and implementing the right PIM tool. Knowing where products “are born”, how and where they enrich, and to which systems they publish is key information during the selection process.

Even a birds-eye view of your architecture and data flows between systems is already very insightful. There is no need to work out the full architecture (or all flows) in detail. Still: knowing how (product) data flows through your organization is very helpful, regardless.

Making the business case

You need to know if a PIM implementation makes financial sense (or not). This cost-benefit analysis has multiple components:

  • Direct costs: the cost of selecting, implementing, and licensing the PIM
  • Indirect costs: the process of redesigns, training, and added complexity of adding a new/additional tool to your architecture
  • Direct benefits: such as efficiency increases in personnel, increased sales, decreased return rates
  • Indirect benefits: faster time-to-market, more time for better enrichment, fewer errors in the product information

Usually, the direct benefits and costs are quite clear and relatively straightforward to calculate. The indirect costs and benefits are a different story and much more difficult to communicate. Translating these indirect benefits (and costs) to a business case is one of the most difficult steps in the internal decision-making process, but the key to aligning the key decision-makers. If you want more information, we have a whole article on the costs of PIM.

In practice, we see that most Product Information Management systems are ROI-positive within 3 to 4 years. It, of course, depends on whether you upgrade from an existing dedicated PIM (some efficiency and indirect gains) or no PIM at all (huge efficiency and indirect gains).

Convincing key decision-makers

Finally, it is important to get all decision-makers aligned around the decision to implement a (new) PIM. If you involve them in the stakeholder sessions, you will be able to present a positive business case, this should not be too difficult.

As with most IT solutions that your colleagues will be using in their daily operations, however, implementing a solution is also a change management process with a direct impact on many processes and workflows. Getting everyone on board is key to ensuring you reap the most benefits of a PIM implementation.

Since Product Information Management solutions require a direct CAPEX investment (and with most tools being SaaS: an OPEX component as well), it is important to prove with the business case that a Product Information Management will earn itself back, usually within 3 to 4 years.

Which PIM is right for you?

To determine which Product Information Management tool is the right fit for you and your ambitions we have a series of free surveys:

  •  In-depth PIM survey: within 15 minutes, we can gather enough data to let our algorithm decide an independent “top 5” shortlist.
  • Quickscan: for small to medium-sized businesses we have a special design quick scan that determines an independent “top 3” shortlist.
  • Cost Calculator: if you want to determine if PIM fits this year’s budget, we have a free cost calculator as well.

Want to learn more about PIM?

If you have any questions regarding Product Information Management, from PIM Selection to Implementation or how a PIM would fit in your IT landscape? Feel free to browse our Knowledge Base of articles on everything PIM related.

Visit our Knowledge Base