PIM Implementation: Full Guide 
PIM implementation is still a terra incognita for many companies with big-time aspirations. However, they realize the importance of onboarding a high-end Product Information Management system to boost the quality of data handling and enhance the efficiency of their business. As with any other high-tech endeavor, this procedure has several fine points to consider and some pitfalls to avoid. This article will help you to navigate smoothly across the PIM implementation for distribution, retail, and other eCommerce fields ordeal and get a fully-functioning solution as an outcome.
What Is PIM Implementation?
Depending on the size of the enterprise and the complexity of a solution, the PIM implementation routine can be a rather elaborate process. It kicks off with the choice of software that addresses the business needs of an organization, promises considerable benefits, and matches the allocated budget.
But before product information management implementation, you should clearly understand why you are doing it.
Why Consider PIM Implementation?
A product is the core of commerce. It has several characteristics (color, size, shape, functions, price, place of origin, etc.) going through which help a customer make a buying decision. Not to lag in the cut-throat competition of today, companies dealing in certain goods must be able to provide this information on short notice in a user-friendly form. But the larger an organization is, the longer its product roster and the more complicated its management.
Product Information Management software is a second-to-none tool to maintain product information both for the internal workflow and for clients. Thanks to it, they can get an entire set of product data in different languages delivered through multiple channels to various locations. In such a way, you will expand the company’s reach, thus guaranteeing a comfortable shopping experience and maximizing sales.
Moreover, such solutions enable enterprises to keep up-to-date with consumer preferences and gauge their attitudes, which ultimately paves the way to shaping a more targeted and even personalized business strategy.
How should you go through a product information management implementation most efficiently?
PIM Implementation: An Algorithm To Follow
As a seasoned player in the niche of this type of software, Gepard recommends a product information management implementation methodology consisting of ten foolproof steps.
1. Define PIM Strategy And Expected Outcomes
The first question you should ask yourself is, “What do I want to achieve through implementing this software?” Answers to it will be your strategic goals. Such goals may be obtaining a single source of truth for product information, increasing data quality, across-the-board monitoring of information standards, etc. Once you have mapped out your general vision of PIM implementation objectives, you can move over to more practical steps.
2. Choose A Provider And Set Up The Software
Now is the time to decide upon the vendor. In making a choice, you should pay attention to the company’s portfolio, its expertise in the field, the term of presence on the market, and its pricing policy. Besides, the solution should contain all the features you need and play well with other software your organization uses.
Once you have opted for a PIM provider and onboarded a solution, you should launch it and get it ready to receive the info from the in-house environment.
3. Ensure All The Teams Are On The Same Page
Here you must identify all stakeholders of the project, the information they will feed into the future system, and the model of its representation you would like to achieve. After it, the gathering of dossiers begins. And this is where you can meet a snag. The marketing department has problems with finding the product outing, the data management crew can’t collect product details from the existing in-house legacy systems, product suppliers notice mistakes in product information spreadsheets, etc.
To mitigate such developments, as well as frustrations and grievances triggered by them, you should align their efforts and coordinate the whole data centralization process as long as it proceeds.
4. Determine The Structure Of Your Catalog
Creating a catalog may seem like a simple task if you know your products well. But in reality, creating an effective catalog structure requires a deep understanding of your product categories, families, variations, and attributes, and how the catalog can be used differently across all sales channels and regions.
A common mistake organizations make is to start using the PIM system as a “friendly database interface” instead of using all of its tools and features. PIM tool is more than just an interface for creating, reading, updating, or deleting product data. PIM solution allows you to model your catalog effectively for all your channels and regions.
5. Automate Catalog Management With Business Rules And Bulk Actions
One of the main benefits of PIM software is the many automation features your team can use to get rid of tedious and repetitive work. One example of PIM automation is the use of a business rule engine to populate attribute values that apply to many products and product models automatically. This can result in much higher data quality by eliminating human error as well as speeding up the enrichment process.
Another example of PIM automation is using bulk actions to perform changes on many products at the same time. Bulk actions make it easy to perform many tasks, such as editing and adding attribute values, changing families, adding products and product models to groups, adding categories and moving products to different categories, changing the parent of a product, and adding associations to the product selection. The ability to bulk-add associations to product selections makes it easy to create collections of products by allowing you to group all products that match your criteria.
Instead of selecting products manually from Excel tabs and risking product forgetting or publishing errors, brands and retailers should automate the process of creating collections by using PIM software.
6. Set Up Data Import And Connect PIM To The Business Ecosystem
At this stage, you automatically or manually fill an empty Product Information Management system with indices and numbers from all sources of information your company makes use of. But before that, the input must be standardized and validated against the requirements of the system.
Data import can be performed via API, XML, or Excel and is especially smooth when the solution is properly integrated with an ERP system employed by the enterprise.
7. Don’t Change Product Data Until It’s In The New PIM System
At the stage of data migration, a problem often arises when part of the data is lost or not transferred to the new PIM system. The first recommendation at this stage is to keep the data unchanged until it is fully transferred to the PIM system.
Another, not less important recommendation is to try to do your best to migrate all of your data at once. Managing data in spreadsheets and PIM software at the same time can lead to data silos and resistance from your team. Another option for migrating data is to do it stage by stage until the process is complete. Whichever method your PIM implementation team chooses, make sure it is implemented in a coordinated manner till the very last piece of data.
8. Implement Validation Processes
When managing hundreds or even thousands of products, human error is inevitable, resulting in inconsistent product descriptions. It is important to catch these errors before new products hit the shelves. Validation tools will optimize the information approval process by checking new texts. This will help you to decentralize data management while maintaining control over product information.
Automating validation processes will give you better control over the quality of your product information.
9. Remove Product Information From The Previous Database
Often, a large number of employees have internal resistance when introducing new technologies, and sometimes there is even fear or anxiety that they will not be able to master the PIM system. Strange as it may seem, a complete rejection of the previous form of filling in product information can help to cope with this phenomenon. After a complete migration of data to the PIM system, detailed onboarding, and training of employees, you need to delete all information from previous systems, or completely take away accesses. Categorically, but effectively 🙂
10. Test And Go Live
The testing procedure aims at getting rid of errors and providing consistent data synchronization so that it can be made further accessible to suppliers and information banks. PIM implementation service allows potential users to thoroughly test the newly onboarded system before it goes live and to voice their feedback on its functioning.
When the solution is launched into action, you can’t rest on your oars. You must keep track of its operation and be able to get prompt support to keep it seamlessly running for the benefit of your organization.
A crucial element in PIM implementation is information handling. How can it be streamlined and facilitated?
PIM Implementation Best Practices In Data Handling
Several life hacks can make data management during PIM implementation more efficient.
- Gather data in one place. When your enterprise reports are spread over several repositories, their transfer to the Product Information Management system is problematic. To bolster it, amass all information in one place. Moreover, you should categorize the files and segment product data according to their purpose and size, thus making it convenient to work with.
- Check information consistency (if possible). Information uncertainty handicaps the quality of information. That is why you must make sure the product data is error-free and de-duplicated. Various abbreviations of the same word and misspellings should also be found and eliminated. Plus, all the dossiers should be stored in an identical format.
- Define product data governance framework and strategy. One shouldn’t confuse data management and data governance. The former refers to the entire scope of operations with information, i.e., its creation, acquiring, maintaining, using, storing, retrieving, and purging. The term “data governance” as a constituent of data management denotes only those standards and procedures (processing, distribution, and disposal) that deal with the collection of information.
When developing its strategy, you should envisage a transparent product information lifecycle, take thought for pre-validation and assets adaptation, control delivery and coverage monitoring, and guarantee its user-friendliness for all stakeholders.
- Specify taxonomies and product attributes. To cater to different search principles and oblige a wider user audience, you should apply multiple taxonomies of the same product set. These are hierarchically organized lists of products based on some criteria (user audience, type, location, etc.) or just arranged alphabetically. All of them should have a logical structure, be tailored to fit advanced search engine requirements, and rely on UX best practices.
Product attributes are their characteristics (color, size, weight, brand, technical specifications, design features) that help the consumer to choose one item among the plethora of similar goods. Attributes should be optimized by grouping them into classes, setting exact values for attribute fields, devising catalog columns for them, creating compound attributes (like combining weight and size), and limiting access to working with this data so that only specific people are charged with managing them.
- Don’t neglect to test. However well-prepared and carefully performed the PIM implementation process can be, there is always a chance that something may go wrong. That is why you should make doubly sure all the system works according to the expectations and integrate seamlessly into your enterprise’s ecosystem.
While embarking on the PIM implementation journey, you should know what pitfalls to avoid on your way.
Read more about How PIM Tool Simplifies Product Information Manager Flows:
Learn how the PIM tool can automate prosuct data-related tasks and simplify product information manager flows.
Learn how the PIM tool can automate prosuct data-related tasks and simplify product information manager flows.
PIM Implementation Challenges (And Solutions)
Having delivered several such projects, we at Gepard are aware of possible bottlenecks one can encounter during PIM implementation.
Challenge #1. The Difference In Product Taxonomies
An organization may have a ramified supplier network, each of which has different approaches to product taxonomies. In this case, data formats and structures may be at odds with each other and with the standards adopted by the company itself, confusing the dossiers.
Solution: The problem can be overcome by harnessing a flexible tool that enables multi-taxonomy synchronization. For instance, in one of our projects, made for Migros, Gepard developed middleware that automated product description updates which take only 500 ms! During this time a product update inquiry is sent to Gepard, then updated data is received from content providers and automatically transformed to be dispatched to the customer’s system.
Challenge #2. Getting Product Data Updates From Multiple Content Providers
A great range of content providers may generate another kind of headache. Their product data updates may take some time to complete since they come through several hands before reaching the end user.
Solution: Make sure the solution you onboard employs connectors that automate updates of reports from various content providers. In the project mentioned above, Gepard created a platform to serve as a hub that ensured seamless integration between the customer and their data suppliers. In this way, the client could get both raw and processed data at any time they found convenient.
Challenge #3. Product Data Localization For Multiple Locales
The globalization drive poses a problem of information adjustment to various languages and local standards specific to different destinations.
Solution: The data localization and multi-lingual support capabilities of high-profile Product Information Management solutions nip this problem in the bud. In the Migros project, Gepard enabled data specification values in three official languages of Switzerland (German, French, and Italian), which then could be translated and normalized according to the wish of the user.
Challenge #4. High Data Maintenance Cost
The question of cost is always an issue with calculating entrepreneurs, especially if they have to splurge on such an intangible expenditure line as data maintenance.
Solution: If you acquire the software with a multitenancy feature, you will be able to create one account per brand or retailer, which will allow you to cut down on cost drastically.
Challenge #5. Data Quality And Consistency
The quality and validity of information are pivotal for adequate product information management since if a figure is incorrect, all your efforts aimed at its handling will go down the drain.
Solution: The tool you select should have data validation capability as well as custom quality rules and completeness score.
To successfully address these and any other challenges PIM implementation may face, it is mission-critical to pick the right software.
What To Look For When Choosing A PIM Software For Flawless Implementation
For a high-profile Product Information Management solution, the following features are a must-have.
1. APIs Support For Connecting To Varied Data Sources
Different vendors treat third-party integrations differently. Yet, whatever technology they choose to connect the system to external sources, tools, and services, the software must rely on a large set of APIs. These shouldn’t only provide the bulk export/import gateway but also be customizable and configurable enough to cater to individual preferences users have.
2. Multitenancy Feature
This characteristic presupposes the ability to set up multiple user roles to access and handle the system. Naturally, not every person involved in the project requires the same clearance level or is qualified enough to access the core assets of the product. A solid Product Information Management solution enables you not only to configure roles from a standard roster but also to define new ones according to your needs.
3. Data Quality And Completeness Checking
A PIM tool variety typically offers a regular list of information validation options, which includes reports, completeness scores, and custom quality rules. In case you want to make use of other capabilities, various paid extensions and plugins are at your service. However, these fall short of purpose if you aim for the ultimate versatility of a solution you choose.
Top-notch Product Information Management systems go beyond information quality checkup features and make available various initial information enrichment opportunities. Thanks to them, you can, for example, connect with content providers and data suppliers who would be a good crutch in across-the-board monitoring of information integrity.
Besides, if you onboard digital shelf monitoring, you will be able to streamline and facilitate control over every piece of product information you get from multiple content providers.
4. Localization Functionality
When the whole world is your potential market, a PIM solution needs to be flexible in adapting to the cultures of users. Such adjustments aren’t limited to the choice of a language only (although it is important too) but also relate to the end-users local peculiarities – from measurement units to video and graphic design preferences. All these UX modifications will provide a feel and look of the software, which is natural for users wherever they hail from.
5. Multiple Taxonomies Management
Segmented product taxonomies and hierarchies make the outcome of categorization clearer and more accessible. As a result, managers, and employees save much time on data management since it is easy to work with neat and well-structured information.
PIM Implementation FAQ
Can Some CMS (Content Management System) Replace A PIM System?
It can if you have one online shop built on one eCommerce platform. However, for multiple e-stores that make use of several platforms and channels, CMS is not suitable. Being completely siloed from the processes that assemble and arrange product information, such systems don’t give a comprehensive view of your products across various endpoints. Thus, Product Information Management serves as a one-stop shop for product data management, eliminating the back-and-forth shuttling between numerous systems.
Is PIM Complex For Implementation?
Not really. The target users of PIM are product managers, marketers, salespeople, customer service specialists, and other non-tech employees of eCommerce ventures. Realizing this truth, developers made the product layman-friendly with an easily navigable UI. Of course, you must allow for a slight learning curve, but once mastered, the system can provide maximum value for its money. Besides, many vendors offer hands-on training of the personnel and ongoing support to the team while the implementation lasts.
Do Business Processes Stop When Implementing PIM And Migrating Data?
It is a misconception. If your vendor is qualified enough, they will do all the back-end ordeal while your responsibility will cover only the initiation of the process and test results. And in case everything went smoothly, you just redirect your clients to the new platform. All in all, it can take only one working day, after which you can do your business on an upgraded scale.
How Much Time Does It Take To Implement A PIM Solution?
There are two approaches to embracing Product Information Management. The first presupposes complete and one-time adoption of the software. The second is a gradual method when an organization is weaned from previous systems one by one. Depending on the chosen path, the process of PIM implementation may take anywhere between two weeks and six months. In any case, it is not as long as most stakeholders fear.
Does The PIM Tool Handle Taxonomies Automatically?
Yes, it does. However, you should perform the initial set-up of categories and hierarchies. Once it is done, the software will keep taxonomies consistent automatically and apply their underlying principles to all incoming product information throughout all platforms.
Drawing A Conclusion
PIM implementation for distribution, retail, and other eCommerce fields is a no-nonsense endeavor, the success of which ultimately depends on choosing the right solution from the right provider. The Gepard PIM system, with its advanced functionality scope, can help efficiently manage product information as well as map, transform, and integrate product content across multiple platforms. Contact us for more details.
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