Emilia Dunaj
Emilia Dunaj
Head of Technology Insights
January 2023, 8 min. read

Product information is the foundation for an effective sales process and customer relationships. There are several options for managing product data, starting from simple Excel databases to more advanced, automated, multifunctional systems. 

Managing extensive product catalogs with thousands of SKUs in spreadsheets becomes a complex process, resulting in inefficiencies and errors. Get it wrong, and your customer service suffers, leading to missed sales opportunities.

Enter PIM systems—advanced, automated platforms designed to centralize and streamline your product information. Opting for a product data management system is often the logical next step when a company recognizes the need for a single source of truth for its product information. 

So, if you’ve decided that your company needs a centralized information hub, a reliable automated PIM solution should be at the top of your list. 

Keep reading to find out what a PIM system is, how it works, and the benefits it can bring to your business. We’ll also provide some useful tips on how to select the PIM solution that best fits your business needs.

What is a Product Information Management (PIM) system?

A Product Information Management system, or PIM system, is a specialized software that serves as a knowledge management hub for all your marketing and technical product data. It streamlines the process of collecting, enriching, and distributing complex product data across multiple channels, be it websites, product catalogs, or integrated business systems. 

PIM is designed to handle workflows that involve various departments within a company, such as marketing, sales, and supply chain management.

Product information management system

As your business grows and you add more products, it becomes crucial to have one place where all product information is kept. PIM systems are great at handling lots of product data, making it easy to find and use across your company. 

By keeping all product details in one place, product information management software ensures everyone in the company is working with the same, up-to-date product information.

What product data does a PIM system manage?

PIM is a comprehensive solution that stores and manages various types of product-related information. This includes:

  • Basic product data: This is the foundational information about your products, such as SKUs, product names, manufacturer details, usage suggestions, etc. 
  • Digital assets: Visual elements like images, videos, technical drawings, 3D models, and 360-degree views are crucial for consumer engagement. A PIM system can store these assets to give potential buyers a better understanding of the product. 
  • Technical information: Details like product specs, material type, size, color, weight, and warranty information can all be stored in a product information management solution. These are the specs consumers look at before making a purchase.
  • Marketing information: Product data management solutions, like PIM, can hold valuable marketing information like customer personas, relevant keywords, and SEO-friendly product descriptions that can be easily updated as needed.
  • Sales data: Stock levels, pricing details, customer reviews, testimonials, and faqs are readily available in the PIM, aiding the sales process and enhancing your website’s content.
  • Localized product content: For businesses operating in multiple regions, a PIM system can store language-specific copy and currency information to ensure a consistent customer experience.
  • Product categories and relationships: Information systems solutions can categorize products based on their relationships and variations, helping in bundling or cross-selling strategies.
  • Design guidelines: Product information management tools, like PIM, can also hold branding information like style guides to ensure that marketing materials are in line with the brand’s aesthetic.
  • Emotional resonance: To help you create a personalized product experience, a PIM system can store content that emotionally resonates with different customer personas.

A product information system centralizes a vast array of product-related information. This unified approach ensures that every department works from a single, accurate source, streamlining workflow automation and bolstering digital sales strategies

How does a PIM tool work?

Multiple team members within the company contribute to collecting product data, which enhances the overall quality of the information. The PIM platform integrates data from diverse sources, like ERPs, CRMs, and other product-related business platforms. It centralizes all the information in a single location, allowing for efficient data management. 

Once linked, PIM gathers, processes, and de-dupes the shared data. This all happens in real time, taking away manual data input and thereby minimizing the chances of duplicate or incorrect information. 

Then, PIM administrators can sort the data into product catalogs and associate these with various distribution channels. The system’s design allows for data to be structured in an easily understandable format, enabling quick access to essential information by different departments.

To illustrate this, here’s what this process entails:

process how product data collected and used

Product Data Collection

  • Gathers data from multiple sources 
  • Handles specific formats and locales
  • Standardizes the data for consistency 

Data Enrichment 

  • Allows team members to edit and enhance product information
  • Ensures standardized data input for each product through predefined templates and validation
  • Utilizes data linking, dynamic lab data, and batch tools for efficient work
  • Stores reusable assets like images and videos
  • Allows handling editors and translators globally with country-specific settings and flexible permissions

Data Distribution 

  • Makes product data accessible at all stages of the product life cycle
  • Retains historical data to inform better decision-making
  • Enables targeted data export to various channels, such as web, DTP, and mobile apps
  • Manages the release of information across different markets and languages

The PIM system serves as a centralized platform for distributing this data consistently across various sales channels. These channels include websites, online catalogs, and diverse types of eCommerce platforms (B2B, B2C, B2X), along with product configurators, selection tools, quoting systems, and printed materials.

Why do I need a PIM system? The benefits of PIM

Implementing robust knowledge management software can offer many helpful benefits to various departments within your organization. Here’s how:

Product management teams

Quick time to market is crucial for a company. A classic study mentioned in the Harvard Business Review revealed that launching products six months late can result in a 33% profit loss. Overspending by 50% on product development leads to much smaller losses–averaging only 3.5%. 

PIM helps to speed up the product launch. It automates repetitive tasks, making it quicker to input new data and reducing the likelihood of errors. Plus, this agility allows you to adapt swiftly to market changes.

Data management teams

As your product range grows, so does the information surrounding them. Document management system software becomes a central source of product data, making it easier to manage product information and ensuring higher accuracy.

Sales teams

A management information system application, like PIM, provides real-time access to accurate product information and digital assets. Your sales reps can quickly respond to customer inquiries, generate quotes, and close deals with confidence. Digital sales solutions that include PIM also offer features like language translations and currency conversions, allowing you to sell to a global customer base. 

Marketing teams

Marketing teams leverage PIM software to streamline campaign planning and content management. With all your product information accessible in the cloud, you can see the bigger picture. Plan and archive marketing campaigns within the PIM system, complete with multimedia assets like pictures and videos. PIM can also be an archive–you can store past market campaigns.

HR and training

A product information system centralizes all company information, making it easier for new hires to find what they need. This speeds up the onboarding process and fosters a more productive work environment.

Analytics teams

A robust PIM system allows you to track and analyze data on product performance and market trends. This helps you understand what’s selling well and where to focus your marketing efforts.

IT teams

A custom-developed product data information platform can easily integrate with your existing systems like ERP, DAM, CMS, and CRM. Syncing all your digital systems ensures fine coordination and a unified product vision.

How to choose the right PIM software for your needs?

There are many options available in the market. Before buying a reliable PIM system, you need to ask the right questions or seek advice from digital consulting experts to ensure the system will meet your specific business needs. 

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What specific functionalities do we need the master data management system to have?
  • Is the system flexible enough? Will it not limit data access in the future?
  • How will the data management platform integrate with other systems we already use, like our eCommerce site, CMS, or ERP system?
  • How scalable is the PIM tool? Will it handle an increase in products and data as our business grows?
  • How will it handle data security and privacy?
  • What capabilities does it offer for data import/export, mapping, quality, and governance?
  • How user-friendly is it? Will it be easy for our employees to use?
  • How does the system handle multilingual and multi-currency data?
  • How does it handle data distribution to different channels and marketplaces?
  • Does it offer features for data versioning, rollback, and history tracking?
  • What are the costs associated with the PIM system, including licensing, maintenance, and upgrades?
  • Should we go for an off-the-shelf solution, or do we need a custom-built PIM?

When should you opt for a custom PIM solution?

If your business has specialized needs that off-the-shelf PIM solutions can’t meet, consider a custom approach. Sales automation in manufacturing, for example, often requires handling intricate technical specifications and thousands of positions in inventory.

Take, for instance, solutions like Pimcore, Akeneo, or inRiver. While these commercial tools offer a range of features, they may fall short when it comes to handling complex details such as measurements, lab data, and language-specific product assets like drawings and 3D models. A custom PIM allows you to incorporate your unique domain expertise directly into the system. Plus, you’ll save on recurring licensing fees since you pay for a custom software solution just once.

Many of your projects involved designing and building PIMs, as it’s often the first step towards creating advanced data-driven digital tools. Read more in our Online Catalog and Product Selection Software example case study.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. How else is PIM called?
    PIM is also known as:

    – Product resource management
    – Product content management
    – Product knowledge management

    Product Information Management software can be simply called a management information system for products. Some people refer to it as enterprise knowledge management software when emphasizing its role in centralizing data across a business.
  2. What is PIM software used for?
    PIM software is a hub that organizes and distributes product-related data. It streamlines the process of getting your product information from the supply chain to the customer, enhancing both operational efficiency and customer engagement.
    PIM is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all types of organizational data.

    PIM technology is specifically tailored for managing product information, unlike MDM (Master Data Management), which handles a variety of data types, including customer and employee data.

    It’s also not just a digital asset repository like DAM (Digital Asset Management), which focuses specifically on storing and managing digital media assets. While PIM serves as a foundation for PXM (Product Experience Management), it doesn’t encompass the entire customer experience journey.

    Additionally, PIM is more than just Product Data Syndication (PDS) as it offers a broader set of capabilities, including data enrichment, validation, and quality assurance.
  3. What is the PIM process?
    The PIM process involves a series of steps to manage, organize, and distribute product information effectively. It’s a document management system workflow that ensures all complex product information is consistent and up-to-date across various channels, from eCommerce platforms to printed catalogs.

    It starts with centralizing product data in one platform, followed by enriching and organizing this data, which includes validation and quality assurance. The system also offers multi-language and multi-market support, along with features for workflow collaboration.

    Finally, the data is distributed across various sales channels. The process is designed to be scalable and flexible, allowing for adjustments as business needs evolve, such as entering new markets or acquiring new brands.
  4. What is the difference between ERP and PIM?
    At first glance, both Product Information Management (PIM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) appear to serve the same purpose: data storage. However, they differ in their functions and areas of focus.

    PIM is specifically designed to manage product-related information, serving as a centralized source for up-to-date, consistent, and accurate product data. In contrast, ERP focuses on various operational aspects like sales, purchasing, manufacturing, warehouse management, order processing, and logistics rather than on the product description itself.

    ERP systems often have limitations when it comes to storing detailed product features, and they may not be accessible to marketing, SEO specialists, or technical translators.

    PIM, on the other hand, can take product information from an ERP system and enrich it for marketing and sales task needs.

    Integration between the two systems is generally straightforward. While ERP provides quantitative data, such as stock levels, PIM delivers qualitative information to enhance marketing and sales efforts.
  5. Who uses a PIM system?
    A variety of sectors and industries often rely on knowledge management solutions like PIM. For example, manufacturers use them to handle complex product portfolios and meet the detailed information needs of B2B buyers. Retailers and distributors use these services to maintain product consistency across various channels, thereby improving customer experience and operational efficiency. Brands in industries like electronics use these services to manage cross-channel product data and focus on building a consistent brand narrative.
  6. Do we need a PIM?
    If your business handles a large volume of product data and needs to distribute this information across multiple channels or departments, then a management information system like PIM could offer significant advantages. It centralizes data, reduces errors, and speeds up time-to-market.
  7. How do I choose a PIM system?
    Choosing a PIM system involves assessing your specific business needs, such as the volume of products you manage, the channels you use, and how your existing digital systems, like ERP or CRM, will integrate. Look for product information management services that offer the scalability and features that align with your business objectives.