Author: Tim Toews, Sr. Consultant, FitForCommerce
When analysts talk about PIM they often discuss it in terms of process optimization, supply-side efficiencies, operational excellence, a single source of truth, and so on. While customer experience hovers around the edge of these discussions, typically it is not the central focus of PIM conversations. However, I believe that this needs to change especially as we discuss PIM as a key component of omni-channel execution that puts the customer at the center of everything.
Like other customer-facing systems such as Service Center, POS, Order Fulfillment or Payment, information, convenience and personalization combined can create compelling and sticky customer experiences. Customer expectations continue to outpace retailers’ technical and operational capabilities, and attractive, consistent and useful product information found on the finest digital storefronts has become a significant component of those expectations.
Consider the Product Detail Page on your website. It is all about the product (obviously!) and the management of information on the PDP such as multiple images, videos, long description, bulleted specifications, speeds-and-feeds, related items, up-sells and other compelling content designed to trigger a customer purchase are all in the sweet spot of a modern PIM system’s functionality. Of course, you can pull much of this information from your ERP, transform it in your private Excel or Access data stores and get it all to somehow work but the churn and inefficiency of these processes should at least get you interested in the benefits that a PIM solution can provide.
Consider your B2B customers and their end-users. How are you showing these customers their internal product codes rather than the default codes your company uses? When an end-user is restricted to purchasing a subset of your company’s assortment, are you managing this through a sales department ad hoc system? PIM systems are adept at taxonomy maintenance and custom assortment creation such as the assortment subset mentioned above. And speaking of B2B, do you also offer customers general line or printed catalogs to supplement your website? PIM is a great tool for this scenario as it specializes in redeploying the same product content to multiple publishing channels such as a website and a printed catalog.
What about virtual SKUs? Is your company considering selling virtual SKUs from the Long Tail? If so, remember that Long Tail products become part of your assortment and the customer expects the same quality of information and the same robust specifications that you provide for your standard assortment. We’ve all seen websites that have decent PDPs for the items they stock and sparse information for items sourced from wholesalers. This is jarring to the customer and not an optimal experience. There is no pragmatic way to sell a significant amount of items from the Long Tail unless you can automate the product onboarding and information embellishment processes. Again, PIM is uniquely equipped to assist as it includes functionality to integrate to product content syndication services such as CNET that will provide the data that makes a Long Tail product indistinguishable from a SKU within your standard assortment.
In summary, PIM addresses a number of use cases in supply chain, IT information management and process optimization, but we need to put the customer at the center of these discussions because PIM really is a customer-facing system.