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Is It Time You Adopted a PIM Solution – How To Find Out?

Unlike eCommerce systems that are widely recognized and adopted globally, awareness about product information management solutions (PIM), and how a best-of-breed PIM solution can help small and mid-sized companies was still growing till about a year ago. That gap in awareness has exploded today, with physical channels practically evaporating more and more companies (including small and medium-sized businesses) are looking for affordable PIMs for eCommerce to stay relevant in the market.

According to an AT Kearney study, poorly maintained and synchronized product information can cause companies to lose about 3.5% of their sales each year, spend 25 minutes per SKU per year manually cleansing out-of-sync product information, and spend between $40 to $400 per erroneous invoice to reconcile more than half of the invoices they generate each year. 

The pandemic forced many businesses to slow down or shut operations altogether. On the other hand, digitized retailers were prepared to move fast, from remote working to scaling multichannel efforts they scaled operations quickly. Ecommerce for everything is the new normal and for retail businesses still plagued with bad data and legacy systems, this is nothing short of a rude wakeup call.

B2B manufacturers and B2C brands that relied solely on retail channel partners find themselves with almost no visibility and control over the product life cycle. Businesses that previously did not have their own eCommerce site or direct-to-consumer models are rushing to develop digital shelf capabilities to stay relevant and competitive with their customer base. PepsiCo launched not one but two direct-to-consumer websites in May where shoppers can order an assortment of PepsiCo’s trusted and loved food and beverage brands. The best part? They offer a two-day delivery time. This example is a clear sign of the times; 

  • Investment in technology and data management tools will differentiate brands online
  • Syndication to eCommerce platforms and digital channels is key to immersive commerce and contextual customer experience
  • More and more consumers are using eCommerce, and they need online alternatives to find and purchase the products they love quickly and easily 

To meet rising demand and to put your product in front of the consumer where they shop, companies have to execute a watertight digital commerce strategy. PIM is a solid foundational building block to achieve this future.  Let’s delve deeper into the reasons why successful eCommerce companies are already using PIM: 

Poor product data management 

Manual management of product information is counterproductive for retailers and costs a fortune in internal costs. Between sales, marketing, product management, manufacturing and other stakeholders accessing siloed spreadsheets, collaboration and productivity are far-away dreams. Other problems like high product returns, manual errors, customer complaints, marketplaces not hesitating to pull your entire product catalog from shelves if they aren’t optimized to their custom feed specifications, cart abandonment,  incorrect prices, missing images, wrong dimensions to name a few. Now imagine launching a new product in a new channel using a legacy model. Legacy systems create data chaos within your organization, they make it difficult to create, manage, and distribute product data, especially if the catalog is large and if there are multiple suppliers who provide data. A modern PIM solution is purpose-built to offer you a single source of truth for product data automating time consuming and redundant tasks so you get internal productivity, data accuracy, and high-quality product information. The tangible benefits of these are cost savings and revenue gains.

To achieve an ‘eCommerce everything’ model retailers need to eliminate data inconsistencies and poor data syndication, they should be able to scale SKU assortments, expand digital channels easily and provide exceptional customer experiences, all with low operating costs. A PIM solution does all this and more.  

Delay in time to market

We’re living in a time when online sales are surging, creating a ripe opportunity for businesses to turnaround rapidly to put products in front of a consumer. This is a crucial competitive advantage for eCommerce success today. Relying on manual or custom-built apps to manage high volumes can lead to a quick death. Customers want real-time product information, detailed titles and descriptions, rich media in the form of multiple images and video, stock availability, color options, size information, reviews and they want to consume this information seamlessly on at least three different touchpoints.

A PIM solution can drastically cut time wasted on duplicating efforts and processes each time you have to launch a new product or enter a new market. Imagine what this means for a growing eCommerce business; an expanding catalog is a key component of growing revenue and increasing market share. PIMs facilitate this transformation by streamlining data management processes and creating agile workflows that feed clean data into marketplaces and other sales channels. A PIM can easily be integrated with a company’s ERP system and simplify product data publishing to eCommerce platforms like BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify, Salesforce and to other digital channels like Amazon, ebay, Walmart, Google, Facebook, etc.

Poor digital presence, poor customer experience, drop in conversions

Shifts in customer buying behavior have happened overnight, leaving no option for businesses but to create a strong online presence. Add to this the pressure of beating competition that is more often than not just a click away. 

PIM and optimized product data feeds are essential to both; creating immersive eCommerce environments and improving operational excellence. Retailers need to think about how these two components are crucial to customer retention and boosting sales.

Is it worth the effort and investment to explore PIM further? To make this decision simpler, we created a list of questions to help you understand the features and advantages of PIM better. If you answered yes to the questions below, we can help you close the gaps in your product data management, create a scalable eCommerce and grow sales.

Are you looking to:

  • Improve how product data is organized, managed, and shared to grow eCommerce sales?
  • Eliminate duplicate product data efforts?
  • Lower cost & complexity of managing product data?
  • Enable faster product updates and syndication to eCommerce platforms and digital channels?
  • Generate reliable data feeds to internal enterprise systems?
  • Enhance product content by adding categories, tech specs, features, benefits, digital assets, SEO info, etc.?
  • Achieve consistency acrossn sales channels – products, content, prices, and inventory?
  • Eliminate the hassles of managing product data in tens of excel spreadsheets, or in clunky legacy systems?

Try smallPIM, our affordable, fully managed SaaS based PIM solution today.

Top 7 Challenges in Product Data Management for Ecommerce

How can brands adapt to the future? What will define the consumer’s path to purchase in the post-Covid19 world? How to meet consumer demand on the digital shelf? How to accelerate time to market and drive sales? How to accelerate the shift to a new normal as customers surge to digital channels? How to overcome product data management challenges for eCommerce success?

We believe that structured product information and efficient product data management is the answer to all the questions above. It’s literally the backbone of online retail. It has become critical for retailers to ensure that they are delivering high-quality product pages with accurate, up-to-date information that convinces consumers to ‘buy it now’. Without an efficient product information management system in place, you’ll likely end up negatively impacting your customers intent to purchase, be unable to scale your digital channels or increase SKU counts, offer richer, consistent customer experiences, launch products faster; all of which will ultimately compound your inability to capture more revenue compared to your competitors.

Based on our experience supporting many eCommerce projects since 2010, we have closely followed the ever-growing number of product data challenges retailers face to get their products online. To help you overcome these challenges, we identified the top 7 potential pitfalls associated with product data management processes – and how they can be overcome.

In this article, we explore details of these challenges and learn about StrikeTru’s recommendations to address them for a smooth and profitable eCommerce project.

1. Poor customer experience

  • Customers don’t have good self-service options online to search, select, bundle, and buy products
  • Customers can’t bundle products for preferred pricing online, but they can do that in stores
  • Improving online customer experience requires the ability to easily add and manage categories and attributes (e.g. sale category, style, collection, sub-brand) – we can’t do that in our system
  • Customers are confused by similar titles (e.g. wood chairs) as we can’t add more than 2 modifiers in our system
  • A customer returned a product multiple times – the eCommerce team fixed a bad image that caused the initial return, but warehouse continued shipping the wrong product as they were still looking at the bad image on their product lookup tool
  • Data management challenges delayed strategic initiatives like mobile app launch for store reps

Recommendations

  • Setup a central and trusted repository of high-quality product data (PIM)
  • Simplify delivery of cross-channel consistency – product selection, content, pricing, etc.
  • Boost online customer search and buying experiences by leveraging granular data curated in PIM

2. Bad data costs

Gartner estimates that poor data quality costs organizations an average of $15 million per year.

  • Channel specific processes to collect product data, causing cross-channel content inconsistencies.
  • SKUs appear online with missing content. for e.g., packages go live with no prices.
  • Product images don’t show up online, and they sometimes disappear too.
  • We have manually assigned wrong brand logos, which has legal implications.
  • Instead of a part, we end up shipping the full package as our customer service rep can’t tell which box has what parts.

Recommendations

  • Centralize data management and governance processes in PIM to create/update/obsolete products consistently
  • Leverage validation and governance rules, bulk edits, and approval workflows to improve data quality
  • Make it easy to capture new categories, attributes, and images as needed to address data quality/completeness gaps

3. Product launch delays

  • Takes weeks and sometimes months to collect, on-board, and complete one SKU
  • Would be great to get a daily report of incomplete SKUs, and missing data – will help us prioritize our SKU build efforts
  • Online, we sell only 40% of the SKUs that we sell in stores
  • When we discontinue a SKU, we spend a lot of time manually discontinuing all packages that contain that SKU
  • We routinely spend nights and weekends to try and meet our product launch deadlines

Recommendations

  • Leverage supplier portal to automate supplier data collection and onboarding
  • Consider outsourcing supplier data collection to specialized data vendors
  • Simplify employee tasks – give them a modern & intuitive PIM tool, with time-saving bulk import and edit features
  • Revise SKU setup process, and maximize product data curated in PIM for efficiency
  • Integrate ERP with PIM, accelerate collaboration via workflows and notifications

4. Manual and duplicate work

  • Don’t know what data exists or how to use it. For e.g., merchants obsoleted many SKUs, the photo team report didn’t identify those, and the photo team wasted a bunch of time shooting unnecessary pictures for those SKUs.
  • Marketing CMS is unsupported, hard to use. Fixes and enhancements expensive to make.
  • Most products are variants, but we manage data at SKU level. Even simple changes require multiple SKU updates.
  • Our ERP doesn’t allow:
    • bulk edits – e.g. to assign styles and collections to products.
    • multi-value assignments – e.g. multiple colors or materials to products. This impacts product searchability online.
    • easy product data reporting for merchant decision making (they’d like to use PIM instead)
  • It is a manual and time-consuming process to:
    • setup merchandizing packages (so we don’t do it!)
    • create rich content by combining granular data – SEO friendly titles, descriptions, URL keys, image names, etc.
    • setup product relationships (e.g. related, up-sell, cross-sell) copy data from driver SKU (e.g. queen size bed) to variant SKUs (we don’t always shoot pictures for beds of all sizes)

Recommendations

  • Modernize IT stack, implement PIM to centralize product data and workflows
  • Integrate PIM with ERP, eCommerce, DAM, and other systems, eliminate re-keying
  • Implement robust data modeling, governance, and inheritance features in PIM
  • Train users extensively on search and bulk edit features
  • Increase user efficiency with powerful search & reporting, bulk edits, & validation & enrichment rules

5. Manual asset operations

  • Image tasks are labor intensive – searching, importing , optimizing, linking, publishing, etc.
  • Assets are managed on local drives and are not searchable (e.g. search assets by vendor, product class, color, etc.)
  • Image validations (names, sizes, product links, etc.) are manual (e.g. don’t assign individual image to a kit)
  • Image file sizes are huge, and this affects SEO rankings negatively No systematic way to allow users to report bad asset issues so the photo team can track and fix those assets

Recommendations

  • Centralize and organize product assets in PIM (or DAM)
  • Automate asset tasks – load, optimize (re-size, rename, change resolution, enrich, categorize), link, publish, etc.
  • Share searchable assets with sales, customer service, and other teams
  • If using DAM, automate transfer of assets to PIM, & product data to DAM. If a SKU is discontinued, auto-expire its assets.

6. Painful eCommerce site updates

  • Painful to maintain product data in our eCommerce platform, don’t want to do that anymore
  • Can’t control what product content shows online, the web sync process is unsupported
  • Web sync is slow and unreliable. If we make a mistake, we need to wait another day to fix it
  • Products don’t show up online sometimes for 1 to 2 weeks after launching in stores
  • The website routinely shows wrong prices, everyone spends a lot of time chasing those down
  • Our updates in the eCommerce platform get overwritten by the nightly sync process – frustrating!
  • Optimizing and managing our product feeds to shopping channels & marketplaces is a broken process and not scalable.
  • We’d like to list more of our products on digital platforms, and add more platforms to the mix to increase our digital presence.

Recommendations

  • Seamlessly synchronize catalog structure, content, and assets from PIM to websites
  • Use proven PIM connectors. E.g. for Magento, BigCommerce, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, InDesign, GlobalLink
  • Schedule incremental exports, and multiple syncs per daily

7. Poor product visibility on digital channels

  • Current product feeds are generated by the eCommerce platform and are heavily customized
  • Too many listing errors, only a small subset of products show up on Amazon!
  • Inability to actively manage feeds (e.g. turn off products on Amazon in stockout situations), hurts our ratings
  • Inability to setup new product feeds fast enough
  • Optimizing and managing our product feeds to shopping channels & marketplaces is broken and not scalable.
  • We need to list and sell more of our products on digital platforms and add more platforms to the mix
  • Orchestrating orders from multiple channels is a manual and painful process.

Recommendations

  • Implement a product syndication tool to simplify product feed management and increase product visibility online
  • Integrate syndication tool with PIM and ERP for high-quality and timely product content, prices, and inventory
  • Leverage syndication tool to orchestrate multi-channel order management to save costs and drive channel sales

Unsure of the next steps?

Check out StrikeTru’s smallPIM, an affordable, flexible, fast to deploy SaaS PIM solution.

You already have an ERP, do you really need to invest in PIM software?

This is the most commonly asked question when it comes to eCommerce players considering implementing PIM for digital shelf success and transformation. We decided to unpack this question in the simplest way possible. By working backwards from your business goals, we can get a clearer understanding of what it takes to achieve those goals in a multi-channel, always connected, SaaS PIM environment.

If these are your top 5 business goals for 2020, implementing PIM is the only way to stay competitive in the coming years.

  • Manage and distribute product content for thousands of  SKUs
  • Offer your products across channels in multiple languages
  • Have a low rate of product returns
  • Value add to strategic areas of business especially employee productivity
  • Raise the ante on customer experience

Manage and distribute product content for thousands of SKUs

Handling 500 – 1000 SKUs is an easily managed task with a detailed excel carrying product information and associated digital asset references. But what happens when you have to manage thousands of  products with their descriptions and rich media with an aim to offer extensive product depth & breadth to end customers? A traditional ERP is simply not designed to manage the pace and complexity of consumer demand for data today. Inflexibility is only one of the reasons why an ERP model can prove crippling to your brand. Digital commerce in 2020 demands flexible and transparent workflow capabilities, rich digital assets, the agility to add an ever increasing number of data attributes and consumer facing data that is dynamic. On an ERP, this is impossible – due to lack of flexibility and extensibility, audit and digital asset management capabilities; teams inevitably end up with disparate databases of product data that don’t speak to each other leading to inconsistencies and additional costs. A lot of the marketing data ends up living on spreadsheets, so the lack of visibility into a growing number of SKUs can blindside product managers and turn off buyers. This means lost sales and bad reviews. That’s where a modern PIM comes in. A cloud based PIM lets you centralize all your product information in a single repository,  making sure your brand tells consistent product stories across every channel.

“A few years ago, it could take weeks for us to onboard a new SKU. Now, thanks to Akeneo PIM it typically takes a day.”- Petra Industries

Offer your products across channels in multiple languages

The modern day shopper is channel agnostic, they want to be able to shift from one channel/device to another seamlessly and get access to current, accurate information on every search. Studies show that omnichannel campaigns earned a 250% higher purchase rate than single-channel campaigns. Meaning that customers were not only more receptive to engagement through multiple digital & offline touch-points but it also impacted their purchase decision positively. Similarly, when it comes to international expansion – localization & translation is key to making sure your customers are able to find, evaluate and purchase your product very easily. An ERP does not allow management of multi lingual data. Managing and enriching product information can be a pain every time you are entering a new market. With Akeneo2GlobalLink, a translation connector tool by StrikeTru that connects Akeneo PIM users to Translations.com’s GlobalLink, this process is highly simplified. From organized workflows to integrated translation tools, your business is equipped to grow quickly and capture larger market share in every location.  

“Our people are spending an enormous amount of time translating product data and managing that data in multiple spreadsheets. Leveraging the Akeneo2GlobalLink solution will drive significant value for our content and commerce teams, and for our customers.” – Pierce Global

Lower rate of product returns

Have you ever had a situation where your eCommerce platform displayed an image that caused a return because warehouse repeatedly shipped the wrong product as they were looking at an older image on another product lookup tool? You can only imagine how damaging this can be to your brand image. 57% of retailers said that dealing with returns has a negative impact on the day-to-day running of their business. When working with inflexible legacy tools including an ERP, 20-25 people and 8 different systems are involved in servicing a retailer or customer request for product data – the total time this would take and high chances of manual error is mind boggling. With a good PIM, you can dramatically enhance your data quality. Excellent data quality means customers searching for your products get intelligent results every single time on any device.This is crucial to product searchability, conversions and customer satisfaction.You gain content control, visibility, flexibility, and dissemination capabilities that result in personalized customer experiences leading to higher satisfaction levels making them come back for repeated purchases.

“PIM users have reported a 40% decrease in product returns, thanks to features such as automated enrichment rules, product completeness monitoring, and validation, which each work to ensure that shoppers are more informed prior to purchase.” – Akeneo

Value add to strategic areas of business especially employee productivity

Increased employee productivity is a top priority for management. In the above points we examined how a modern PIM solution can significantly enhance business and customer oriented goals. However, internal employee-productivity related goals can also be addressed by gaining control over and centralizing your product data by automating 30-50% of redundant manual operations, increased efficiency, doing away with silo headaches, transparent workflows, more focus on customer innovation, greater collaboration between teams, easier goal mapping and performance measurement and streamlined operations resulting in next generation CX.

“Updating product content in Akeneo PIM takes 10 minutes compared with the 30 minutes it took in the old system.” – SHOP.COM

Raise the ante on customer experience

Meaningful customer experiences are everything; it is the leading differentiator today, with customers putting even more emphasis on rich product information. According to a study by Gartner, 89% businesses are expected to compete mainly on customer experience in 2020. On the other hand a bad customer experience can cost you heavily – 95% of customers tell others about a bad experience. To compete with giants like Amazon, you need to raise the ante on customer innovation by implementing a cloud based PIM to anticipate customer needs, understand preferences through buying patterns & seasonality resulting in a highly responsive and seamless experience.

In conclusion, an ERP system may be able to manage small amounts of product data but as your product and attribute counts increase only a PIM solution can create compelling product content for next-gen customer experience.

A PIM solution can help brands & retailers rank their products highly on the digital shelf – going beyond a basic keyword search. It is a great tool in the hands of product managers and merchants to accelerate time-to-market and an asset to always-connected consumers for intuitive shopping.

If you are interested in exploring further but don’t know where to start, get in touch with to speak to a PIM expert today. 

Is Your Product Data Optimized For Omnichannel Commerce?

Brands and retailers often face the consequence of lost revenue thanks to bad product data. In the last decade, there has been a revolution in the way we manage product content. Today, customers look beyond product features & shipping information. They respond to 360-degree immersive narratives that include multiple brand images and video, AR generated lifestyle images and rich product copy. Today, at the heart of a successful ecommerce strategy lays product content that can make or break a sale.

The key is to evolve to meet the demands of today’s connected shoppers. How can you do that? By making the shopper feel empowered with all the information they want, when they want it & on a platform of their choice. With a modern product information management (PIM) solution this is possible. From product discovery to syndication, a PIM solution collects, cleanses, enriches, and adapts your content to meet specific channel requirements for a seamless omnichannel experience. This is even more important in the Amazon-age, with nearly 66% shoppers (2/3 of US shoppers) beginning their search for products here; brands and retailers have to ensure they have the capability of updating their product data quickly to meet the ever changing and ever increasing product content guidelines.

Let’s look at some of the typical challenges faced by ecommerce players that are still managing product information on excel files and shared drives and legacy systems:

  • Product horror story – companies that don’t have access to a centralized repository of trusted product information struggle with easily finding and publishing content in a timely manner that ultimately lead to higher return rates. Never mind poor customer satisfaction levels.
  • Manual syndication – manually managing multiple versions of product data across different departments and channels over hundreds of spreadsheets is near impossible for brands that wish to stay competitive by continuously optimizing their products to capture a larger market share. When the customer expectation is to buy anything at any time, the last thing retailers & manufacturers need is to get stuck with troublesome errors and brand and cross-channel inconsistencies that are fully visible to customers.
  • Zero scalability & delays in launching new products – the ability to list and manage tens or hundreds of thousands of new SKUs is essential to executing an endless aisle strategy to compete with Amazon and other players. Manual methods and legacy systems often fail to accomplish this, hurting a business’s agility in the marketplace.
  • Damaged brand reputation – all of the above situations negatively impact purchase decisions and lead to an irreversibly damaged brand reputation.

So how can you ensure exceptional product data quality, i.e. completeness, timeliness, conformity, consistency and accuracy in collaboration with suppliers & partners? By integrating a cloud based PIM solution in your marketing technology stack. This core solution software aggregates content (including rich selling content) from all data sources, transforms it, creates a harmonized data set, and synchronizes all content to your eCommerce website and various 3rd party digital marketing and sales channels including search engines, social media, and marketplaces. It supports content syndication both in terms of product mix and completeness and format of data, including multilingual content adaptation, needed by the various digital commerce channels.

New platforms like PIM can ensure product content directly supports the KPIs that drive success across all sales channels and has an impact on increasing conversion rates, average order value, stickiness, SEO, & profitability while decreasing return and cart abandonment rates.

Get in touch to talk to a PIM expert today.