Product Information Management in Today’s Digital World

It would be hard to miss all the recent noise that PIM (Product Information Management) solutions are making in the marketplace in 2016, and heading into 2017. You may be noticing exponential increase in media coverage, conferences, events, analyst coverage, and of course, sales calls from solutions firms.

This is largely due to the explosion of digital commerce, the relentless pursuit of great online customer experiences, and the proliferation of new selling channels.

How do all these things relate to PIM? The connection is customer expectations – and revenue! It’s the sales, merchandising and marketing desire to win a greater share of customers’ digital commerce spend. And, as in the print catalog era, the belief that a bigger, better catalog approach will bring in the orders. The B2B focus is now on “digital product merchandizing” (we call it Product UX).

It is also more than interesting that venture investors are pouring many millions into PIM solution firms. They must see an upside. That capital is buying R&D and marketing.

But why PIM? And Why PIM Now?

Here’s a short list for starters (check back for a much deeper dive):

  • CMO ownership and investment in digital commerce, wanting advanced, personalized merchandizing capabilities (not possible without well attributed and clean data)
  • Digital commerce now exposing years of product data sins (search bars will find your bad data that catalogs were able to mask)
  • Great and normalized product content (data + information + rich media) is the #1 driver of a great customer experience (the exec buzzword these days)
  • Explosion of the amount of product data & content to manage (deeper attribute data pools & endless aisles everywhere)
  • Executives being more intolerant for slow speed to market to get products to channel and on the digital shelf (time-to-market must be days/weeks, not months)
  • Distributors and Manufacturers growing aggravation with the cost, inefficiency and quality issues with syndication models, leading to penalties, pulling product lines, or other punitive measures (antagonism usually does not lead to more sales)
  • Recognition that current platforms such as Content Management, eCommerce, DAM, Portals, ERP systems do not provide an answer for digital catalog merchandising, nor efficiency at the overall “product information supply chain” level, thus hampering those who are accountable to sell products and hit their numbers

The eyes are now looking at the organizational, process and technology investments that are helping the B2B industry leaders get ahead of the crowd. Chants of “we want to be like Grainger, or McMaster-Carr, or MSC Industrial, or (of course) Amazon” ring through the investment and proposal decks meetings across segments of industrial B2B.

So in the last year or two, PIM (in the context of leveraging product content as an asset to drive more sales) has been recognized as one of the potential “keys”, and is now generating tremendous interest and evaluation from that crowd.

For the right goals and business models, a PIM is a great decision. Yet now, there are more solution options than ever. And no current PIM is a complete solution for the “product information supply chain”.

Now what? Start with a clear vision, strategy and ecosystem model based on your marketplace, customers, and channels – identifying where and how product information can be a key business asset. Then look at the solutions through that lens. Then move fast – as the B2B environment is evolving very rapidly.