When collating product data, an Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP) is often a standard part of a company’s technology stack. You might also use solutions like Oracle, SAP, or Microsoft Dynamics. However, customer demands and expectations constantly evolve, and the market is becoming increasingly competitive.

More is needed to provide basic data like the sizing or weight of an item on a website. Customers want more information about what they buy. They want richer product data, which is where Product Information Management (PIM) systems and ERP solutions work seamlessly together!

An ERP isn’t designed to manage complex product data. But when integrated with a PIM system, you can massively improve the overall quality of your data. That’s not to say an ERP isn’t fit for purpose for what it does best, i.e., managing transactions. Or to suggest that PIM should replace an ERP. When working side by side, they complement each other. In other words, both systems will help you create better product experiences and increase sales.

The fact is that there are more requirements around product information than ever before. eCommerce companies are constantly competing to outsell each other. With a way to manage and create richer product data, you will get ahead of the competition. This is where implementing a PIM and ERP side-by-side will help. But first, let’s examine the different capabilities of PIM vs ERP.

Why can’t ERPs manage complex product data like PIM can?

Differently designed

An ERP can’t manage rich product data on the same scale as a PIM because of its design. The original purpose of an ERP was to order new products for a company. It focused on getting stock into a business and out to a store or customer. In other words, it was designed to be transaction-based.

An ERP features a relational database model. It has a predefined way of looking at and managing product data. In contrast, a PIM has a non-relational database model. It provides a more fluid way of accessing and reorganizing product data. ERP systems are designed for marketing the data through various sales channels.

Handling digital assets

This is where the functionalities of ERP differ significantly from PIM. ERPs offer no scope for managing rich media such as product imagery, videos, or other files. PIM platforms usually feature a content delivery network (CDN) that provides media storage in the cloud. In short, with a PIM, you can access the media you want from anywhere at any time.

PIM can also use digital asset management (DAM) to house and enrich all assets. For example, a clothing company could use DAM to incorporate a video into a product page. Finding the video within the PIM would be simple and help create a more interactive shopping experience for consumers.

Product relationships

Managing product relationships is another crucial difference in the battle of PIM vs ERP. ERPs will generally organize products according to how they’re bought and have a single product hierarchy.

If you’re selling a pair of jeans in many colors, an ERP might find it challenging to recognize the relationships between the colors and the product. You’d have to spend ages manually updating the copy for each product variation.

In comparison, PIM provides greater flexibility with product relationships. PIM enables you to organize multiple products and categories efficiently. You don’t have to spend time manually editing attributes such as color or material, and you can easily enrich all data instantly.

“The ideal thing for people who have established ERP systems is to let them do what they’re designed to do. Let the PIM do what it’s designed to do and then connect the two and keep one up to date.”

So, while a PIM can’t update stock, the ERP can. Feed the data into the PIM and make it visible for enrichment purposes.”

VP Sales at Pimberly

How does PIM help ERP to be fit for purpose around product data?

Playing to each other’s strengths

ERPs are an essential resource, and they’re useful for ordering stock and finding out where products are going. But there’s a risk of bending an ERP out of shape by forcing it to do things with product data that it wasn’t designed to do. For example, managing multiple SKUs for the same product.

PIM comes in handy to let the ERP focus on its original purpose. The PIM will take responsibility for all rich product data, such as:

  • Detailed product descriptions
  • Images
  • Videos
  • PDFs
  • Technical specifications

This is useful from a time management perspective and sales point of view. You no longer have to spend time keeping track of product information within the ERP. It’s now within a platform geared explicitly towards enriching product data.

The product data will also be unique to your company from a sales perspective. It will help to differentiate you from competitors and contribute to higher conversions.

Streamlining data in a central hub

You may be working with multiple ERPs to manage your product information. If this is the case, you’re spreading costs across different areas. Implementation, customer support, the software’s price, and the training cost – it all counts.

In addition to being costly, a multi-ERP system method risks losing valuable product data. There needs to be more centralized control around information because the data is spread out across various systems.

PIM centralizes disparate data into a single location, and it can ‘sit’ on top of an ERP and funnel everything into one source.

“If online is a big channel for you, then it’s essential that you have ERP and PIM. ERP will help with forecasting, replenishing stock and ordering from suppliers. But PIM gives you the opportunity to market all that data with the least amount of effort.”

Senior Solutions Specialist at Pimberly

Improve the quality of your product data

Enhancing the overall quality of products is another way that PIM helps ERP data be fit for purpose. One example is being able to see the entire lifecycle of a product from start to finish.

For example, a fashion retailer might import a product sample from the ERP. The sample will then go through various forms of enrichment. Firstly, the PIM might notify the copywriter in charge of writing the description. Then, the next stage might involve informing the photography department.

What’s the result? A product that’s ready for distribution through all sales channels.

Opening up new sales channels

Another way PIM compliments an ERP is with the expansion of new channels. PIM platforms can link to different eCommerce systems, retailers, and resellers. This seamless integration is hugely beneficial from a sales perspective.

For example, a technology retailer could decide they want to sell their wares on Amazon. However, their ERP system lacks the functionality to facilitate the opening up of a new channel.

The technology company can now link to Amazon by grafting ERP with PIM. The brand can distribute its products quickly, increase online conversions, and raise awareness.

ERP and PIM stand side by side to enhance product data

So, rather than considering PIM as a replacement for ERP, consider it a necessary enhancement. While an ERP is suitable for managing the business processes behind products, it needs more depth of functionality to create rich product experiences. PIM technology provides that depth. It helps fulfill the omnichannel demands of the modern buyer. It helps put the right products in front of the right people to increase sales.

By integrating PIM and ERP, you’ll transform how you manage your products. You’ll be able to stand out in a world where customer demand for more information is at an all-time high.

Integrating your ERP with Pimberly

There are many advantages to integrating your ERP with a PIM such as Pimberly. Manage thousands of SKUs instantly and deliver accurate product information in real time. Optimize all data for SEO purposes to boost product discovery and site authority. Improve the time to market for various items to gain a competitive edge and vital extra selling days. All this and more is possible thanks to the extensive integrations Pimberly offers.