PIM vs Spreadsheets

Are you wondering whether Product Information Management (PIM) vs Spreadsheets is best for you? If you’re managing product data in spreadsheets, I’m sure you’re familiar with how time-consuming and laborious it is. In a highly competitive and fast-paced environment, agility and efficiency are essential components for any eCommerce business. This can be hard to achieve with manual processes that just aren’t fit for purpose, which is often the case when relying on spreadsheets.

To guarantee the best possible customer experience and to boost conversions, your product information needs to be on point. In other words, it needs to be accurate, always to up to date, and accompanied by high-quality digital assets. As such, it’s important not to rush the product data management process.

As we always say, the quality of product information ultimately determines the quality of the customer experience you deliver. However, Excel spreadsheets don’t give you full visibility of the accuracy and completeness of your product data. Moreover, it may be the case that teams are working on different spreadsheets in different departments. This disparity is tricky to manage, and it gets even harder as the volume of data increases. From eCommerce director to product manager – your entire team will be able to work from a single source of truth when using PIM.

By managing product data in spreadsheets, errors and inconsistencies will be common, which is not good for the online experience. That’s why Product Information Management (PIM) platforms are an essential tool for eCommerce businesses.

What are the common challenges of managing product data in spreadsheets?

Doing a good job of managing product data will always come with challenges. Often, businesses will instinctively use spreadsheets to manage product content. This is because many marketplaces and eCommerce platforms push customers to use this method to upload product information. Whilst this is tempting, you can use a PIM solution to automate this process, save loads of time, and have complete confidence in the accuracy and quality of your data.

As we have said, you need quality product information to effectively market and sell products online and keep customers happy. Here are some of the issues that arise from using spreadsheets as a product information management solution. These can lead to poor customer experiences and even poorer online performance.

Slow and manual processes

When you have to search numerous rows and columns for the information you need, you have less time to focus on getting your product data eCommerce-ready. When this is the case it’ll take you longer to get your products to market. Needles to say, this takes away your competitive advantage and you lose out on vital extra selling days.

Islands of information lost in a sea of inefficiencies

Employees can spend up to 90% of their week working on data-related tasks. When you’re dealing with large volumes of complex product information in Excel files, this can be super laborious. Furthermore, there are no access or version control capabilities meaning there’s a higher chance of workloads being duplicated. Overall, managing product data in spreadsheets prevents employees from being able to focus on their respective areas of expertise.

In addition, spreadsheets are typically created, owned, and maintained by a single individual. More often than not, these spreadsheets are vital to the overall eCommerce strategy. For instance, a single spreadsheet could hold all the data feeding your eCommerce store. If the staff member in charge of this data suddenly leaves the business, the spreadsheet can be difficult – or sometimes impossible – to locate.

Prone to human error

The manual nature of using Excel for product data management processes leads to a higher probability of human error. Errors or inconsistencies within your product data really mess up the customer experience you deliver. This is the cause of roughly 40% of all product returns and around 86% of consumers won’t repeat a purchase if this is the case.

Ultimately, managing a spreadsheet with 100s of columns and 10,000s rows is difficult. It’s very likely that there will be mistakes, even when the data is being managed by the most excel-savvy member of the team. Data validation becomes a labour-intensive task – and, as a result, it’s something rarely carried out.

Poor resilience & data breaches

Spreadsheets only hold a single version of data. Whilst you can save multiple copies in multiple locations, you cannot have ‘hot’ back-ups or the ability to restore to a specific point in time.

In addition, there’s no audit trail. Spreadsheets don’t have the function to track who changes what data from what to where and when. The process gets messy very quickly.

Data breaches are a huge concern, too. It’s easy for individuals to inadvertently send a spreadsheet to the wrong person. It happens all the time. The typical method of collaborating on spreadsheets is to email them to other team members. This makes the possibility of a total data breach very high.

No collaboration or integration

Multiple departments need to work together to guarantee the best possible product experience. In other words, collaboration is key to creating consistent online experiences across all sales channels. In addition, spreadsheet software isn’t capable of integrating with other systems. For instance, Microsoft Excel can’t talk to the ERP and it can’t automatically collect data from supplier feeds. Again, this means a huge amount of manual processing will go into collating all the data needed to effectively market and sell products online.

Whether you’re using Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, or Zoho Sheets , a high-quality PIM solution will provide your team with real-time collaboration. As a result, your product data management processes will be completely streamlined, from top to bottom.

No Digital Asset Management (DAM) capabilities:

Spreadsheet programs aren’t designed to manage rich digital assets, crucial components in the online buyer journey. How are customers supposed to know what your products look like with no images or videos? The average consumer needs 3-4 product images to gain the confidence they need to hit “buy now”. As well as improving the customer experience, fully optimized and enriched digital assets will massively boost your SEO performance. Digital Asset Management (DAM) tools enable you to leverage all aspects of your product data to create memorable product experiences.

The good news is that Pimberly doubles up as a Digital Asset Management (DAM) software. This means that you can store, distribute, and enrich your digital assets. From product videos to Computer-Aided Design (CAD) sheets, asset management platforms like Pimberly store your product data and digital assets within a central repository.

PIM vs Spreadsheets: Which is best for product data management?

There are positives to spreadsheets. They’re a widely established tool because they’re a simple way to store data. As a powerful all-round tool, they can transform data from other platforms. For some businesses, that’s all they need. But, spreadsheets do have their limitations – especially when it comes to eCommerce

If you’re looking to grow and scale your eCommerce business, there’ll likely be a stage where a PIM solution will become indispensable. Some of the signs you need a PIM include:

  • When you’re managing large volumes of complex product information
  • When you need to standardize data received from external sources. For example, you may want to display Black instead of the BLK used by your supplier
  • There are multiple versions of your product data which is tailored to meet the requirements of your different sales channels
  • You need to quickly react to market trends and changes and reflect changes in real-time
  • Boosting sales is a priority and you want to sell across more sales channels
  • You need a solution that enables you to manage, enrich, and distribute digital assets
  • If you’re looking to improve data quality across all your sales channels
  • You want to expand internationally and need to provide localized product data for different geographies

If any of this sounds familiar, it may very well be time for you to say so long to spreadsheets and hello to PIM!

What about Product Data Management (PDM) & Master Data Management (MDM)?

Whilst they share similarities, Product Information Management (PIM), Product Data Management (PDM), and Master Data Management (MDM) are slightly different. Nonetheless, each tool will take away the heavy-lifting of spreadsheets. However, it’s important to find the right solution that fits your business.

PDM software is frequently used by engineers in the manufacturing industry to track revisions, store engineering product sheets and manufacturing instructions, and create Bills of Materials (BOM). PDM software is a must-have for designers working with detailed product specifications from the ideation stage.

MDM software differs slightly in that, where PDM is largely used by manufacturers, MDM is used to store financial data and HR information. You can read more about the differences between MDM and PIM here.

The benefits of using PIM systems to manage product data

Now we’ve identified some of the pitfalls of managing product data in spreadsheets, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using PIM systems to manage product data:

Increase revenues

Streamlined product data management processes enable you to quickly get your products to market and gain vital extra selling days. This enhances your competitive edge and positions you as the go-to provider. Faster, more efficient processes also make it super easy for you to enter new categories and sell across more sales channels. Getting your products in front of a wider audience will inevitably lead to you generating higher revenues. You can also tap into new opportunities such as dropshipping or long tailing to further boost revenues.

PIM gives you the ability to get the most from your product data, which in turn means you can provide exceptional product experiences. By integrating with AI tools, you can take personalization to the next level. Enter Hyper-personalization! Offer customers intelligent product recommendations based on previous purchases or browser behavior which will drastically improve online conversion rates and boost Average Order Values (AOV).

Increase margins

PIM platforms automate up to 80% of manual tasks relating to product data management processes. As such, you can grow and scale your eCommerce operations without having to take on additional headcount. Moreover, dashboards give you full visibility of the accuracy and completeness of product data. This rich and accurate product information, coupled with high-quality digital assets and SKU-specific sizing charts, can help you reduce return rates by as much as 40%.

Powerful automation also enables you to create product campaigns that drive real results. For example, you can use workflows to determine rules for when certain products should be discounted. So, when stock levels reach a certain point, you can apply XX% discount. Overall, this means you’ll always be selling your products at optimal prices.

Improve efficiencies

Having a central hub where you can gather, store, manage, and distribute all product data makes it super quick and easy to get your hands on what you need right away. Furthermore, a powerful PIM like Pimberly has bulk update functionalities. So, if you need to make any changes, or if you want to import new products, it can be done in a few simple clicks. And, the changes will reflect in real-time so you always know your customers are getting the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Not to mention, it gives your teams a single location to work from so they can easily collaborate and ensure consistency. You can also integrate with any number of internal and external systems to ensure you deliver the best possible user experience and reduce the need to manually search for data. This will massively improve employee wellbeing and will let your teams shine by being able to focus on their areas of expertise.

Reduce risk

Unlike spreadsheets, a PIM system will store all product data and gives you the ability to control access and changes made. Because Pimberly is hosted on the cloud, your team members can securely access everything they need, from wherever they are at any time provided they have an internet connection. This central hub also removes any reliance you may have on specific individuals who gather all the product data needed to market and sell your products online.

You always have total visibility over the accuracy and completeness of product data, enabling you to create a single source of truth. As such, you know you’ll always meet regulatory requirements with the correct terminology, health and safety notices, and required compliance certificates before it’s published. You can provide super detailed and up-to-date product data, which is especially important if you export.

PIM vs Spreadsheets: The bottom line

All in all, using excel to manage your product data will end up costing you more in the long run. From inefficient processes to error-prone processes, there are multiple risks you face. This includes poor conversion rates, dissatisfied customers who won’t shop with you again, and a mountain of product returns to deal with. In short,  spreadsheet applications lack the robust functionality of a PIM platform.

However, the initial investment of PIM will soon pay off. You can improve your conversion rates and reduce cart abandonment with details around delivery and returns and rich, comprehensive product information. Rich product information will enhance your SEO performance, so you can ensure you get the right product in front of the right customers at the right time. In summary, streamlined processes enable you to quickly extend the reach of your products and significantly increase online revenues.