Why Top Brands Leverage PIM with an eCommerce Platform

In our newest blog, we sat down with Jacobi Zakrzewski, VP of Tech Strategy & Solutions at Luminos Labs, to discuss the advantages of using a PIM with an eCommerce platform.

The interview is a continuation of our conversation with Orium on utilizing the two softwares in unison.

See the full interview below!

Pat Tully

Pat Tully

Sr. Content Marketing Manager

Leveraging PIM in conjunction with an eCommerce platform presents numerous opportunities for brands deciding how to structure their tech stacks.

With Pimberly, brands have the ability to get more out of their eComm platforms than they ever were before with the automation the platform provides.

luminos labs logo

The world’s leading companies trust Luminos Labs to drive growth and bring commerce transformations to life.

We had the amazing opportunity to speak with Jacobi Zakrzewski, VP of Technology Strategy & Solutions at Luminos Labs. In this conversation, we aim to cover how brands can get the most out of an eCommerce platform when used alongside a PIM.

To start off, can you introduce yourself and provide a little bit of background on what you do at Luminos Labs?

I’m Jacobi Zakrzewski and I lead our Technology Strategy & Solutions function here at Luminos Labs. In short, the team and I advise our clients in making the right technology and process decisions based strategic aspirations they’re looking to achieve. With that also comes ongoing consultative support and enablement as needed, whether that’s a sounding board for the CIO or providing recommendations for new technologies to help the digital merchandising team, etc. As far as Luminos Labs holistically, we’re a systems integrator that partners with platforms like Pimberly to engineer a digital commerce technology stack for our clients that works as intended, fast, easy to use, reliable, and flexible. All in all, we help organizations accelerate initiatives in digital commerce their transformation.


What are the primary characteristics, in your opinion, of a well-structured tech stack?

We work predominantly with upper-mid market or enterprise organizations, most often non-digitally born, but not exclusively. That typically comes with engrained back-office systems and an accompanying level of complexity due to acquisitions, mergers, house of brands vs. branded house, etc. Whether we’re working with a digitally native company or not, those core systems of record that the current business revolves around is an ingredient we’re accustomed to adapting with.

If I focus on the digital tech stack side, then the keyword I’m going to use is resilient. A well-structured tech stack is one that is flexible to change based on customer needs and adaptable to your organization’s business model shifting. Your team can operationalize it without significant friction and it works as intended. Non-functionally speaking, it needs to be fast, secure, and scalable. All of those things I’m going to put under the umbrella of resiliency, which is what our organization really focuses on from an engineering perspective. We also want to ensure that we’re not throwing so many technology platforms at the problem that we end up in a vendor management nightmare; a careful balance of specialization and consolidation is required.


In an integrated tech stack, what role can a product information management solution, or PIM, play in enabling a brand to succeed?

We like to refer to the PIM as the product system of record for digital and merchandising use, the role it plays is one of being a product data sherpa as well as custodian. It’s going to be the primary hub of enriched product data for use in a multi-channel approach. This is important because we don’t want to be building multiple primary hubs, but rather a single primary hub with small spokes coming off. This means the platform must be flexible enough so that it can remain as the primary hub for all stakeholder groups’ needs so that the right product information can hit the right channel at the right place and right time. Half the battle in enabling a brand to succeed is simply being consistent.


What are the signs that a customer needs a PIM?

Practically speaking, I think we get hung up on the definitions too much. Whether it’s a PIM, an ERP, or a CRM, can all be done within Excel or Google Sheets if you really try hard enough. That’s how these things start. It’s when you start growing out of the rudimentary purposes and need to get into people and process scalability that really manifests itself as a need. If you’re one person managing 1,000 products, you could get by with Google Sheets and clever hacks. But as soon as you want to add more complex workflows, business processes, and team members, things start to get shaky. At the same time, you start scaling up the product count and it gets untenable.

This becomes more apparent when organizations have multiple branded websites with an overlapping product mix and not a straight 1:1 back-office system to match; the PIM can act as a unifying mediator for the different product catalogs to then push to the various downstream channels like an eCommerce site(s). This doesn’t mean you need to have those levels of complexity to require a PIM, it’s a solid indicator though. Think about if you have three ERP systems with defined product SKUs with overlap between them and fed into eight different websites.

We’ve seen plenty of organizations implement a PIM with less than 1,000 products and the quality of life of the product data team to use a business application with a pointed core purpose was enough to justify the investment. There isn’t exactly a science that switches the “Need PIM?” from “No” to “Yes”. However, if you find that the product data in your ERP isn’t enriched enough AND you’re tired of working solely out of spreadsheet boogaloo…you probably ought to check somebody like Pimberly out.


In your opinion what areas should you not use a PIM for?

One primary thing comes to mind: Transactional Data. Due to shortcomings or issues with working with another back-office system being a pain in the butt sometimes, we see organizations trying to use the PIM to store real time pricing or inventory data, even transactional point of sale info. Just because a platform can, doesn’t mean it should. A secondary thing would be defining business logic that spans the whole organization outside of digital or eCommerce into the PIM, I think that’s dangerous. Digital commerce should generally be cross-functional and making global business-logic decisions in isolation brings up a lot of red flags for me.


What role does an eCommerce platform play?

The role of the eCommerce platform plays, from an integration perspective, is getting input from the PIM as an inbound integration. This can come to directly feed the eCommerce catalog management functionality or simply feed the front-end experience if you’re working in more of a composable architecture model. Sometimes the PIM acts as the DAM and the eCommerce platform reaches out to the PIM (DAM) for content, which may or may not be cached within a CDN.

Ideally, we’re minimizing duplication of data because that can lead you to fracturing your product data model where the left hand isn’t talking to the right hand if your PIM is feeding more channels than just an eCommerce platform. At the end of the day, the PIM in isolation doesn’t do a whole lot, it’s when you’re pairing it with downstream applications and platforms is where the force multiplier really starts happening.

In terms of an eCommerce platform and its purpose, that depends. Some organizations utilize an eCommerce platform for all major data domains along with packaged business capabilities and is the “lifeblood” of the digital footprint. Whereas others may define the eCommerce platform only as the checkout, payment, and order management system. From a business perspective, many organizations will utilize an eCommerce platform with a core intended purpose of allowing users to “shop” 24/7 but then actually “buy” through other channels or in-store. Asking yourself and your organization “What is the purpose of our digital footprint?” is a good way to navigate through what role the eCommerce platform should play in your business.


What advantages can brands capitalize on when they use a PIM alongside their eCommerce platform?

Time savings, clear roles and responsibilities between a merchandising team and an eCommerce operations team, and ensuring data integrity between their eCommerce site and any other channels product data is published to. The flexibility to add more eCommerce sites without reinventing the product data wheel is also very powerful by creating site-specific product catalogs all based on a universal set.

Organizations that don’t have PIM commonly struggle with the concepts of taxonomy, attribute families, and general data model structures – a PIM helps paint a clearer picture on what that canvas could look like. Sometimes it’s a tough look in the mirror, though.


From your perspective, why does Luminos Labs choose to partner with Pimberly?

The Pimberly team is easy to work with. As a former decision maker and client of solutions like an eCommerce platform and a PIM, a big criterion of mine and the team was the vendor not being a jerk to work with. Sometimes that would rate higher in importance compared to the platform’s capabilities. This made the quality of life for our business users much better and that would lead to a positive end customer experience indirectly. Second is that PIM projects are complex because they can expose dirty laundry in organizations – Pimberly does a great job with helping clients with the business process, data model, and governance components and really lets us focus on the technical aspects. We don’t pretend to be product data experts here at Luminos Labs. The net result is expertise, budget, and timelines used appropriately.


What about Pimberly specifically bolsters the way in which a brand leverages their eCommerce platform?

This sounds elementary, but the ability to work inside of Pimberly as if business users are still working in a spreadsheet like Excel really helps with adoption and utilization of the platform. When business users are so used to spreadsheet hell, putting them into something completely different feels awkward at first, but Pimberly allows them to still feel that spreadsheet comfort and grow into it. Despite that being rudimentary, when you see a business user updating enriched product data inside of Pimberly and almost automagically reflected onto the production website, their eyes light up as if the impossible was just done. In short, business user enablement that feels like the technology working with you instead of against you is how Pimberly bolsters the downstream effects on the eCommerce platform. This is something we like to see in every vendor we work with.


Finally, what do you see as the most important benefit of integrating your PIM with an eCommerce platform?

There are plenty of benefits, but one that we consistently see is the ability to reduce the need to create separate sources of truth for product data. If you’ve got multiple web properties plus an ever-changing product mix due to category changes, customer segments, or new/deprecated supplier relationships then the risk of not having the right information in all destinations can be very high. A PIM helps mitigate that risk so long as the technology is flexible to account for the business changes and the organization is willing to adopt a good governance model to feed the eCommerce platform.


For more information on the benefits of composable architecture, visit https://www.luminoslabs.com/

Thank you for checking out this Q&A, and keep an eye out for more in-depth content on the topic to come!