PIM and the changing face of Distribution

Consumers have more choice and make greater demands than ever before. There are more products, more channels and more ways to take delivery. But in the distribution industry, more choice means more data to manage.

The distribution industry sits in the middle of a complex supply chain. Distributors have the job of trying to feed an expanding number of sales and marketing avenues, such as websites, social media and print, with high quality product information. As this complexity has grown, so has the need for a suitable solution.

The answer to this problem is product information management (PIM). If you’ve not come across PIM before, you’ll probably appreciate some background on why it’s providing the answer.

Welcome to PIM

Screenshot of Pimberly PIM

PIM technology provides consistent and accurate data across all channels. PIM takes data from different feeds and helps to export them to various sales channels. It’s the crucial link between distribution, supply and ecommerce. 

It helps reduce the burden and man-hours required to update product data. In terms of innovation, it’s not an entirely new concept. Large companies have previously been able to install on-site solutions. 

However, the game changer for many companies has been cloud-based solutions. This is because they are speeding up implementation and reducing maintenance costs. 

In the time before PIM

Over the years, there have been many ways that distributors have tried to manage product data. 

Excel – Organisations traditionally used manual processes such as Excel. Many still do. But there are many complexities involved in PIM. There’s also the scope of human error to consider in Excel. So, it’s not for the faint-hearted in a big data-driven world.

ERP – Distributors with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system have tried to make them as functionable as possible. While ERP is a fantastic tool, most systems weren’t developed with PIM in mind. 

Aggregators–  Distributors would traditionally use aggregator firms such as CNET to source product information. This was a quick way of getting data. But distributors are requiring more detailed information for their product attributes. Sometimes, companies do use copywriters to enrich this information for different channels. But it’s a lengthy process.

DAM–  Digital asset management (DAM) is worth mentioning as it’s often confused with PIM. However, DAM is a specialist system for storing digital assets such as photos and videos. This is for people working with visual files, but it’s not specifically product related. 

MDM–  PIM has grown more sophisticated. So its ability to integrate with other systems has vastly improved. This makes traditional master data management systems (MDM) redundant for sharing product data provided by PIM. 

Improving SEO rankings using PIM

PIM’s ‘golden record’

The latest PIM solutions offer an improvement on all the above systems.

PIM connects disparate internal systems with a single source of information. A golden record if you will. This feeds correct product data into each system across a company, ensuring it’s updated automatically.

PIM also helps distributors remove inconsistencies found in descriptions of SKUs across different channels. These inconsistencies can happen for many reasons. Perhaps this is due to language translations or the incorrect listing of measurements. Distributors do still need to have variation in how they describe a SKU. For example, you may want a shorter version shown on mobile to improve the browsing experience.

But PIM’s golden record ensures that the core information is always consistent. It doesn’t matter whether the description is necessary for your own website or print. There is consistency across every channel.

Staying ahead of the competition

When you bear in mind that it’s not uncommon for distributors to manage 100,000 products at any time, PIM involves a lot of data.

If distributors want to stay ahead of the competition, they need this data processed quickly. This is especially important in fast-moving industries like fashion. Traditionally, compiling all this data would take an average of 45 days. Likely due to the necessary checks and approvals involved. But using a new cloud-based PIM can reduce the time to 10 days.

One of the reasons for this is that PIM platforms automate workflow and flag specific tasks for different departments. For example, a price attribute query would lead to an automatic note for finance. If this isn’t picked up by the right person within a specified period, an alert can then ask a manager to step in.

What’s required for the future?

Managing product information is higher up a distributors’ priority list than it was ten years ago. There wasn’t the same need for rich data then. This is because the ecommerce market wasn’t anywhere near as competitive or fast-moving.

But things have changed. If distributors want products to show up in search engines, they need to create detailed descriptions. They need to make products easily accessible. Without consistent data across the board, it will be difficult to keep your suppliers happy. Fortunately, the arrival of the latest generation of PIM software is here. It couldn’t be more timely.

Pimberly can help to manage distribution data

A cloud-based PIM system, Pimberly is a great tool for the distribution industry. Intuitive and flexible, the platform can help you manage thousands of SKUs. As a result, you’ll be able to build consistency across all channels and increase sales.

For more information about PIM, book in for a free demo today.