To deliver robust, meaningful customer experiences on digital platforms, one must be like a duck swimming on water: to the observer, all is smooth and calm, while plenty of hard work and exertion take place below. Of all the hard-working systems and software and specialists that make seamless user experiences (UX) possible, few are more important than Product Information Management (PIM).
Product Information Management (PIM) is a system for storing and managing all product content and assets in one centralized repository. That may sound highly technical, and in many ways it is. But a well-designed PIM is key to doing non-technical things well, like online product storytelling and customer satisfaction.
Let’s say that you’re a t-shirt designer who sells direct-to-consumer on your website, on Amazon, and also through a few small retailer brands. You’ve just designed a new shirt inspired by current events, and you know that your customers will love it—if you can get it in front of them quickly enough. Without a PIM, launching the new design across all your channels would take a lot of manual labor, not to mention the human-error risks involved.
But with a PIM in place, marketing your snappy new product is a one-stop process. With the efficiency enabled by PIM, your customers will be happy with their timely purchase—and you’ll be watching the revenue roll in.
At Nansen, it’s our mission to help businesses meet the demands of today’s digital customers. When set up correctly, PIM makes the creation of impactful, seamless customer experiences simpler in a number of ways, from enabling messaging consistency across channels to increasing speed-to-market for anticipated new products.
To enhance your digital platforms with PIM and elevate your customer experience, there are five essential steps.
Read on to start your mastery of Product Information Management.
Your product data is incredibly valuable. The success of data-rich online marketplaces like Amazon have proven the power that well-organized product content has to drive conversion and sales. But maintaining consistent, current, quality data is no simple task. Any employee who has overseen the organization of product data in an Excel spreadsheet can tell you how quickly one spelling error or minor oversight can create an enormous mess.
PIM offers a way out of such organizational challenges, by acting as a single source of truth for all product content. Before planning and launching a PIM, however, you must make sure that your data is ready to be loaded into the system (data hygiene), and you have processes in place to prevent future errors (data governance).
Data hygiene comes first. It involves auditing your product data to make sure that it is consistent and correct. You may end up deleting duplicate data sets for a single product, fixing spelling errors, and more.
Next, you’ll establish data governance. During this step, you’ll put rules in place—like outlining who can take what action on what type of data, and where, when, and how they can do it—that help enforce the integrity of your valuable product content.
By ensuring data hygiene and establishing data governance, you have set yourself up to plan and launch a highly effective PIM, which will make the maintenance of consistent, current, quality data easier than ever before.
The thoughtful design of your data model will make or break your PIM implementation. Essentially, a data model is the framework that organizes your products and all the content connected to those products into various broad and specific categories.
Let’s go back to the t-shirt designer example. As a purveyor of t-shirts, your data model would likely include categories that are common across the clothing industry, like Men’s Shirts, Women’s Shirts, and Kids’ Shirts, and groupings by size, color, and price.
Beyond a familiarity with industry norms, however, it’s key to understand how your customers think about your specific products and how they want to shop for them. If you can keep both of those in mind when modeling your data and setting up categories, you can launch a PIM that drastically elevates your platform’s UX and skyrockets your team’s efficiency.
For example, you may have insight that your t-shirt shoppers like to watch videos so they can better assess the fit of new styles. In that case, your data model would need to account for the existence of video content corresponding to either individual products or to broader product categories, like Women’s Crew-Neck Shirts.
One of the challenges of creating an effective and lasting data model is finding the balance between simplicity—to help you and your team today—and flexibility, to account for your future business needs, your long-term information infrastructure strategy, and the always-evolving digital landscape. Getting this right is where working with a customer experience agency like Nansen can make all the difference.
Because before launching your PIM, you must find that balance. And after launching it, through the ongoing process of optimization and improvement, you’ll scale the model based on need and demand.
There are a number of companies that provide PIM services—so which should you partner up with? Well, that depends on your business goals, budget, team structure, and many other factors. Choosing a PIM platform is an important decision, and should not be rushed.
Of course, you’ll want a PIM system that provides a centralized database, streamlined and easy data input and output, and alerts and reports so that you can solve issues quickly and stay on top of data integrity and completeness. Beyond these foundational capabilities, there are some additional features that can take your PIM to the next level of effectiveness.
In collaboration with our friends at inRiver, we created a list of key considerations for you and your team as you compare different PIM platforms:
Is the PIM system cloud-based or on-premises? Unless you have a very specific reason for choosing otherwise, cloud-based SaaS PIM systems are the way to go in today’s world. The business world is migrating more and more to the cloud over time, and cloud hosting will save your team time, money, and resources.
Can I define workflows and contributor roles easily? One of the main benefits of PIM is the ability to coordinate among diverse team members—but you’ll also want to control who has access to what type of data, and how they can engage with it. Make sure that the PIM system you choose has robust administrator rights to give you control.
Does the system offer flexible data elements, contextual product information, and global localization support? As outlined in #2 above, your business needs, product complexity, and audiences may change over time. As such, flexible data elements, contextual product information, and support for multilingual, multi-currency operations are a must.
Before you can tick the box saying that your PIM implementation is complete, you should test it, both internally and through onboarding and training anyone outside the organization who might be using your system.
First, you’ll want to check your model by importing a small set of data. Is the content that’s coming incompatible with the system and the framework you set up for it? Are products sorted into the correct categories? Are digital assets correctly labeled and organized? Any issues that arise from this import should be fixed first and foremost.
Next, test how smoothly the data flows from the PIM to your digital channels. Try sending a product update out to one or more listings on your website. Did the refresh go through quickly? Is the copy correct and formatted nicely? Are the digital assets correct and sized appropriately? Take note of and solve any outbound-data issues before moving on.
Finally, part of testing your PIM will be checking in with everyone involved in your product-data workflow. From your suppliers to the people responsible for writing and approving copy, and beyond, get as much of a “real-world” sense of how your PIM functions before green-lighting it to full capacity. Make sure that everyone understands new data requirements and their place in the workflow. If they have questions or concerns, those might guide you to even further optimizations you can make to your PIM.
Beyond the benefits that a well-designed PIM delivers in terms of efficiency and error elimination, PIM can also supercharge your SEO and marketing efforts in a number of ways. First, it makes it easier to solicit input for product content from multiple teams. Second, a PIM helps populate product pages with plenty of SEO keywords and tags. Finally, it allows you to deliver unique content on different platforms, based on how users are searching for your products there.
Implementing PIM means that you have a single source of truth for all product data. So when you’re preparing to launch a new or updated item, your PIM makes coordinating input and ideas from product leads, content managers, and marketers much simpler. Let’s say that your marketing team suggests describing a new t-shirt as “loungewear,” based on an uptick in search volume. Your content manager can input that term into the product’s PIM, and know with confidence that “loungewear” will appear on all product pages when the product launches, ensuring that the t-shirt enters the ranks of results for the term with strong SEO backing.
In addition to enabling collaboration and message consistency, your PIM also helps cover the bases when it comes to SEO keywords and tags. Without a PIM, you’d likely make sure that high-volume keywords are included in your product title and main description—but you might overlook the opportunity to add metadata to the digital assets on the product page. A PIM helps you automatically fill in keywords across all places that search engines crawl.
Lastly, a well-designed PIM will make it easy for your team to push specific product content or updates to specific channels as needed. This is a powerful way to optimize your product pages based on platform-specific trends you’re observing among customers or your broad target audience. It also means that when a new platform or opportunity emerges for you to market your products, your PIM provides a rich foundation for marketing on that future channel, whatever its requirements and audience may be.
To learn more about how Nansen can help you with customer experience management and PIM implementation, shoot us a message!