A Digital Shelf Guide
There are more shopping channels for consumers than ever before. Everything has changed, and the changes first started with the introduction of more markets. We’re now in the age of the digital shelf.
As a consumer, you can now shop for an item in person as well as what seems like an unlimited number of digital marketplaces — from Instagram to Amazon, to Walmart or whatever brand.com site you feel like visiting.
Gone are the days where a brand’s primary customers were retailers and distributors. While this is still important, the priority has shifted. On the digital shelf, the primary audience is the consumer.
As the shopping journey becomes increasingly complex, your brand’s success depends on a compelling version of your product information being available on every potential digital touchpoint.
The Forrester Wave™: Product Information Management, Q2 2021 report calls product information management (PIM) the “cornerstone of your digital experience stack,” adding that “when a digital experience goes wrong, insufficient PIM practices may be what's holding your organization back.”
Businesses today need a balanced PIM solution. You still need to standardize, centralize, and control your core data, but you also need to give business teams the autonomy they need to manage, enrich, and optimize the downstream product experiences.
A PIM SOLUTION ACTS AS A SINGLE SOURCE OF TRUTH FOR ALL TYPES OF PRODUCT DATA FOR ONLINE AND OFFLINE PRODUCT CATALOGS.
Salsify was just named a Leader in the PIM Forrester Wave report. Learn more about this exciting news and why we are a Leader in the PIM space.Read blog
What is PIM? PIM stands for product information management, which is the practice of managing the product information needed to sell and market products across distribution channels.
What is a PIM solution? A PIM solution is a product management tool that helps companies manage, optimize, and activate product information. A PIM solution is also called PIM software, a PIM system, a PIM tool, or a PIM platform.
A PIM solution is a product management tool that helps brands manage many types of product information, including:
A PIM solution acts as a single source of truth for all types of product data for online and offline product catalogs. Once you enter information into your PIM, it'll be stored there forever.
A PIM solution acts as a single source of truth for all types of product data for online and offline product catalogs.
From your PIM, you can distribute that information to all channels without reentering it manually. Then, when you update product data, that change will be automatically reflected in all channels you choose to link with your PIM solution.
When you adopt a PIM solution, you can integrate product data from all sources, including:
Once you enter product data into your PIM, you can organize it into catalogs or in any way which benefits your distributors and other parties. You can also send data to different channels like ecommerce platforms, marketplaces, print catalogs, or mobile applications.
PIM is sometimes confused with master data management (MDM) tools, data asset management (DAM), and product experience management (PXM) solutions.
However, according to Salsify’s co-founder, Rob Gonzalez, these solutions aren’t the same.
PIM is a subset of MDM. While PIM involves product information, an MDM solution is designed for handling all types of master data in an organization or a business. By master data, it means customer data, product data (price, inventory, stock levels, etc.), location, warranty, and contracts.
The goal of an MDM system is to aggregate all the information a company might have across several departments — like human resources, accounting, and supply chain — into one place.
Pricing and inventory are typical types of data an MDM helps manage.
An MDM solution will ensure that all master data is coordinated accurately and consistently across your business and partners.
A PIM is a central hub of your product information, such as product names, descriptions, and specifications. It’s where anyone in your business can access, update, manage, enrich, and distribute data to different platforms.
Meanwhile, a DAM is where you manage rich media assets like images, videos, and PDFs. It allows you to store a large number of digital assets without worrying about their size and volume.
PIM is a foundational piece of ProductXM. ProductXM focuses on developing a better product experience for customers. It allows you to craft compelling product content and distribute it consistently across all touchpoints.
PIM is a foundational piece of ProductXM.
A ProductXM solution will bring together the core elements brands need to manage, syndicate, and optimize product content across their entire commerce ecosystems — all within one unified platform.
Every product detail page (PDP) experience is different, and the requirements are constantly changing. Retailers are constantly trying to edge each other out and differentiate their experience for shoppers, and they’re rapidly — without notice — changing their requirements.
Consider the number of times each one of these retailers has changed their schemas over the past year, which often equates to multiple times per week. This is a lot of change that brands need to monitor and track.
And even if you’re just managing content for your own direct-to-consumer (D2C) site, the merchandising teams need to constantly adapt and optimize that content for the consumer experience — so it can be a lot to just keep up with your own internal requirements.
And the ones who are able to manage through and respond to these changes faster are going to be the ones who rank higher, drive conversions, and win market share.
More touchpoints plus everchanging retailer requirements equals more people required because there is more data needed to maintain consistency across touchpoints.
Your data lives everywhere and nowhere at the same time — it’s scattered across disconnected systems, teams, and processes.
And if your PIM is only built to store physical shelf content, your business users are going everywhere else for the content they need for the digital shelf, which could include:
IF your PIM is only built to store physical shelf content, your business users are going everywhere else for the content they need.
Where does all this data ultimately get stored? Usually, it ends up in different spreadsheets to meet each channel’s unique requirements. This poses a big problem since your source of truth is based on what the consumer sees.
The accuracy and integrity of the consumer experience that you are responsible for now depends on a spreadsheet maintained downstream where you have no visibility and no audit trail.
These disconnected components cause three core problems: First, Your content is inconsistent. Second, your brand message gets lost. Third, your processes can’t scale to support the requirements of the digital shelf.
Companies that are looking for a simplified, quick, and accurate data management process should implement a PIM solution. There are several important indicators that your organization could benefit from a PIM solution. Ask yourself the following questions:
If you answered “yes” to any of the following, it’s time for a PIM solution. Using the right PIM solution can help simplify your product data management process, your team easily locate accurate data whenever you need it, and your team quickly distribute relevant data across channels from a single place; and more.
By controlling your product data, you can improve product experience, which then increases customer satisfaction and grows your business.
The ideal robust, modern PIM solution can help you get your product data organized, enriched, and distributed seamlessly across channels, including traditional platforms and the digital shelf.
The core benefits of a PIM solution include:
A PIM solution also provides your marketing team with sufficient data about products to produce engaging content that relates to your customers. Your sales teams can also sell more successfully because they can quickly access information about a product whenever a customer asks.
Adopting a PIM solution is the best way for retailers and ecommerce brands to fulfill expectations from consumers. It can help with creating a single source of truth for all your product content.
A PIM solution allows you to solve content quality issues and manage data across channels effectively. It applies multi-channel data modeling that enables you to manage a product’s core data alongside a retailer-specific version of the product, the website version of the product, and more.
These versions of truth are all mapped to one another in a single platform governed by validation rules, auditability, versioning, workflow, and security.
Another benefit of a PIM solution is that it provides automation capabilities to speed up workflows and facilitate collaboration across your departments.
With a PIM solution in place, your teams no longer have to work with disparate data, different datasets, and spreadsheets because they’ll have a single source of truth for data to access whenever they want.
A PIM solution helps ensure that your product data is always consistent and accurate across channels. PIM can also help free you of spreadsheets and distribute product data to third parties quickly — giving you back valuable time.
That said, it’s not easy to choose the right PIM solution. Many factors come into play, such as your current business status, stakeholders’ challenges, the markings of a good PIM solution, and more.
We’ll help make this process easier for you by highlighting some best practices for determining the right PIM for your business and outlining the essential steps for choosing the right PIM solution for your needs.
The first thing you need to do is conduct an analysis and evaluate your current business operations and product data management processes. Consider the following questions to help you build a solid understanding of your business.
Where Do You Use Your Product Data?
Product data could be used across a number of channels, including:
How Complex Is Your Product Data?
The complexity of your product data is determined by a number of factors, including:
What Is Your Goal?
Depending on the maturity of your organization, these goals could include:
What Are Your Future Plans?
Depending on the maturity of your organization, these plans could include:
A PIM business case is a written document, verbal agreement, or presentation that justifies the value of implementing a PIM solution.
With a PIM business case, you will be able to answer the following:
When creating a business case for PIM, you should involve all relevant departments that will work with the PIM solution or be affected by its implementation.
Try to understand how comfortable they are with learning new technologies, what challenges they might face, and what they expect to get from PIM. Think about your marketing, sales, and design team.
Each PIM solution has its own set of features and functionalities. However, a good PIM should offer several important features and capabilities.
A PIM Solution Needs Fast Data Management
Your PIM must enable the right users to make the right updates to the right content at the right time. It should allow you to create multiple versions of the truth, which helps you adapt to changes in consumers’ behaviors, business environment, and business strategies.
A PIM Solution Must Give You Control and Agility
Your PIM should have validation capabilities, fast data imports, user management capabilities, multiple data domains, filtering, and search.
A PIM Solution Must Offer Agile Self-Service Capabilities
Your PIM should be easy to create and update content with confidence and according to the right validation rules.
A PIM Solution Must Give You Actionable Insights
You should have accessibility to sales, marketing, and trade teams, as well as pre-built workflows for common business processes and alerts on internal and external events for real-time response.
A PIM Solution Must Be Multi-Channel
Your data should stay consistent and accurate across channels while adhering to each channel’s unique requirements and best practices.
A PIM Solution Must Offer Excellent Customer Support
Multi-channel customer service and technical support should be available. Your chosen PIM vendor should offer email, phone, live chat, and even a dedicated technical specialist to support you when needed.
Don’t rely on questionnaires or surveys to make a decision. You should ask each vendor for an extensive demo of a working solution and learn about how other brands are leveraging the PIM solution successfully.
This way, you can understand the most important considerations, including:
Request a guided demo and invite stakeholders to watch and then collect their feedback to inform your decision. It’s also helpful to review PIM analyst reports to understand more about core capabilities, integration, user experience (UX), customer service and support, scalability, and other important categories.
The wrong PIM solution can hinder brands — and for brands with an existing PIM solution in place, you may not even realize it’s happening. Consider the following questions about the PIM solution you’re considering or have already implemented.
Does the PIM Solution Offer a Poor User Experience?
If the PIM solution is complicated to use and not user-friendly, it will negatively impact your data. Evaluate your PIM user experience by asking:
Your PIM solution should be a benefit to your business, not a hindrance.
Does the PIM Solution Lack Product Content Activation Capabilities?
The right PIM will offer you product content activation tools, also called product content syndication. These tools are key to building a successful strategy.
For example, retailers are constantly updating their product experiences because they want to differentiate themselves from everyone else. So they update their product requirements every day — sometimes multiple times a day.
This means companies must publish and synchronize product data across all their selling platforms or risk decreased consumer sales and loyalty due to poor experiences.
Evaluate data syndication capabilities by asking:
Are You Receiving Mediocre Governance?
Data governance is the management of data across an organization to ensure the accuracy, consistency, and usefulness of that data.
PIM solutions that support content governance are able to establish restricted controls and different levels of permissions are successful because they’re so versatile and flexible. They can be tailored to fit the needs of many different industries and companies.
By establishing a data-governance foundation, you can systematically and proactively identify gaps or errors, resulting in strong data integrity that flows downstream throughout all systems and processes.
Many brands struggle to enforce their internal rules when publishing to their own website. Ecommerce platforms have very few rules around your content, but this leaves room for mistakes.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Having a model that adapts to the changing market requirements and is agile in its updating processes can be the difference between market success and stagnation.
Evaluate data governance capabilities by asking:
Ecommerce experts recommend six steps for implementing a PIM solution successfully.
While having lots of content in a PIM software is important, more often, it’s the quality of the content that makes a real difference. Creating an extensive database of digital assets can make content more useful and versatile across a variety of scenarios.
Ultimate usability hinges on having information that:
The digital catalog is often described as a digitized version of a print catalog, but it’s more than that. It allows brand manufacturers, their teams, and distributors to have access to up-to-date, accurate product content that’s readily available and it’s easy to use.
Digital catalogs are an incredibly powerful tool for your organization, allowing brands to:
Create custom catalogs on the fly;
Digital catalogs should be a critical tool in your PIM solution.
Usually, when product data is entered into a PIM, the data covers the most basic facts about the product. Data enrichment allows for brands to add a little pizzazz to these products.
This means finding gaps and inconsistencies in product data and updating them for accuracy and relevancy. It helps ensure product data contains the attributes, like product specs, that consumers want.
When you go live with a product page on your site, it can be scary. It gets even scarier when you’re working through a retailer and you don’t have a final view of the information before it goes live.
If you’re responsible for getting content to a particular retailer or merchandising a product line, you want to be positive that when you hit “publish” your content is accurate and up-to-date. A publishing plan will help you accomplish that.
With a publishing plan, you’ll never miss out on things like holiday ecommerce planning. Your PIM should allow you to publish data to ecommerce platforms, social media channels, offline product catalogs, and more.
Some treat product experiences as simple syndication — moving data in spreadsheets or portals across the internet in a set-it-and-forget-it approach. That doesn't work on the digital shelf.
For example, if you have hundreds of products and dozens of distributors, how do you keep up with syndication?
Digital shelf requirements constantly change. Shoppers demand engaging experiences, retailers update requirements, distributors increase digital demands, and your competition isn’t standing still.
To win, you need a PIM solution platform that will allow you to continuously optimize product content to drive engaging product experiences across all of their commerce channels.
Enhanced content refers to product images, graphics, videos, and other types of visuals. By including enhanced content on a product page, you can:
Adopting a PIM solution isn’t an easy business decision since it affects your product data and other departments in your business. Use these tips to determine the right PIM that best suits your business’ needs and objectives.
Request a guided demo of Salsify to learn how our PIM solution could help your team stay ahead of the competition with engaging shopping experiences.