Why PIM-less e-commerce is too expensive and does not make anyone happy

Any online-shop project without a decent PIM system poses a huge risk, because excellent product data and flawless interface function are the keys to success.

In e-commerce projects, we are constantly faced with the issue of customers not having a PIM system (Product Information Management System). Product data often only exists in fragments – in different systems and in various formats. And when, at the start of a project, it’s time to plan project expenses and duration, the result is usually a feeling of astonishment. Many customers are surprised by the large figure for system interfaces and data integration. But it is precisely this investment that is of crucial importance, because excellent, well-managed product data and flawlessly functioning interfaces are the key to any online shop’s success.

Say goodbye to unnecessary risks when managing product data

As a service provider, we enter uncharted territory when dealing with companies which do not have a PIM system. This is the riskiest part of the e-commerce project. The customers themselves often have no clue what lies in the abysses of their systems. Whether it be an ERP system dotted with special fields or diverse Excel marketing spreadsheets managing numerous product texts for the web, it is only when the customer and service provider start searching together that they discover the great depths of data management and handling. At this point, every customer should realise that it is worth investing a decent buck in integrating product data, and thus tackling the root of the problem, in order to ultimately carry out a faster, cheaper, more streamlined e-commerce project.

The PIM system as the ideal aggregator for all product data

What is the difference between PIM-less and PIM-based e-commerce projects? The biggest difference lies in the number of interfaces to the online shop. Without a decent PIM system, data is often fed into the shop from various sources, usually without sorting, cleaning or filtering. Collating extensive data from many different systems in the online shop is very time-consuming and susceptible to error in itself. A PIM system prevents this problem, as the online shop is assisted by a strong partner who feeds it all product data through just one interface. This minimises the process, rather than the previous rigmarole of hunting high and low for the latest product data and identifying the responsible managers, who then had to laboriously gather all the relevant product data. The PIM system is the “Single Point of Truth”, doing away with the need to waste time and effort looking for and collecting product data (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Product data flow for PIM-less and PIM-based e-commerce

Another important aspect of PIM-based e-commerce is the fact that the online shop is separate from the product management processes. The platform for product management, translations, texts, photography and much more is located in the PIM system, taking a great strain off the online shop, which is not optimised for these processes. A customised PIM system provides standardised interfaces, data mapping, matching and merging functions, and workflow functions to adjust data and plugins for shop systems to access all available product data. In a PIM system such as the one offered by Contentserv, the product data can be provided to an e-commerce system like Shopware using a standardised plugin following successful data integration. Faster, more streamlined product data management is thus a clear aspect in favour of PIM-based e-commerce (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Characterisation of PIM-less and PIM-based e-commerce

Reducing all project costs by introducing the PIM system

Any customer yet to adopt a PIM system but who wants to get started in e-commerce initially needs to tackle the challenge of managing their own data – whether it be for their own online shop or for sales via online marketplaces. In addition to significantly reduced expense, a customised PIM system enables a fast time-to-market and saves costs through flexible options for publication on all online and offline touchpoints. If I, as a customer, find a service provider who not only offers me a new or optimised e-commerce platform, but also sets up my PIM system beforehand, at least 50% of the costs for this will be paid using the savings from the e-commerce project; in other words, half can be refinanced (see Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Diagram of the proportionate saving potential achieved by having a PIM system in an e-commerce project

A suitable PIM system means satisfaction for all stakeholders

A customised solution not only makes end customers happy (since they can enjoy extensive, personalised product information), but also the staff who are constantly working with all kinds of product information and the challenges of data integration. Once the suitable PIM system has been set up, product and e-commerce managers can each offer specialised software which maximises their strengths precisely where these are needed: the PIM system to manage product lifecycles and the e-commerce platform for all marketing and sales activities.

PIM-based e-commerce is faster and more streamlined

A PIM system can help tremendously to reduce expense and risk by acting as the ideal aggregator for all of the online shop’s interfaces. PIM-less e-commerce often overloads the shop system with product data from all kinds of systems and functions which would be better handled by a PIM system. E-commerce operators without PIM systems end up wasting both money and time over the long term, and also increase the risk of all their e-commerce activities. While the first launch of the e-commerce activities may be faster, these activities will lack a reliable basis if they do not have solid systems and processes in the background, because inefficient, error-prone processes impede the desired rapid growth. PIM-based e-commerce is essential for anyone wanting to be successfully equipped for the digital future. Only by correctly managing product information using a PIM system is it possible to lay a solid basis and optimum foundation to unlock all digital sales channels and successfully pursue Connected Commerce at all touchpoints over the long term.

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