5 Product Information Management Best Practices for eCommerce Success
Content can make or break your eCommerce site.
You already know that the customer experience is everything in sales. Offer a positive experience for your customer, and they’ll come back for more. Offer anything less, and you won’t just lose sales-- you might end up with negative reviews that impact your bottom line.
What separates a brick-and-mortar store from an online storefront is the in-person experience. In a store, customers can touch, hold, and see the product. Then, based on this and the packaging and the brand experience they have in store, they decide whether to purchase that product.
But when a customer is online, the only information they have is the content that you provide them. Your content is their eyes and ears. That’s why it’s crucial to deliver the highest quality content any time your customer interacts with your brand.
While many companies understand the importance of quality content, the difficulty is in coordinating, sourcing, producing, enriching, and distributing it efficiently, especially across dozens (or hundreds) of products.
What is a PIM, and How Can it Help Streamline Your Content?
PIM systems are multichannel solutions that allow you to manage all your product content in a single, cloud-based platform.
At the most basic level, a PIM solution is designed to streamline content production, enrichment, and syndication, therefore drastically reducing the time (and resources) spent manually managing product information. For example, you can set up your PIM to pull data from internal business systems and automatically populate fields like dimensions, weight, color, product name, etc., so that your information is complete and up-to-date wherever you publish it.
This is especially important if you want to keep your content uncluttered and you want to actively categorize your products extensively. If you’re a retailer receiving the same item from different vendors, your retail PIM solution can help keep the customer-facing information consistent on your website, while the items will be separate entities in your business or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, to help you keep track of suppliers and their differing costs. Or you may also offer the same product with the option to ship from multiple shippers.
One way this is made possible with a PIM is by way of attributes. Where one supplier might include the attribute “Available for Expedited Shipping,” another might use the attribute “QuickShip Enabled.” Good PIM solutions will be able to recognize and standardize these into a single attribute that can be repeated and mapped out throughout your sales channels with your preferred output.
Similarly, if your brand is listing products on a variety of sites, a strong PIM for manufacturers can map your product content to meet their standards for language, attributes, and more. You might also be able to take advantage of optimizing titles and descriptions based on the specific sales channels you utilize. To give one example, you may be able to create an optimized title to rank your product more highly based on the Amazon algorithm.
Having a single source of information is essential to team efficiency and to create a consistent customer experience. With one source instead of several, teams can easily keep track of the most up-to-date information across product lines, digital commerce channels, and more.
Whether you’re interested in learning more about PIM systems prior to investing in one or you already have one and want to use it to its full potential and functionality, here are 5 best practices to get the best value out of your PIM for eCommerce success.
#1: Integrate Your ERP with Sales Channels
Connecting your various sales channels is essential to creating consistency across your product information, which is helpful both to your team and your customer experience. Doing so allows you to synchronize key data points wherever you sell, thereby reducing repetitive manual entry between your platforms and keeping the information between them updated in near real-time.
For example, you can import product information directly from your ERP into your PIM, allowing you to quickly and efficiently source data. A business or ERP Business System integration provides the ability to automatically update that information when product details are updated in your business system.
On the other side, sales channel integrations ensure that the most up-to-date product content is available on your digital commerce platforms. With integrated PIM software, you can publish content directly to your eCommerce platform and marketplace listings or send it to your etail/retail partners. And just like business or ERP system updates, updates within the PIM system can be automatically disseminated to your sales channels or set up for review by members of your content team prior to broadcasting changes.
#2: Create Unique Product Lifecycles and Optimize Accordingly
Using product lifecycles, you can customize how your team prepares content depending on your channels, product categories, and so on.
Are you introducing a new product to your catalog within a tight deadline? You can start by sourcing the best, most up-to-date information on the product either by integrating with your business or ERP system (or sales channel of your choice), uploading supplier files, or working directly with suppliers.
Either way, the information will be efficiently imported into the system, and your product data will automatically “map” to different fields to meet channel requirements. When you publish, the right information will go to each channel, in the ideal format. This saves your team the time required for manual entry and reduces the potential of human error.
The best PIM solutions also offer the ability to see where a product’s content readiness stands at a glance with easy-to-read progress bars. You can customize this based on what content needs to be broadcasted according to your brand and channel standards (and compliance) before rolling out the product information. This way, you can be confident that the PIM’s validation checks will not let any product information reach the publishing stage before it’s ready.
#3: Set Roles for Different Team Users, Including Suppliers
Using a PIM opens the door to smoother content collaboration. For example, you can set up custom workflows to alert each team member throughout the content development process according to their roles.
Coordination is key, especially when you’re working with graphic designers, digital marketers, consultants, and copywriters, all contributing something to your content. It’s crucial to make sure the right person has access to the right content at the right time. Plus, with user configurations, you can give collaborators the tools they need to update, upload, or create content, while limiting their visibility and editing abilities to the products they’re responsible for.
Since your product information may come from suppliers, you have the option to configure access for your suppliers to update the data directly in your PIM. They can manually update the information or upload supplier files that the PIM will standardize, based on the criteria you set, before populating your channels.
#4: Enrich Your Content to Improve the Customer Experience
A PIM also functions as a central repository for cloud-based digital asset management where you can easily add and update your rich product media.
Presenting the highest-quality rich product content to your customer is essential for helping the customer experience and for reliably making sales, even if the customer can’t see the item in person. You can take advantage of adding videos to your products that can, for example, include someone using the product or someone showing the customer how to use it.
You can also incorporate 360-degree product views, GIFs, PDFs, branded content, and more, with some PIM systems even enabling you to map SKU-specific media according to the product line associated with it.
#5: Localize Product Information for a Better Buying Experience
Just because you’re selling online, doesn’t mean you can get rid of the “Location, location, location!” mentality. Because online shopping sites cater to much larger audiences, they also reach more diverse regions, crossing borders and languages with ease. To connect with consumers in many locales, you need your product content to, quite literally, speak their language.
Within a PIM system, you’re able to configure the visible content based on each channel’s target region and audience to present the most appropriate information at any time, in the most appropriate language. In fact, some PIMs can translate information to more than 60 languages without altering the content. This helps your business refrain from alienating potential customers, improving your brand experience and your customer satisfaction.
Are You Getting the Most Out of Your PIM?
Streamlining (or selecting) your PIM solution should come down to what your business prioritizes. Whether that’s integrating with your sales channels, creating product lifecycles, setting roles, enriching your content, or localizing product information, a PIM is designed to help with all this and more. If you’re looking to invest in the right PIM or interested in learning more about integrating or getting the best value and functionality from your PIM (or other eCommerce solution), please feel free to contact us today.
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About the Author: Steve Norris is the VP of Pre-Sales Engineering, Supply Chain Collaboration, at TrueCommerce. He is responsible for helping engineer solutions that allow small to enterprise businesses more efficiently and effectively collaborate with their supply chain partners and expand their sales channels. With over 15 years of supply chain experience ranging from consulting to sales, Steve helps organizations looking to achieve growth and profitability through providing solutions that allow seamless connectivity to customers, suppliers, channels, and systems.