Is My Catalog Too Small to Consider a PIM Solution?
It may seem daunting as a small commerce company when giants like Amazon and Walmart seem to be growing ever savvier in the digital sales space. Whether your catalog consists of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of products, one way that you can set yourself up for success is by making sure you have complete, consistent, and accurate product information across all of the channels that your company uses.
The best way to accomplish this is to use a Product Information Management (PIM) system to maintain your data. However, you might say, "My catalog is small enough to manage manually." That’s a fair point. When your catalog is small (<1,000 SKUs) there are many situations where a small team within a company can credibly manage your product data without a PIM. And when we run into clients like this, our first question is "Why do you think you need a PIM?" Let’s explore the situations where it still pays to play PIM.
Diverse Data Sources
Having a smaller catalog doesn’t always keep things easy. If the data that makes up your products comes from a dozen sources, it will still be a pain to manage. Suppose you’re a specialty food manufacturer. Each one of your products could contain 20 ingredients. Each with its own nutritional information, country of origin, allergy warnings, etc. Maybe each ingredient comes from a different producer or, even worse, your suppliers change each season. When the source of your ingredients changes, much of your data will change along with it.
Having a well-architected PIM with structures to handle this complexity will be a lifesaver, even for a small catalog. In this instance, a PIM would help by having a robust framework for your catalog, which you can use to organize and consolidate all your data from varied sources. It will also match, merge, and potentially fill missing information records, keeping your data up-to-date and accurate in a data repository.
Syndication with PIM
A second benefit of a PIM is it allows you to manage many downstream consumers of your product data. A PIM can become indispensable for anything beyond two channels (destinations for where your data will be seen by the consumer). Just imagine if you’re selling products with Amazon, your personal website, and a print catalog. Each one of those marketplaces has its own requirements for the product information they need. Those needs can change regularly, forcing you to respond quickly if you want your products to remain available.
Automatically authoring a tailored data feed for all your customers will save countless hours and headaches that normally come along with trying to reliably deliver the quality data that your customers should expect.
One of the toughest challenges with wrangling your data outside of a PIM is maintaining data quality and data consistency. Manually keeping track of what data is good, bad, and ugly can be an incredibly draining and frustrating experience. One of the key capabilities any PIM offers is robust Data Governance. The PIM gives you the ability to control how data gets transformed. You control how it comes into the PIM and are able to conform that data to a structure of families/classes, attributes, taxonomy, and hierarchy.
A PIM will make it easy for you to define the structure of your data. On large PIM migrations, the first step is to always focus on a small subset of data first. When you have a small catalog, it’s easier to break products down in ways that are much more manageable. You can then use this break down to form a foundation for any future products that come into your catalog. Having the foundation of a strong catalog structure is the core difference between successful and unsuccessful PIM implementations. It’s called the foundation for a reason. As your product catalog is built up, the foundation will be there to stop it from crumbling back into chaos and disarray.
To put it another way, Data Management is a journey. You will always be iterating on your product information. As your company’s commerce presence grows, your PIM structure can grow, change, and adapt as well. The PIM should serve the needs of your company and not the other way around.
Manage the Product Data Workflow
Now, imagine you’re the person responsible for keeping this data circus on the rails. You throw in several departments that have a stake in the data and are responsible for different parts of the data picture. How are you going to coordinate and track the status of products in various states of its completeness? How are you going to track the chain of ownership for product data across the organization?
Managing the workflow of product data is another area where a PIM can shine. PIM workflows allow you to coordinate and track the status of products as they move through various states accurately and efficiently — keeping the data organized and everyone on task. Through workflows you can map out the tasks that need to be completed and who is responsible, ultimately allowing you to track the chain of ownership for your product data.
What About if I Have a Larger Product Catalog?
Just because you have a larger catalog doesn’t mean you’ve lost your chance to hop on the PIM train. It’s often true that the larger your catalog gets the more complex it becomes. This added complexity can make it more difficult to start effectively using the PIM. Because your catalog is bigger, it will take more effort than a smaller company to onboard the PIM. However, with your ever-expanding catalog, you’ll be thankful you invested the time now rather than waiting until you’ve expanded the catalog even further by adding next season’s products into your system!
Never Too Early or Late to Get Started
It’s never too early or late to start importing your product data into a PIM system. The PIM will allow you more time to do the things that you actually care about with your business. It will save you money that would otherwise be put toward managing disorganized product data. Plus, the advantages of increased completeness, consistency, and accuracy of your product data will set a powerful foundation for your growing business in an ever-competitive online world.
The barrier to entry has never been lower and there are many PIM platforms to choose from (Akeneo, Enterworks, and InRiver, just to name a few). You can even get started with an Akeneo open source Community Edition without paying for a license. It’s a great PIM and has a vibrant community around it to help support you in your product data journey. You just install it on a server or PC and you’re up and running to start laying the groundwork for your own PIM. As we often say, the most important thing you can do is to just GET STARTED!