Product information is the driver behind many industries. Especially in this age of technology-assisted data collection, that information can provide valuable insights and fuel business success. Product Information Management (PIM) systems connect the dots. They play a valuable role in storing and organizing data as well as drawing insights from that information.
The information collected by a PIM system is critical business data. As such, protecting the integrity of that data is paramount. You need to be able to depend on the accuracy and consistency of the information.
Sometimes, you will have to put a lot of effort into describing your products and include exactly the right images. Why would you give third-party product suppliers access to that data or the ability to write to that information bank? Generally speaking, giving anyone outside your company access to your PIM system is a bad idea. Accuracy can be a real issue and consistency is another. Other times, the product data from suppliers is simply not of a sufficiently high quality to be allowed into the system. This is especially so if you have an online store, where your product data is automatically exposed to your customers.
You can build a reputation on your company’s data. Take Amazon for instance. “When it comes to product discovery, Amazon’s content is addictive for consumers,” explains Forrester in its report "Polishing Up Your Products — Why PIM Really Matters." “One-quarter of all online consumers who bought consumer electronics in the past three months start their research on Amazon, versus 7 percent at physical stores, 11 percent on a retailer’s website, 5 percent on a manufacturer’s website and 12 percent on a search engine.” People might not always buy on Amazon, but the site is getting more traffic because people trust its product data.
To establish a similar reputation for your business, data discipline is of the essence. You need to spend time organizing your product information and storing it in your PIM system as well as standardizing the information you collect about your products and validating the information you receive from your suppliers. Product color may seem straightforward, but what if one product comes in a range of multiple and interchangeable colors? How can you ensure that the correct data for each color is updated in the correct data fields between data from the supplier and the PIM system? If you have a good data structure, it becomes easier to map data fields between multiple data sources. However, keep in mind that the more complex your data, the more complex – and, therefore, more time-consuming -– your task of validating data received from the supplier becomes.
Protecting your PIM system
The best answer is to use an interim instance between your company and your suppliers’ product data. Making sure you only receive valid data. A supplier portal acts as the no-man's-land between your supplier and your PIM system, while giving you the flexibility you need. Your suppliers upload their product data into the portal and the portal takes care of storing the correct data in the correct data fields. This ensures the integrity of your data with minimal input from you – helping to save you time and, by extension, money.