When product files and data are sprawling across your scaling e-commerce business, you know it’s time to invest in a tool that will bring it all together to increase efficiency.
The first challenge is deciding which type of tool you actually need. Master data management systems can provide comprehensive data quality and governance, but might be more than you need for your current goals. Product data management systems can unify information across your business, but are more geared toward engineers than marketers.
For e-commerce marketers, product information management (PIM) solutions can perfectly fill the gap. But once you’ve decided to invest in a PIM system, you still need to decide which type of solution is best for your needs—a best-of-breed system or an e-commerce PIM.
E-commerce PIM Systems—When Niche Isn’t Best
What’s better? Niche expertise or jack-of-all-trades, generalist experience? As marketers, we’re led to trust in the value of niche expertise. Whether you’re hiring a new member of the marketing team or hiring a freelancer for services, niche expertise means you can solve a specific problem in your business.
But when it comes to PIM systems for your e-commerce business, niche may not necessarily be best.
'A CMO's guide to e-commerce success with PIM'
On the surface, an e-commerce PIM system looks like the perfect solution for your data management needs. They’re lightweight, easy to use, cost-effective, and custom-built for the unique challenges of e-commerce product data management.
In the short-term, an e-commerce PIM system will integrate seamlessly in your business. You’ll quickly see increased consistency across internal workflows, which can ultimately improve customer experiences as well. But as time goes on, you may start to feel the impact of investing in a lower-cost, niche PIM system.
If you want to trust an e-commerce PIM system for your business over the long term, you need to meet three specific criteria:
- Single-Channel Selling: e-commerce PIM systems are built to support single-channel use cases. They can unify product information across a web shop and social media, but that’s about all.
- In-House Management: Larger e-commerce businesses that use multiple manufacturers and third-parties for product management won’t get far with a niche PIM system. But if you manage everything in-house, you can take advantage of the lower costs.
- Limited Offerings: While an e-commerce PIM system can certainly unify product data, it will be best-suited for small catalogs that aren’t loaded with constantly-changing data. They fit a sweet spot between an e-commerce business that doesn’t need any PIM system at all and one that is starting to become overwhelmed by data management challenges.
There’s a time and place for e-commerce PIM systems to prove their worth. But don’t let yourself be blinded by attractive price tags and promises of niche features. If you’re focused on scaling your e-commerce business, you’ll quickly outgrow the functionality of a niche PIM system—and that’s where a best-of-breed solution becomes a need rather than a luxury.
Multi-Channel Marketing with Best-of-Breed PIM Systems
One of the most significant limitations of e-commerce PIM systems is their inflexibility. They work well for the most traditional e-commerce scenario but fall flat when it comes to more modern use cases.
This is most apparent with multi-channel marketing. Your e-commerce business no longer lives on a website alone. You sell in print catalogs, brick-and-mortar shops, a webshop, on Amazon, Google Shopping, and publish to platforms e.g. customer and partner portals, mobile apps, social media, newsletters and more. In the name of omnichannel experiences, you have to exist anywhere and everywhere for customers to find your products.
Best-of-breed PIM systems are supporting all of the different formats of your e-commerce platforms and providing access to product data in one central location. And because they’re implemented as standalone systems, you can continuously make upgrades as you scale your business.
When you need to support multi-channel commerce and marketing campaigns, best-of-breed PIM systems provide:
- A single source of product information: best-of-breed pim systems store all product information in one central place where it is kept up-to-date. This means that regardless of who or what needs product information there’s one place to find all relevant information.
- Faster time-to-market: being able to universally update product data, prices, descriptions, pictures and more across all marketing channels at once from one place means a faster time to market.
- Content management across multiple languages: a best-of-breed pim system allows you to manage multiple language layers for use in content across your various channels.
- Personalize communications across customer segments: a best-of-breed pim system allows you to create and manage personalized communication for different customer segments giving the most relevant information to the target audience.
- Multi-channel marketing: with a best-of-breed pim system you are able to distribute your product information across multiple channels both online and offline. Allowing you to use your product information feed in inDesign for print catalogs, on your website, in Google Merchant center, Amazon, product comparison sites and more.
When scale, flexibility, and customization (if needed) are your top priorities, a best-of-breed PIM system will be a better long-term investment than a lightweight e-commerce PIM system. But the reality is that there isn’t a universally right or wrong answer in the decision between e-commerce PIM systems and best-of-breed solutions. You need to focus on your specific needs, long-term goals, and customer experience strategies.
Maximize your e-commerce customer experiences
If you want to learn more about maximizing e-commerce customer experiences with more organized product information, download our free white paper: 'A CMO's guide to e-commerce success with PIM'.