Perfion Blog

What's the Difference Between PIM and MDM — And Why Should You Care?


Business has shifted, rapidly moving towards the fast-paced, online world. Within a summary of projected sales, conducted by eMarketer, it was estimated that by 2020, retail eCommerce sales will increase to $4.058 trillion.

Although once viewed as a Fortune 500 company's luxury, PIM (product information management) systems are now catching the attention of business owners and managers. After all, spreadsheets aren't always the most reliable or productive resource in terms of storing up-to-date product information.

If you've been looking into PIM options, you may have uncovered another term, MDM (master data management). What's the difference, and which is right for you?

'5 Crucial Questions You Need to Answer Before Choosing a PIM System''5 Crucial Questions You Need to Answer Before Choosing a PIM System' 

Download guide

The Difference Between PIM and MDM

A PIM system handles product information. An MDM system handles all data in the company. A PIM system is a marketing tool to create and maintain product information for various channels. An MDM system does not only handle product information, but relates to all domains within a company, including information about employees, customers, etc.

Before we dive into why you need either of these systems, it's important to define them. In order to do so, we'll need to press the rewind button, heading back to the late 1990s, when the internet began to take the world by storm. 

For those companies that dealt with large volumes, getting their products out there was difficult. These businesses found it challenging to effectively release product information across varying channels, which is necessary to deliver a consistent and well-formatted message across the board.

This is when PIM came into play. Being an effective marketing tool, it became possible to both create and maintain product information, before sharing that content across various media streams, including print and online resources.

Like anything new, there were disadvantages, which have since been rectified. Initially, the most concerning issue was the possibility of overlapping attributes in terms of various individual records, resulting in mismatched information.

For instance, a customer may see one set of criteria for a product, but the financial team could see another. You can imagine how this would be frustrating — both for the consumer and the businesses involved. After further analysis, it was clear that the integrations between stand-alone applications were weak.

PIM with MDM functionality

This is when MDM systems were created, offering a new approach. Within this system, a single source of data will be referenced, regardless of who is accessing the information. Where this system differs, however, is that it's not solely based on product information — it relates to all domains within a company, including information about employees, customers, vendors, etc.

In today's world, these two systems can certainly overlap. In some cases, businesses may begin with a PIM objective, before incorporating an MDM strategy. With that being said, over the past decade, PIM systems have evolved to be much more efficient –  many even come with MDM functionality. Today, PIM also considers the back-end of a business, ensuring that only a single view of a product exists within a business.

Which Is Right for My Business?

In this day and age, you need to juggle multiple channels, affiliate programs, social media, the list goes on. At the end of the day, if you're selling products, then one of these systems will help your efforts and allow you to reach your objectives.

When deciding on PIM or MDM systems, there are a number of considerations to take into account, and as mentioned above, it's not always a case of one or the other. Overall, you need to be conscious of your specific goals — so, ask yourself, what is it that you're trying to achieve?

In regards to PIM, this system focuses on a specific capability in terms of product information. If you're looking to market your products or add relevant product information to eCommerce sites, allowing for greater usability — this is likely your best starting point.

You can also use this system to enhance smartphone apps, factsheets, pricelists, POS material, InDesign catalogs, and much more. When implementing a modern PIM system, you can enhance efficiency and cooperation between product development and marketing, as well as marketing and sales.

Shut down decentralized systems

From an IT perspective, a PIM will also make it possible to shut down many of the decentralized systems currently in use. Depending on your objectives, if you're a small to medium company, PIM systems are ideal, and can now streamline entire businesses.

In comparison, for companies that want to organize all relevant back-end data, MDM is a good solution. This will increase data control, making it easy to build new concepts and even new businesses based on operational excellence. MDM strategies benefit companies especially in terms of problem solving. You can do a lot with an MDM system, but it will also cost a lot more.

However, before investing in a full MDM solution a recommendable first step would be to find out if the MDM functionality that PIM-systems like Perfion PIM come with actually covers your needs.

Before making a decision, know what it is you want to achieve and, based on your goals, take appropriate action.

5 crucial questions you need to answer before choosing a PIM systemLearn more about what to look for in a PIM system

Download our guide:

'5 Crucial Questions You Need to Answer Before Choosing a PIM System'
Download guide