Giving customers easy access to the right product and parts information when they need it will maximise sales and profits. However, understanding which systems to deploy that help complete the sales process is a key decision for manufacturers, their distributors and dealers.

Having multiple product lines, enticing descriptions and stunning imagery is only half the story for marketers; effective Product Information Management (PIM) is vital to deliver consistent data that enables customers to make buying decisions.

Many international businesses operate complex IT infrastructures, often across different countries, utilising multiple systems, with end data distributed and delivered in numerous languages.

An ever-changing digital landscape

A few years ago, the promotional element of the marketing mix was driven by long-standing traditional techniques, such as newspaper adverts, printed catalogues and point-of-sale displays. The information collated to create these sales avenues soon dated and became obsolete.

Then the digital revolution grabbed commerce by the scruff of the neck and ecommerce became the norm. Suddenly companies had new tools with which to get their goods to market. Exciting new product lines, upgraded models and must-have add-ons were offered to customers via the Internet alongside other sales channels.

With technology came fresh challenges. There was no place to hide, certainly no room for old images, out-of-date offers or inaccurate product information. If potential customers couldn’t find what they wanted, clicked a link with invalid data, or became confused by conflicting sources of information, they went elsewhere. Sale lost!

Epitomy Solutions has listened to countless clients who have been searching for the right solution to coordinate their product data. As enhanced hardware offerings have come to market, complex software solutions developed and faster data connections made available, getting all aspects of any given business to communicate efficiently and in real time has become problematic.

A centralised data solution

Product Information Management (PIM) addresses the core issues faced by companies who seek to sell products through a range of sales channels. This often involves collecting data from stand-alone systems, often created and stored in varying formats, verifying uploads and integrating several streams of information.

Designs, schematics and technical images might come from one source; detailed product descriptions and marketing content from another; while freight costs and pricing information could arrive from numerous supplier sources.

A central set of product data can be used to feed information to media such as online sales websites, traditional printed catalogues, other internal business systems and processes, and beyond to partners’ networks.

For [organisations], regular maintenance and modification of product information is essential to remain innovative, relevant and competitive.

PIM solutions are ideal for firms within manufacturing, core retail and consumer goods markets. Deciding to embrace such solutions could involve many factors, often driven by a need to consolidate information most efficiently to enable continued business growth as more products are added to the company portfolio.

Following mergers and acquisitions, firms with fragmented, non-uniform IT infrastructures need to establish trusted communication channels for a wide array of products, usually with frequently changing characteristics. Those updates must be quickly validated, repopulated across multiple systems and returned to customers as they demand the information.

Online businesses rarely close to customers. Products are electronically ordered, replenished and sold every day of the year. For such organisations, regular maintenance and modification of product information is essential to remain innovative, relevant and competitive.

Empowering your workforce

Getting key information updated as design, material or price changes occur extends the life of products and, ultimately, increases the return on investment. This relies upon speed and accuracy, and equipping all levels of the business with intuitive dashboards to gather and analyse product data generated over time, then implement ongoing changes.

As such, usability for employees across the organisation and at linked partner and vendor sites is of paramount importance when creating a PIM solution. Users at all stages of the business must be able to locate the information they need to make positive contributions to the selling process. Having members of staff constantly checking, editing, inputting and uploading data doesn’t make sense. That’s time consuming and prone to errors, no matter how careful people are.

Systems should be automated, with appropriate safeguards and conditions built in to alert administrators when manual intervention is required. With the right flags, rules and filters this should see minimal time spent, and fewer errors made.

Where changes and sign-off is required to release new product information, PIM workflows ensure that required delegates are kept informed. There is quick and easy accountability. The right changes are made, at the right time.

Properly designed Product Information Systems, coupled with the right front-end eCommerce solutions, will allow businesses to reach their customers first time, every time.