Common problems plague all ecommerce store owners. Your product data is your holy grail - without it, you can't run your business. Inaccurate or poorly managed product data can cause a frustrating customer experience, wasted resource and time on behalf of your ecommerce team, and more importantly, costs you and your business money.
But in reality, there are ways to better manage your product data, ensure a consistent, high quality user experience no matter how many products or sites you have, and ultimately save your business time and money; and one of those ways is PIM.
The right PIM is a massive time and money saver as it can provide you with the following:
- A central source of truth for all your product data
- Management for your digital assets
- A vastly decreased time to market (imagine putting a new product live in two hours, rather than two weeks)
- The tightest level of control over the product, from cradle to grave
- Huge reduction in redundant communication within your team
But does your Shopify store need a PIM? Let's explore.
What is PIM?
PIM stands for Product Information Management. It's just a fancy way of saying a piece of software that can help you manage and edit your product data, and push it to your various different sales channels, be they Shopify, Woocommerce, eBay, Amazon, etc.
Often most people who really need a PIM don't know that such a thing exists. However there are common scenarios that huge numbers o businesses find themselves in that can be easily solved by PIM.
Let's say you have three Shopify stores - a US, a UK and a German store. You also sell on Amazon, and on Google Shopping. You've got a few options on how to manage this, but this is how it usually goes:
- Disjointed product data across the UK, US and German stores - errors and mistakes in spelling, translations, etc that nobody picks up on
- A feed going to Google Shopping from Shopify, that only includes the Shopify product title, and doesn't allow you any option for optimisation, increasing your CPC
- A feed going to Amazon from Shopify, again without the ability to specifically edit certain fields which allow you to optimise and rank better
As well as providing a central source of truth for your product data, meaning you have consistency across as many different stores as you need, you can also store as many different attributes as you need and map them specifically to where you want them to go. That takes you from being stunted by having product titles like this:
Shopify title: Grey and White Cat Tree
(which gets pushed to Google Shopping, Amazon, etc as you can't edit this in your feed management plugin)
to having product data like this:
Shopify title: Grey and White Cat Tree
Google Shopping title: Cat Tree Scratcher Activity Play Centre - Grey and White
Amazon title: Cat Tree, 145cm Cat Scratch Posts Multi-Level Stable Cat Climbing Tower Cat Activity Trees with Ladder, Indoor Pet Activity Furniture Play House for Kitty Kitten
Obviously you'd never use the Amazon title on your website as it'd look silly, but conversely you couldn't use your Shopify title (no matter what language you used it in) on Amazon as it'd just never rank.
This is where most business owners start to get excited, as it allows you not only to keep all your data in one place and manage it better, but it also provides you with the power and flexibility to keep almost any conceivable data against the product, and tailor this data to your specific marketing channels.
It's not just about product data
We've only really spoken so far about your product data - titles, descriptions, sizes, etc. But what about assets like images, videos, GIFs, etc?
The way most brands generally manage their assets is either Dropbox or Google Drive. This, in all honesty, is a really frustrating experience for everyone involved, for a lot of reasons. Firstly, you've separated the asset and the product data - the product data's source of truth is either a spreadsheet or the website itself, and the product assets' source of truth is a folder somewhere on the internet. And if you want to find the image, you need to go searching through a folder which for most businesses, is likely to be hundreds of gigabytes if not more, and this quickly becomes unmanagable.
The other option is to use a DAM (digital asset management) tool - which is slightly better as it allows for better cataloguing of all your assets, and some will allow you to put a certain type of naming convention in place, but this still presents problems including fragmented data, difficulty in finding specific images, etc.
When we're talking about product assets, a DAM, be it as simple as Dropbox or as complex as a specific DAM service, on it's own it's kind of pointless. For it to have any operational benefit to your business, it needs to be paired with your product data, and this is what a PIM will do.
Things to consider
Ultimately, whenever you introduce a new way of working into a business, you're going to experience friction. This goes for anything and everything - new software, new operational methods, even staff changes - and implementing a PIM is no exception.
Implementing a PIM is a significant conceptual change for most brands. They've gone from accepting that having fragmented product data is just how things work, and therefore they've developed workarounds and systems for managing this. A PIM will strip all of this away and make it as simple as possible - anything related to product data is stored and edited in one place and one place only. People aren't used to this, however, and this is where teething problems can come in.
Therefore, in your first few weeks of using the PIM, you may experience some challenges; it's almost guaranteed that someone under time pressure to get something done is going to revert to the old way of doing things. This usually involves doing things in Shopify rather than doing them in the PIM - maybe uploading an image, or pushing a feed to Google Shopping or Amazon. What happens then is when someone does do it right, they overwrite the data that was put there by the person who did it wrong - leading to conversations like "the PIM doesn't work" or even worse "Shopify is easier to use so we're going to use that instead".
Fundamentally this is where PIM needs to spur a new way of thinking within your brand. You're not working in Shopify any more - you're working in the PIM, and while the initial few weeks of getting to know the PIM might pose some challenges, once you're used to it, you will realise how much slicker it is, how much more accurate it is and how much time you will save.
Why shouldn't I implement PIM myself?
You've read all the above and you're thinking "great - let's get started!" Slow down. As we've mentioned this is a mindset shift, and with a business mindset shift comes challenges.
For example, you need to think of the resource involved in migrating your data from wherever it is now into the PIM. Most PIMs will need the data formatted in a certain way, and there's likely to be a certain element of data cleanup involved before you can even begin to feed the PIM with data.
This might seem like a relatively simple, data entry task, but it isn't. What inevitably happens is someone gets tasked with this, but it either takes away from the day-to-day of their job, and they miss out on other important things related to their role, or worse, the PIM is relegated to a lower priority as there are other, more important things that need to get done right now.
As a result, the data never gets cleansed properly, the PIM goes live and people are frustrated and confused because product data doesn't look right - so the project gets abandoned. You also won't get much help from the PIM provider themselves, as the vast majority simply won't touch your data.
This is why you should get a partner to look after your PIM integration.
A partner will know both Shopify and the chosen PIM system inside and out. They'll have the resource and the knowledge to fully cleanse and test product data before it even touches the PIM. This ensures you never fall into the GIGO trap (Garbage In, Garbage Out) - the system is being fed with correct, accurate data from the beginning.
Additionally employing a partner to implement your PIM system will free up your staff to do more important things - like running your business. They'll also fully manage training and support - so that your staff can hit the ground running having been fully trained and armed with documentation - rather than fumbling around on their own trying to teach themselves how to do certain things.
Let's Drive Digital are an experienced Plytix PIM implementation partner. We work only with Plytix and Shopify, so we're experts in the data migration, cleansing and integration. If you want to chat with us about your PIM implementation project, click the link below to find out more about what we offer.