Retail | Product Information Management Systems (part 1 of 2)

By - January 3, 2013


One huge challenge that retailers of complex products face on a day to day basis is how to deal with the multitude of product “attributes” that products contain. In industries such as fashion, jewelry, and electronics, products need not only the typical size/color/style dimensionality that identifies it as a SKU that can be tracked in an ERP, WMS, and financial accounting system…but there are a litany of other attributes that those systems just don’t care about. For example, how many accent stones does the engagement ring have? Is the TV “EnergyStar” compliant?  What type of material is the toe box of the shoe made of?

Often times these things don’t have a home and end up being tracked in separate databases, home-grown systems, or end up being shoehorned into existing systems in fields where they were never meant to be placed. The problem is that this information is needed, in some form or fashion, in almost every part of the organization. Marketing and Sales need the information to create catalogs, datasheets, and presentations. Sourcing and operations need the information to communicate effectively with suppliers and workers…also to do trend analyses, forecast sales for new products, and determine from where the next winner will come. Further, the types of attributes that are needed may be different per department. While the warehouse is interested in details relevant to packaging the final shipment, the marketing department may need to know what specific shade of fuchsia of the product is.

Product Information Management solutions are often the missing link in the multi-channel architecture which enable customers to create “One Source of Truth for all Product Information.”  Sometimes, they are stand-alone systems, or other times they are advanced modules within larger ERP solutions. However, consider this: companies implementing PIM typically see substantial improvements in data quality, increased internal collaboration, reduced time to market, more efficient use of marketing and product management resources, and less redundancy across the enterprise. It is worthwhile to really spend the time to understand the capabilities of a potential PIM system, and determine, from a cross-functional fit standpoint, the exact requirements for your company.

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