AI in Retail

Understanding Product Information in Retail6 min read

July 4, 2019 5 min read

Understanding Product Information in Retail6 min read

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Retail business the world over continues to evolve at a rapid pace with trends that evolve almost in a viral fashion.  With generational differences in consumer behavior and purchasing preferences, social marketing, and digital buying have come to play a significant role in retail sales. Businesses have engaged in omnichannel retailing to capture and convert leads into sales.

With so many ways to engage a customer on so many different platforms, retailers need to provide best-in-class information that is complete, accurate, and consistent across all channels and engaging enough to convert to a sale.

Using Product Information Management (PIM) is significant in achieving all of this.

Source: Shutterstock

What Is PIM?

A PIM gives you a convenient single-point system for all product information storage-cum-retrieval. As a retailer with a growing catalog of products and multiple channels for sales and distribution, you will find a PIM system indispensable, with the centralized cataloging capabilities it provides.  It allows for efficient product information and product management. You can store and update products by Category, SKU, while taking into account SKU attributes such as colors/sizes, pricing, product features, photos/images or videos, regional attributes/languages, marketing, and SEO data, upsell or cross-sell. It allows you to automate the process of catalog creation and consistent updates  across multiple channels.

In case you already have an overall system that organizes and connects various parts and processes of a business like an ERP system, you can integrate a PIM system, which essentially is a subset of an ERP, to focus primarily on enabling you to manage, market, and sell your products. 

Why Should You Invest In A PIM System?

Having a good PIM system is key to realizing business goals such as growth in sales, expansion to untapped markets and segments, targeted customization of product offerings for localization and get to market quickly.

When retailers use legacy systems that don’t communicate with each other, it amounts in bigger obstacles like data duplication, inaccurate product information and inconsistent customer service and experience. With an increase in the amount of SKUs, attributes, sales channels and data required, Wanelo was one of the first few fashion retailers who had to grapple with explosive growth in the business. Realizing that being quick to market, accurate and consistent across all channels was key to success. They invested in resources to help build their own PIM to stay above turbulence and built a hugely successful e-commerce retail business.

What Are The PIM Tools?

PIM tools enable businesses with content and catalog management, data management, and publishing for multichannel sales. They play a useful role in enabling you to consolidate and standardize product information that is accessed by many functions such as marketing and sales, brand managers, suppliers, e-commerce managers, distributors, etc.

PIM tools ease cross-functional team collaboration, ability to create and maintain updated catalog information in a dramatically simplified way across various channels.  These channels could be online marketplaces, e-commerce, in-store sales, print catalogs and so on. Often, each of these channels may have different data-set requirements. With PIM tools, you can achieve product data syndication across channels.

An effective PIM system enables retailers to achieve data integrity, as well as save and distribute product data without cumbersome, manual intervention.


Retailers wedded to data implement a Master Data Management (MDM) system that improves and maintains top-quality data across several processes whereas a PIM system uses tools that specifies flow and accurate representation of product information across several distribution channels. MDMs are also a subset of an organization’s ERP. Often, a PIM and MDM works in sync depending on the size of the overall information they handle.

Aberdeen Research says that businesses that invested in a PIM or MDM saw a 17% jump in product data accuracy, a positive change of 20% in accessing timely information, 12% improvement in speedy decision making, and improved accuracy in inventory data.  These gains are very significant for retailers looking to grow their business.

Source: Aberdeen Group

Being a much bigger technology initiative, MDMs depend more on an organization’s larger IT strategy, whereas PIMs are business driven systems that offer rapid ROI through improved time-to-market. PIM empowers marketing teams to portray the brand and products in a compelling manner resulting in increased conversions, reduce returns, easily expand product mix, bundling, configurations, etc., and result in efficiencies by eliminating redundancies and errors in product data. 

Compared to MDM, a PIM is critical for success if you are in omnichannel sales and distribution.  Efficiency gains allow you to focus on delivering better customer service while giving you the bandwidth to focus on scaling your retail business.

When choosing a PIM, you need to do a thorough think-through of what your business needs are. Investing in a cloud-based PIM allows flexibility and any-time access by all departments. The great thing about choosing an intelligent and intuitive PIM that it uses machine learning and is cloud-based for the best ROI you can get in the industry. Smart brands, marketplaces, and retailers such as Levi’s, Macy’s, Diesel, Mercado Libre and Cosabella, to name a few, are a few examples of businesses that have successfully implemented VueTag which is a state-of-the-art PIM powered by artificial intelligence (AI). VueTag has enabled them to stabilize their product tags and attributes, realize productivity and efficiency gains, and allowed them to scale their businesses.

PIM And The Customer Experience

Investing in a PIM really matters as customers today want easy access to shop on different platforms.  It is not uncommon for a customer to research on their PC or mobile, but end up purchasing in a store or online. Mark Smith of Ventana Research believes that by 2021, 50% of all businesses will adopt a PIM to streamline product management for enhanced customer experience.

It is critically important from a business perspective to ensure they see reliable, consistent information no matter where customers look. A good PIM helps a customer with product discovery, researching and buying products. These are times where a customer’s attention spans are very small and with a click or two, you can lose them if they have to dig through data that is not targeted to their needs. 

PIMs also allow for product management to execute in a way that enables showcase of rich and compelling content that makes all products on your catalog more appealing.  When customers see content that is relevant, contextual to their unique needs and presents the same information across various points in their customer journey, it evokes confidence. It makes them stay on the site longer, browse more and discover relevant products. It improves product discovery, deals, and store-wide discounts, amongst others.  

With omnichannel retail becoming a common way of doing business for retailers, having a good PIM in place will eliminate inaccuracies in data, improve data consistency across channels, aid aspects of sales and marketing, and make it less confusing for customers. 

PIM makes for a cohesive and pleasurable customer experience. It helps customers get what they actually want and reduces returns. Consistent product information positively enables staff who provide customer service. Finally, with the generational shift in how customers shop, mainly driven by the millennials, the old approach of selling products has given way to customers seeking experiential retail, which a sound PIM can help you achieve.