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If you’re a multi-channel retailer or business-to-business enterprise, this scenario may sound familiar. Scattered across every department of your business is a whole suite of CSV, Excel spreadsheets, FileMaker Pro or Google Sheets. Some may be generated by the marketing or IT team, some are controlled by the purchasing department and others come from dozens of different suppliers. Each spreadsheet has a unique format and they are rarely easy to get your hands on, especially when you need to push product data to your multi-channel network.

Wrangling numerous sets of product data is one of the greatest challenges for multi-channel businesses. This is where a Product Information Management (PIM) system can create much-needed transparency and seamless organisation for effective data management. A PIM is like a central storeroom for product data. Everyone in the product supply chain can step inside and view the data, which is organised in a clean and uniform way. There are no duplications, inconsistencies or incomplete data set. In short, it’s data heaven.

Improving data inputs
James Horne, Managing Director of Balance Internet, a national Systems Integrator with offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, which assists companies with the integration and management of PIM systems, says PIM technology takes the pain out of multi-channel data management. “If a company has 45 different suppliers, they may all have a different range of products and data about their products that is presented in different formats. That causes an Excel spreadsheet nightmare. A PIM manages the input nightmare of multiple data sources by putting it all in one place in a format that is consistent across the business.”

Balance Internet represents Akeneo, an Open Source PIM with a price point that targets mid-sized and large companies. While systems such as Informatica and Stibo provide excellent PIM solutions, they are often outside the budget of the mid-sized market. “Akeneo does the essential PIM tasks, highly customizable and for a much lower price,” explains Horne. “It’s built specifically for businesses that transact online and it’s compatible with Magento, which has 45% market share in Australia.”

Easy output
As businesses operate through an ever-growing range of channels, there are even more places where product data needs to be pushed. Each channel has its own purpose and requires a different set of product titles, descriptions, specifications, images, datasheets and media assets. There may be multiple retail websites and data may also need to be exported for many different marketplaces like eBay, Google Shopping, Trade Me, Amazon and Tmall, as well as print catalogues, point-of-sale collateral and social networks. If you’re selling products overseas, your data may need to be translated into multiple languages. A PIM can take care of it all.

Products like Akeneo PIM allow you to create individual data feeds and outputs for each of your channels and marketplaces. As the product information changes, so does the feed.

All in one place
Quality control is another key benefit of a PIM. “It can be a massive nightmare for businesses when there’s data all over the place,” says Horne. “Who is in charge of it? Who is responsible and how complete is it? This is where PIMs are invaluable. It allows businesses to control and govern product data.”

As the number and complexity of data inputs and outputs continues to increase, a central and streamlined product data management system will become essential to multi-channel success. “If you have a large number of products or a lots of channels to push your data to, a PIM is the best way to ensure easy and productive management of product data assets.”

Should you have any questions on how PIM can bring a competitive advantage to your business, get in touch with Balance Internet, a leading PIM practice in Australia.