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How to pick the right PIM software for your ecommerce business

Not all PIM software packages are equal, there is not a one size fits all answer.  Every company is different, has different requirements and may require a different solution.

Don’t select your PIM solution based on just what Gartner and Forrester are telling you, there’s more to the story. You should be selecting your PIM solution based upon whether it meets your requirements or not. Questions you need to ask before investing include: How much customization is needed or will it work for you right out of the box?  How long has the software been available? And do they have US based support

Many PIM systems are niche players, meaning they “specialize” in certain areas.  A system will never be perfect in all aspects.  Focus on what is right for your company and choose based upon what you need (requirements) for now and the future.

For instance, Stibo was founded in 1794 as a company under royal charter by the Danish printer's assistant Niels Lund. In the beginning they primarily print for the Church, the King, job printing shops, and a local newspaper.  So, it should be no surprise that Stibo's PIM system has very strong print capabilities.  Agility Multichannel was originally known as Pindar which was a publishing and catalog management platform and grew into a full PIM solution. And Contentserve started as a DAM and later grew into a PIM system, so it is also no surprise that they have strong DAM capabilities.

Sometimes the solution requires more than one tool. Some companies choose two solutions to pair together taking the strength of both systems. 

Selection gone wrong

Too good to be true – A company bought one of the most expensive PIM software packages.  The PIM vendor really wanted the customer and it was the end of the fiscal year.  They got a smoking deal.  They just bought a  Ferrari for the price of a mid-sized family sedan.   What they didn’t realize is that when you buy the Ferrari, you have the maintenance to go with it and you need a team of experts to keep the car running.  The customization and implementation, hardware, IT personnel, maintenance and training costs are still part of the picture.

Square peg round hole – A large logistics real estate company chose to store their buildings and warehouses in a PIM system.  A little bit of a “Square peg in a round hole” already, but not the worst decision.  The kicker is that they chose a PIM that has a very rigid product data model.  This is not a weakness in the software, it’s a great choice when the fit it right.  And because of this rigid data model, importing, exporting and data quality become strengths.   But when you don’t fit the model (as this company clearly did not) you either have to re-engineer your processes or customize.  This company did not want to re-engineer anything, and customization is a conversation for another day.  Needless to say, they picked the wrong pony. 

Understand Requirements

The first step is understanding your requirements.

  • What are your data needs?
  • Do you need a taxonomy that allows multi-classification to allow for multiple attribute inheritance sets?
  • Do you need a built in DAM to easily link products and images?
  • What about an InDesign plug-in to quickly build sell sheets?

Half the battle with requirements is understanding what capabilities are actually out there and what problems you are trying to solve. Many times, these problems are ecommerce based such as the need for category specific product filters, multiple taxonomies for different navigation paths, or indexed attributes for enhanced search. Some of the problems to solve are more internally focused such as integration to ERP and Business Information Warehouse (BW) for enhanced product lifecycle governance and reporting.  We have a list of requirements in the hundreds that can be whittled down for specifics to accommodate our clients.

Prioritize

Once you have your requirements identified they need to be prioritized. Which are “Must Haves”, “Nice to Haves” and “Not Needed”. The next step is to pick 5-7 vendors to start conversations with and find out what requirements they can fulfill, which are customization and which they don’t have the capability of providing. Gartner and Forester reports can be great place to get a start at identifying which systems to evaluate, but there are many PIM vendors that are not mentioned. That shouldn’t take those products completely out of the running. They may have very specific strengths that are right for a specific company. Understanding the available PIMs and their basic strengths and weaknesses will help establish what those 5-7 vendors should be.

Build Scorecards

Once you have your vendors selected for evaluation, you can convert your vendor requirements into a scorecard. As vendors provide information for your requirements this will allow you to whittle the list down to 2-4 vendors to start deep dive demos and RFQs. The RFQ, request for quote, will let you see the implementation project on paper both for time and cost.

  • Do they use an implementation partner?
  • Is the pricing based on licenses and/or installation?
  • Do they charge per system integration?

And the winner is

Once the information is laid out for this small specific selection there should be at least one choice clear for the win.  You may have a close race or even a tie for the winner. When this happens, you may want to review the requirements at large and your relationship with the vendor to see whose nose is truly hitting the finish line first.  

At EIS we have a lot of experience with PIM vendor selection and evaluation and would be happy to help walk you through this process. Contact us to set up a time to chat.

 

Chantal Schweizer
Chantal Schweizer
Chantal Schweizer is a taxonomy professional with over 10 years of experience in Product Information and Taxonomy. Prior to joining Earley Information Science, Chantal worked on the Product Information team at Grainger for 9 years, Schneider Electric’s PIM team for 2 years and had some previous work in PIM consulting.

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