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Improving e-commerce efficiency with product information management workflows

From managing product data and marketing content to improving efficiency, established ecommerce retailers have long sung the praises of product information management (PIM) workflows. However, many still find they are wasting time on tedious tasks, like manually recording product information, leading to this crucial resource becoming a liability rather than a strategic asset. So, how can adopting PIM workflows improve the way you work? 

Defining the workflow

Developing a clear way to work with product information is the first step to ensuring people across the business can present clear, accurate, and up-to-date product details. This is where a PIM workflow comes in. On a basic level, a workflow can be defined as the pathway a particular piece of work follows from beginning to end. Clearly setting out this process will make it easier for different teams to work cohesively on a single project. If consistency and communication are maintained throughout, businesses will see a vast improvement in productivity and collaboration between departments across the business. 

The information needed to sell a single product online can be vast, such as size, colour, weight, price, and brand, as well as additional data such as estimated ship date. As this information is wide-ranging and often provided by a plethora of sources, creating a workflow is essential to maximise efficiency and reduce wasted time. Collaborating within a single workflow will contribute to the provision of a consistent and accurate customer experience. But, what does an efficient PIM workflow look like?

Each element of a PIM workflow will involve multiple teams, processes, and technologies. However, it can be simplified to just four necessary parts, underpinned by PIM software that can be used to remove the need for manual data entry and management. Manual processes are often rife with human error, which can have negative consequences on an ecommerce brand if any faults filter down to the customer level.

1. Product onboarding

Product onboarding is the foundation of the PIM workflow. It occurs when a new product is designed or purchased, and is often the foundation for creating a number of important customer experiences, such as providing accurate delivery dates for pre-orders. Product data and information should be fed into a PIM solution at this stage in order to act as a central source of truth and feed into tasks further down the workflow.

2. Content updates

The data input into the PIM solution can then be used by marketing and creative teams to develop content used to promote and market the product. At this stage, the availability of product information such as technical specifications and digital assets including video and photography is crucial. Whilst a PIM tool can provide all the information creatives need, it is also beneficial to leverage a digital asset management (DAM) tool alongside it. This will ensure the correct assets are being leveraged and makes it possible to accelerate the review and approval process, ultimately enabling more efficient work.

3. Sales channel syndication

Omnichannel is becoming an increasingly popular sales model within ecommerce as it makes it possible to provide a cohesive customer experience across numerous channels. However, brands need to ensure that the product information and digital assets presented to consumers are completely aligned no matter where the interaction is taking place. With a PIM platform acting as a ‘central source of truth’ for all product information, it is possible to syndicate one product listing across numerous channels. This reduces the time employees need to spend creating and updating product listings, as well as satisfying the requirement for a faultless omnichannel customer experience.

4. Communication

While there are clear links between each step of a PIM workflow, it’s important to remember that different departments will hold ownership of various parts of this process. Therefore, communication is the bedrock of an efficient workflow. For example, while syndication is facilitated by a PIM tool, notifications still need to be leveraged to inform each team that they can action their part of the process or trigger an automated action, such as updating content or setting a product live. This is also relevant for sharing updated or new information with ecommerce partners outside of the business.

Enhancing efficiency and experience

Defining a PIM workflow will greatly improve a business’ efficiency and agility. More interdepartmental collaboration is a key catalyst for this efficiency: the quicker issues and questions are communicated, the smaller their impact will be. Establishing a workflow can also help streamline resource-intensive tasks, including by accelerating the approval process and establishing a central hub that enables data to be entered only once and syndicated to where it needs to be. The ultimate outcome for a business is that products can be brought to market faster, with fewer manual processes that could lead to errors such as incorrect and incomplete information.

The efficiencies businesses gain from adopting a PIM workflow will also be felt by the consumer. With clean, organised product information, brands can offer better digital customer experiences by providing consumers with all the information they need to make fast, researched purchase decisions. On top of this, if product development teams have all the available information at hand, they can create more robust and varied ecommerce features to further enhance omnichannel experiences.

As building omnichannel experiences becomes a key priority for more businesses, a clear workflow and PIM solution is a must. With so much data to manage, across so many channels, establishing a central source of truth for product information across the entire business could be the difference between incomplete and unreliable data, and a seamless, accurate omnichannel experience for consumers. 

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