Growing eCommerce revenue is at the heart of every company. Can my eCommerce tool or platform help me manage my full product catalog? A question I heard often in my work. This article evaluates Product Information Management (PIM) capabilities of the leading Ecommerce platforms and highlights the key differences in capabilities keeping in mind the following primary purposes of true enterprise Product Information Management or Master Data Management.
Therefore this blog covers 5 chapters which matter and help to understand weather you need a eCommerce solution or also underpin this with a PIM platform.
- Enrichment of Master Data for Products for sales and marketing
- Data Governance and Business Process Management to make the right people do right things
- Enhanced Data Quality Profiling for Products Data to automate 80%
- Adherence to Industry Standards for Product Data and Data Syndication
- Data Synchronization with Increased Agility
Product Data Enrichment
It is critical that the MDM technology allows modelling the data structure for ‘mastering’ product data as per the needs of the organisation. This data model would typically include basic product details, sales and marketing information about products, media attachments, features and attributes, product classification hierarchy, purchase prices and selling prices, logistics and consignment/shipment details, competitor analysis data.
The data model should support the ability to qualify data attributes by Supplier, Sales Channel, Market/Region. The data model should also support internationalization by way of managing data in multiple languages and currencies.
Many of these attributes are not included in the data model of the Ecommerce platforms, as compared to the data model defined in MDM. Furthermore, minimal support is available in out of box data models to extend it to include the qualified fields or product attributes, which are qualified by custom attributes like Brand, Supplier or Market/Region. For instance, it is possible to manage purchase prices qualified by Region and Supplier, in a true MDM.
MDM, also, provides the paradigm and solution for staging supplier data in individual supplier catalogs, which can be merged into a common Master Catalog.
In Ecommerce platforms, the data model does not provide any guidelines for managing catalogs within a paradigm of multiple suppliers – single master catalog.
Moreover, restricting the design to maintain a single Master Catalog, in ecommerce platforms impacts their ability to support multiple sites, where, each web site requires one Online Catalog assigned to it.
Data Quality and Governance
For most agile and well laid out business processes, it is essential that both workflows engine and data quality management is an incremental part of MDM. These engines when brought together should allow and support modelling of business processes for managing product data, with the purpose of achieving higher degrees of Compliance and Data Quality, without comprising on the Business Agility.
Data Governance and Business Process Management
MDM supports workflow management, which makes it possible to design and model even the most complex workflows. Its out of box and delivers Data Quality results and tasks, makes it possible to best utilise the workflow and business rule features like conditional branching, loops, decisions, message & timer driven interrupts, come handy when designing use cases for product data governance.
On the other hand, most of the e-commerce PCM (Product Content Management) apps have integrated bespoke workflow engines which are more suitable for modelling simpler linear workflows. Extending these frameworks to design more elaborate and dependable workflows for data governance, would prove to be high effort initiative.
Enhanced Data Quality Profiling for Products Data
With MDM data quality rules can be designed and implemented as incremental part.
However, with most of the Ecommerce platforms, Data Quality rules are required to be implemented as part of the application code and any changes to these rules, requires controlled application code releases and down time. This reduces the ability for technology to support the desired levels of business agility, to perform ongoing changes and improvements to the data quality rules and/or reports.
Adherence to Industry Standards for Product Data and Data Syndication
PIM provides out of the box support and Accelerators for implementation of several data standards and data exchange standards including integration with GS1 GDSN data pool. MDM users and Product Managers can associate a product under multiple product classification hierarchies (taxonomies). This approach for managing product data also ensures a Single View for products, even when the product exists under multiple classification hierarchies.
Most of the Ecommerce platforms, since are focussed on managing product data for Ecommerce Store fronts, have relatively lesser focus towards data standardization and data exchange in true Omnichannel Commerce landscape and hence provides limited out of the box support for these industry standards. This results in lack of being able to effectively manage a single unified view of the product, adhering to different industry standards.
Data Synchronization with Increased Agility
An enterprise PIM platform is capable of importing data file with formats like XML, CSV, MS Excel, character de-limited file formats. Administrators can define several import mappings for one-time or repeated usage, manually or automated within the system. Setting up a new import mapping for even the data files with custom schema definitions, does not require any downtime or application version releases.
PIM solutions also provide a powerful framework for exporting product data in any data formats including CSV, XML, character de-limited, JSON, HTML. Implementation for these export processes also do not require any down time or application version releases. Administrators can setup and schedule exports, using custom and OOB export format templates.
Ecommerce platforms, on the other hand, provide limited out of the box support for data imports and exports. The out of box capability available is with prime focus towards consuming and exporting the data for storefronts or applications that are part of its own platform. Data exchange with other third party systems, then require point-to-point integration with the third party systems. Implementing and maintaining these integration adapters, could prove to effort and cost intensive, over a period of time. These point-to-point integrations also reduce reusability and modularity in the architecture and hence significantly impact the business agility due to increased complexity of architecture during the upgrades.
Conclusion: If after reading the blog, you find out that most of the chapters are relevant to your business, you clearly need a PIM solution in addition to your e-commerce solution.
Do I need a PIM if I have an eCommerce platform?