Product information management for retail and wholesale
Retailers and wholesalers often have to deal with many different suppliers. These suppliers all provide price lists or product sheets in their own way. To complicate things even further, the frequency of deliveries varies from one supplier to another, and some work with gross prices and others with a discount. Then again, some suppliers indicate product status (new, end of life and so on) while others don’t. It’s up the retailer and wholesaler to cope with all this. Which takes a lot of time and effort, at the expense of the time to market of new products, or of the time available to improve product information.
In these circumstances PIM software can offer a solution. It’s important to make sure that the PIM system is able to process raw product information from several suppliers. Here are eleven hints for dealing with these more complex situations.
1. A standard product sheet for delivering product information?
We often meet organisations that plan to send all their suppliers a standard Excel product sheet to be used when delivering product information.
At first sight this looks like a good idea. It means that all the suppliers deliver product information in the same way. In practice it’s not so simple. By no means all suppliers will comply with this request. Therefore, it is worth finding out if suppliers will cooperate. Particularly if there are a lot of small suppliers, they may be prepared to work with a standard product sheet.
2. Adopt an industry standard
In a sector where an industry standard is used (such as GS1 for TecDoc), you have the advantage of being able to begin with this standard. So you should always check whether your sector uses a standard for recording and exchanging product information.
3. Let your suppliers do the work
If suppliers can deliver more product information than just a price list, it’s sensible to use this and to feed it into the PIM. This is work that you and your colleagues don’t need to do. It is therefore important that the product attributes for reading-in can be created in the PIM, or extra attribute values for reading-in can be automatically added to a product attribute.
4. Requirements for a PIM system
Naturally it’s important to have a PIM system that’s appropriate to your circumstances.
5. Avoid manual work as much as possible
The key to success is avoiding the manual creation of product content. That saves time, money and errors. If you need to give access to a large number of suppliers, it is therefore important to use a PIM system in which product content from suppliers or other sources (e.g. CNET and GS1) can be uploaded automatically.
6. Add new suppliers easily to the PIM
If you have a large number of suppliers, it must be easy to create a new supplier. And it must be easy to enter the product sheet this supplier uses into the PIM system.
Some PIM systems are capable of uploading lots of different product sheets, and some are less so. It is important that PIM system that you use has a flexible “mapping mechanism”, whereby you can easily couple the different product sheets used by suppliers. And adapt them in the future if necessary, for example if a supplier adds an extra column to a product sheet.
If you use a PIM system that makes it easy to add new providers, you’ll find that you quickly get a grip on a large group of suppliers.
Make sure that you choose PIM software that can automatically optimise product content. Think about the opportunities for automatic new product classification, the automatic conversion of field values based on reference tables, or the validation of field values and attributes for “product completeness” and correct field notation. That saves a huge amount of manual entry and control work.
8. Processing updates
The PIM software must also be able to process suppliers’ existing product updates automatically. This ensures that the product portfolio managed in the PIM system is and remains up to date. It also saves a huge amount of time otherwise spent on manual additions and corrections.
Use PIM software that reports what product content, and from which suppliers, is successfully uploaded/updated (or not) in the system. This means that you have an overview of available new and updated products at all times. This can be combined with a work flow in the PIM system whereby new products are enriched by different departments and approved for publication in the appropriate sales channels.
10. The deduplication of product data
Often, several suppliers provide the same product. It is important for the PIM software to recognise when this is the case, so that a product delivered by two suppliers is not entered into the PIM system twice. It can also be helpful to know which is the leading supplier for recording descriptions, product attributes, and so on.
11. Working together
Many hands make light work Finally, work together with the teams and professionals in your organisation to optimise product content for new products as efficiently as possible. Check out the tips in the blog “Step-by-step: How do you organise product content creation for a larger product range?”.
At ConnectingTheDots we are still often asked “Does our organisation need a PIM system?” or “What can I use a PIM system for?”. To answer this question we start by explaining what a PIM system actually is.
Retailers and wholesalers often have to deal with many different suppliers. These suppliers all provide price lists or product sheets in their own way. To complicate things even further, the frequency of deliveries varies from one supplier to another, and some work with gross prices and others with a discount.
Good product information is built up from different kinds of data, such as descriptions, USPs, images and product attributes. In the case of larger product ranges, it’s a lot of work to provide all the products with appealing product information that convinces potential customers.
I often come across businesses that are wrestling with the improvement of their product content. Usually, after internal discussion, the outcome is that more product specifications are added to products to improve the product info.