For manufacturing companies, success in today’s dynamic markets relies on fast-paced innovation and uncompromising quality. Synchronizing the entire value chain around one continuous source of product information is the only way to move with both speed and precision. This is where product information management (PIM) comes into play.
PIM is a software solution that connects people, processes, and systems for manufacturers to aggregate product data, enrich content, and distribute engaging experiences across every customer touchpoint. This incorporates any information customers need to discover, buy, or use a product throughout its lifecycle, including specifications, attributes, digital assets, instructions guides, service parts, and more. The primary goal of PIM software is to ensure consistency and streamline enrichment of product information, enabling companies to capitalize products faster and boost customer lifetime value.
This comprehensive guide will explore why PIM is crucial for B2B manufacturers, how it transforms business, and what to consider when selecting a PIM solution.
The Need for PIM: Create Your Launchpad for Growth
B2B companies are experiencing rapid transformations in the way they engage with customers. More custom offerings, enhanced digital assets, and ever-expanding sales channels are needed to meet customer demands. The old tools of the trade—spreadsheets and shared drives—fail to keep pace. PIM provides the speed and agility to succeed in the face of increasing complexity.
More diverse product lines
In the past, mass manufacturing was focused on standard, stock products that rarely changed. Today’s approach is more customer-centric. B2B manufacturers give customers the flexibility to configure-to-order with interchangeable components or purchase consumables as subscription packages rather than bulk inventory. In addition, integrated software in durable goods means even products with long lifecycles receive constant updates.
The proliferation of products and acceleration of change makes manual methods of product data management obsolete. Marketers need a solution that connects with authentic data directly from product teams, along with adaptability for new variants and different product types to expand the product catalog. PIM streamlines this process, reducing errors and ensuring data integrity.
More enriched content and assets
Customers now expect consumer-like experiences even for business purchases. Gone are the days of giving sales teams a static PDF spec sheet or print catalog and waiting for them to explain products to customers. Buyers want to research vendors, understand complex solution configurations, and watch demo videos before ever contacting a salesperson. Enabling this enhanced customer experience relies on more comprehensive product content management and an exponential volume of digital assets.
Marketers are challenged to develop and maintain the broad range of product attributes, images, videos, packaging, and compliance documents required to serve B2B customers. Leading PIM platforms choreograph this content creation by managing digital assets alongside product records and managing workflow to eliminate redundant tasks and accelerate time to market.
More channels and markets: ecommerce and beyond
To outpace competitors, companies are quickly expanding to reach customers in new sales channels and more global markets. On average, B2B and SaaS customers now use ten or more channels to interact with vendors, including online retailers like Amazon, ecommerce, marketplaces, and direct account sales. Regional variations for language and units of measure in each channel further multiply the number of unique touchpoints to keep consistent across a brand.
Marketing teams need a system to automate delivery and update content in every channel and region for seamless buying experiences. PIM facilitates the efficient distribution and syndication of product information across all sales channels, providing a consistent and engaging multichannel customer experience that fosters brand loyalty.
Manufacturers that effectively manage the quality and accessibility of product information through a PIM gain a significant competitive advantage. PIM provides authentic data, enterprise collaboration, and actionable insights to quickly adapt in disruptive markets. By delivering innovation to market faster and engaging customers where and when they want, B2B companies ultimately drive sales and fuel dynamic growth.
The Power of PIM: Transform Your Go-To-Market Operations
Comprehensive PIM solutions improve how B2B manufacturers launch and grow products by refining three essential processes.
Aggregate Product Data
Product data originates across a breadth of business systems, such as product lifecycle management (PLM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), as well as from contract manufacturers and suppliers. A core function of PIM is to collect and unify technical, usage, and emotional product information from these various sources.
Most PIM tools include a bulk importer to ingest data, but that often requires extensive data cleansing and standardization. Close integrations or systems that share a single platform provide a better way to centralize data without time-consuming uploads or manual entry. This also ensures that when product changes are made at the source, downstream marketing teams have immediate visibility to updated information.
Once data is consolidated, maintaining integrity is crucial for success. A PIM must have proper data governance, user permissions, and approval flows to ensure accurate product data at all times. However, it cannot become a rigid vault. The best PIM solutions also provide adaptability to support constantly changing product and market requirements. Flexible data models empower manufacturers to quickly configure category hierarchies for new product lines or a wide range of variant configurations. By creating this balance between nimble and disciplined, companies avoid the common risk of flooding data lakes with stagnant or outdated information.
Enrich Product Information
Next, PIM empowers marketers and ecommerce managers to transform basic specs into compelling customer content including featured product descriptions, product stories, images, and user resources critical for B2B buyers and distributors. For highly regulated industries, like medical devices, this also includes certificates of compliance and claims documentation. Three key features–attribute inheritance, collaborative workflow, and embedded digital asset management (DAM)–help streamline enrichment for product launches and updates.
1. Attribute inheritance reduces repetition and costly errors from manual copy and paste of common attributes. Leverage parent-child variant relationships to write information once at the top level and cascade to the SKUs below.
2. Collaborative workflow breaks up bottlenecks between traditionally siloed product and marketing teams. Chat and notifications allow the enterprise to work in parallel to assign tasks, manage approvals, and speed products to market.
3. Embedded DAM capabilities keep all media at marketers’ fingertips alongside the product record, eliminating the need to store files multiple times or toggle between applications.
With more efficient and consistent information enrichment, manufacturers engage customers with new products sooner and deliver the complete digital experience they expect.
Activate Product Experiences
Simply using PIM for product content management would be cutting off the full extent of its powers. PIM is really about product experience. PIM enables B2B manufacturers with strategic agility to scale new distribution channels by simply exporting or syncing from the single source of truth.
PIM distributes enriched information and assets across various channels and platforms through template exports or API connections. From a central source, commercial teams easily deliver content tailored in the relevant formats for each channel, ensuring customers have the most consistent user experience with the most updated information anywhere they engage with the product.
B2B manufacturers must consider all touchpoints over the full customer journey, not just the point of sale. Product info needs to be published and updated for discovery and purchase, as well as use and support years later. Therefore, it’s critical for PIM to tie closely with sales and service teams in addition to digital commerce catalogs. Top PIM solutions integrate or share a single platform with customer relationship management (CRM).
The Place for PIM: Navigate Your Path to the Future
There is no “one size fits all” PIM solution. Capabilities and solution roadmaps vary widely, so selecting a system should take into account both the business needs of today and the tech stack that scales for the future. The following are key requirements to consider when evaluating PIM for the unique needs of B2B manufacturing.
1. Data integrity throughout the whole product lifecycle: Manufacturers can’t sacrifice accuracy when sharing info with customers. However, basic import and cleansing tools fail to maintain data quality as the product changes over time. Instead, look for a PIM that creates a continuous product thread from concept to customer to never skip a beat between supply chain, development, marketing, sales, and service teams.
2. Collaborative workflow across the full value chain: Traditional systems disconnect product data from the discussions that happen in email or project apps. This reinforces silos when teams are left out, and breaks critical traceable audit trails. By incorporating enterprise-wide tasks, assignments, and chats into the product record, the best PIM solutions ensure no conversation is lost in overrun inboxes.
3. Scalability for fast-paced innovation and expansion: B2B manufacturers that need to stay ahead of the industry can’t let outdated, rigid tech stacks slow them down. A PIM system accommodates the current and future needs as business grows. Adaptable category hierarchies, variant structures, and export profiles enable faster expansion by meeting the requirements of any new channel or market.
4. Robust platform and partner ecosystem: The power of PIM is amplified with close integrations to adjacent systems and providers, including product experience management (PXM), master data management (MDM), ERP, CRM, PLM, and e-commerce platforms. By creating a cohesive data ecosystem, companies ensure that product data flows in real time throughout the entire value chain. When selecting a PIM solution, consider the efforts needed to create the initial integrations, as well as the cost to maintain those connections over time. Often, consolidating multiple systems into a single development platform, like Salesforce and related ISV apps, significantly reduces complexity and total cost.
By clearly defining the goals and objectives for a PIM implementation up front, manufacturers can navigate the breadth of features available to hone in on those that are critical for success. Once a PIM solution is selected, provide teams with comprehensive training and implement change management strategies to facilitate adoption. Feedback will then help regularly evaluate the PIM system performance to further refine business processes and maximize its benefits.
The Benefits of PIM: Outpace Your Competition
In the B2B manufacturing industry, where precision, efficiency, and customer trust are paramount, product information management is a vital tool. By centralizing, enriching, and distributing product data effectively, businesses improve the quality and accessibility of information for internal teams and customers.
Fuel revenue growth with flexibility to quickly adapt product info for omnichannel sales and scalability to capture new market opportunities.
Optimize customer experience with consistent, trusted, high-quality product content tailored by channel to boost win rates and maximize loyalty.
Accelerate time to market with less manual data entry, orchestrated workflows, and in-context collaboration to keep global teams in sync.
For manufacturers in high-tech, industrial, and consumer goods industries, embracing the right PIM system unlocks the power of product data to drive revenue and customer loyalty.
With an easy-to-adopt user interface and unified platform integration with PLM and QMS, Propel Software enables B2B companies to deliver products at the speed of innovation in today’s dynamic markets.
Explore the unique capabilities of Propel PIM, the only platform that connects product and commercial teams on the same platform.