If this question was asked few years back, the answer most likely would have been Web Content Management (WCM or CMS). But today with the changing landscape of eCommerce and the tools available, this answer is not that simple. There are a lot of factors that influence this decision and makes it a complicated evaluation that organizations have to do and finally decide whether to invest in a Product Information/Content Management (PIM/PCM) or WCM.
Traditionally most product companies have either been storing product attributes in ERP systems or PLM systems and then extracting them into excel sheets for enrichment which creates a horrible user experience for business users and a maintenance nightmare for IT. Some companies use WCM systems with lot of customizations to store product content for the web but often don’t succeed and again end up creating a highly customized, inflexible and expensive system. One common reason for this being PIM systems were ignored by analysts for many years and either they have been categorized as a sub-function of MDM or Content Management Systems. One of the misconceptions around PIM is that it is mostly for IT use and as a sub-function of MDM these systems sound more industrial so Marketing teams have been ignoring them.
In the last few years, the awareness around PIM has grown significantly and many good products are now in the market. Many companies such as Akeneo, Salsify, Pimcore, InRiver etc. calls them Product Information Management systems aka PIM while few companies like SAP Hybris and ADAM, now Aprimo, like to call them Product Content Management systems aka PCM and these terms are interchangeably used. All these products provide user friendly interfaces for business users to edit content without help from IT and there are many PIM systems which are Cloud based which makes them easy and faster to deploy in the enterprise.
With common features like user friendly interface for editing content, enrichment workflows, multichannel deployment features and localization, PIM and WCM systems might sound similar, but there are certain differences that are worth mentioning which are critical for eCommerce and Marketing execs to make an informed decision about which system to invest in to compete in today’s market for creating engaging user experiences.
The main functionality of PIM is to integrate out of box with multiple ERP systems and PLM systems to extract basic technical product data and store as product attributes and allow Marketing to enrich product descriptions, assets, media, product bundles/kits, cross sell, up sell, promotions and variation related content and categorize it into multiple sales catalogs so that it can be synced up with the eCommerce site but most importantly with other Marketplaces and Distributors with the simple click of buttons. Organizations who have their own products or if product content is core to the main business of the company, then PIM needs to be considered seriously.
As companies are trying to create omni-channel Commerce experiences, getting product content to your own site is not the only requirement now, it is equally important to sync up your sales catalogs with distributors, retailers and other marketplaces on multiple channels like web, mobile, print. PIM systems are specifically designed for this and natively support import and export in multiple formats having connectors for various content aggregators, eCommerce systems and marketplaces. Content is King and today content drives commerce and rich content results in better conversion rates.
While WCM systems can store product content, they are not really designed to store product attributes and don’t usually provide the connectors to eCommerce systems and marketplaces. WCM systems are great to manage marketing content for your website such as articles, blogs, marketing collaterals, campaigns, landing pages etc. If your main business and goal for your website is marketing your content and capabilities, you would most certainly need a WCM.
Although some features of PIM and WCM are overlapping, often in large corporations and retail businesses, you would generally find both the systems and they complement each other, PIM for storing structured product content while WCM for storing unstructured web content. Small to medium size companies, often start with buying either of the two systems which matches most of their use cases, but in longer run both systems make up a critical component in the eCommerce landscape.
We at Zorang feel, PIM/PCM are part of overall ECM stack which consists of Document Management systems, Web Content Management systems, Digital Asset Management systems and Product Content Management systems (PIM/PCM). We believe it’s the content that drives eCommerce and more relevant content drives conversion. Zorang is a recognized market leader in providing strategy guidance, vendor evaluation/selection and implementation, in the ECM space and we can help you make the right decisions for your organization and deliver quick results.