PIM for rich media assets and other data

Martijn Hoogeveen
Product video in Icecat

Product video

There’s a whole lot of confusion around the term PIM – Product Information Management system. A lot of webshop systems are said to include a PIM, but in most cases the functionality is at best rudimentary for managing multilingual product catalogs. It’s often just enough to get a reasonably looking product data-sheet online in a given webshop. Further, there are a lot of 3 letter abbreviations such as PDM, PLM, DRM, CRM, DAM, MDM, ECM, which increases confusion even further. Let’s try to clarify the field a bit.

What is a true PIM?

So, what’s a true PIM then? In essence, it is an information system that facilitates a publisher to gather and combine any type of information related to a product in one database environment, and publish it for online and offline purposes. It’s about media types as:

  • product identifiers (brand name, manufacturer part code or GTIN)*
  • categorization (according to UNSPSC or another standard)*
  • multilingual marketing texts, descriptions and/or disclaimers*
  • fully standardized product specs, grouped in spec groups*
  • product images*
  • product relations for cross-sell, Up-sell (alternatives) and compatibility
  • product videos (normally in MP4)
  • 3D/360 degrees animations in an HTML5 compatible format
  • leaflets and user manuals (normally in PDF)
  • reasons-to-buy
  • feature logos, videos and related multilingual texts

There’s a whole world behind every media type as mentioned above. And the more important online advertising and ecommerce become, the more these worlds expand into differentiated universes.

Synonyms PDM and PCM

A PIM is more or less synonymous with PDM – Product Data Management, except that in computer science “data” refers to databases and “information” refers to data that is meaningful for a certain user. In that sense, one could go even further by defining a PKM – Product Knowledge Management – as an environment in which meaningful relations between products are maintained, such as compatibility information: for example, which memory module fits in which computer.

Also, here and there the term PCM – Product Content Management – is used as a synonym of PIM and PDM.

Sub-system of a PIM

Digital Asset Management (DAM) is one of the core-functions of a PIM, where “asset” is used for rich media types which are typically structured in one file such as a PDF, JPG or other image, MP4 video, etc. A DAM is therefore a sub-system for a PIM.

A separate DAM system becomes important in case that a lot of meta information about the asset needs to be created and managed. For example, in case that image recognition plays a role, it is logical that separate, specialized systems are used to take care of such AI (Artifical Intelligence) functionalities.

Another functionality of a PIM and a DAM is Digital Rights Management (DRM): a set of functionalities about which user is authorized to access or manage which information. For example, a brand’s product manager might be responsible only for a certain product line, and a brand’s authorized resellers might be the only ones authorized to download certain rich media assets.

Enterprise systems and PIM

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Content Management Systems (CMS) are broader than what a PIM requires. Within Enterprises lots of other data types, which are not directly related to products, but certain enterprise processes, are generated and need to be managed. A CMS, a sub-system, is often effectively an enterprise website management system that manages the presence of an enterprise online, which might include product data exported by a PIM, but also other data and the html templates.

Sometimes an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is confused with a PIM as well, but an ERP is mainly focussed on logistical processes and thus logistical data, which is highly volatile by nature. Often an ERP system provides some basic data (product identifiers) to a PIM.

Product Lifecyle Management (PLM) is used to describe systems that manage the information related to a product from its inception to its market introduction and finally its end-of-life (EOL) status. A PLM can contain a lot of data about a product that a manufacturer would never publish, such as business secrets, supplier information, R&D and test data, internal communication, data about older product versions, data about products that are never introduced to the market etc etc. A PLM might be used to feed a PIM with the product information of the final product as it’s released to the market, and to which marketing materials are added by the marketing and sales departments responsible for the success of a product on the market.

Finally, Master Data Management (MDM) is used as a term to indicate the need within an enterprise to manage a “Single Version of Truth”: which system is leading for what. In modern, ecommerce-ready enterprises, a PIM is containing the master data regarding to products as promoted on the market. And an ERP, for example, is used to be leading regarding to any logistical product information such as stock, pricing per customer and order history.

There’s a whole lot more to say about the world of PIM, and we will continue to publish on the subject.


Martijn Hoogeveen

CEO Icecat NV

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