Essent Webinars: What to Do When Product Information is All Over the Place

Product Information Management systems are the solution to fragmented and fractured product information that’s all too often spread throughout all corners of an organization. By centralizing vital product information in one electronic location, a PIM can provide staff and customers alike with real-time, accurate, complete pictures of what’s for sale to drive sales and boost efficiency.

Watch the Product Information Management Webinar

Slide 1: The Power of PIM
Hello, and welcome to the latest webinar from Essent. Today we’re going to highlight the advantages of Product Information Management systems. A PIM is a centralized electronic repository for all of your product data, and businesses can leverage it for greater efficiency and more sales.

Slide 2: Moderator: Douglas B. Brill
My name is Doug Brill. I’m the Essent marketing coordinator and I specialize in the promotional products industry. I’m also your moderator today.

Slide 3: About Essent
Before we begin, a very brief overview of Essent. Essent is the leader in providing Comprehensive business management solutions since 1981 Essent has been serving Distributors, Decorators, and Suppliers in the promotional products industry since the year 2000 $3 Billion in Commerce flows through Essent’s solutions each year

Slide 4: If You Have Questions
We expect you may have some questions, but in an effort to keep the webinar concise for everyone we can only answer them off line. Feel free to use the webinar control panel to submit questions, and we’ll be happy to answer them for you after the webinar has ended.

Slide 5: Managing Product Information
Managing product information brings a number of challenges. The first challenge is the sheer volume of information that needs to be tracked. The second is that product information is often stored in multiple repositories all throughout an organization. And another challenge is that when information lives in different places, it invites contradictory or inaccurate information.

Slide 6:There’s more to selling a product than just the product itself
In short, there’s so much more to selling a product than just the product itself.

Slide 7: Volumes of Info
There are large volumes of information associated with every product. Every product has its staples like SKU’s, descriptions, and images. And then those products can have many, many configurations. The most popular pen in the promotional products industry has 72,000 configuration combinations, for example. Then there are compliance issues like taxing, and the U.S. alone has 9,998 tax jurisdictions.

Slide 8: Volumes of Product Info
But that’s just the start. There’s pricing, which might change from time to time and might also change according to customers or contracts or quantity sold. There’s inventory information, which needs to be up to date and changes all the time. There’s cross-sell and up-sell information like companion items, kits, and bundles.

Slide 9: PIM
Then there’s product images. Brand information. Supplier information. New compliance issues like product safety. Decoration information. In-hands dates. When to re-order. Always available products. On demand products. And any business still might have its own proprietary or custom information that it wants to track.

Slide 10: Multiple Repositories
Not only is there so much information, that information is often in various places throughout an organization. For example, pricing and costing may be on a spreadsheet. Product descriptions might be in printed materials in a file cabinet. Product images are on a website. Any maybe something like up-sell opportunities aren’t even documented. They just exist in someone’s head. To get the complete, accurate picture of what’s for sale, colleagues are searching multiple locations all throughout an organization, which is going to take a lot of time.

Slide 11: Conflicting Information
And all that time spent looking for information might not be the biggest problem. When there are multiple repositories for product information, it’s easy to generate contradicting or inaccurate information that makes it’s way into orders, or worse, all the way to the customer. For example, let’s say all of the pricing is on a spreadsheet. Colleague A emails the spreadsheet to colleague B as an attachment, and now there are two repositories for pricing. Colleague A then updates his or her spreadsheet, and now there aren’t just two repositories but two repositories that contradict one another. The problem multiplies from there. Every time the spreadsheet gets emailed, there’s a new repository. And every time one gets updated, there is new conflicting information. And that’s just one way product information can go bad without a central, master repository. With all of this inaccurate information floating around in separate locations, it increases the chances of bad product information getting into an order. That’s going to slow down operations or, worse, those mistakes could make it all the way to a customer.

Slide 12: Product Information Management
Product Information Management systems are the solution to fragmented and fractured product information that’s all too often spread throughout all corners of an organization. By centralizing vital product information in one central electronic location, PIMs can provide staff and customers alike with real-time, accurate, complete pictures of what’s for sale. And with an integrated PIM, all of the systems that need that information such as ecommerce websites, web services, electronic catalogs and more can retrieve that information. That way it can be shared not just with colleagues but also with trading partners and even end buyers. A PIM stores complete, accurate information and makes it available where and when it’s needed.

Slide 13: Presenter: William Austin
And with that, here to take you into greater detail is your presenter, Will Austin. Will is a business analyst for Essent, and he’s also a specialist in the promotional products industry. He’s going to highlight the advantages of a product information management system.

Slide 14: Common Product Information
Thank you very much, Doug. A Product Information Management system is capable of holding an almost endless variety of product information. But let’s first take a look at the information most commonly stored in a PIM. A PIM holds product information staples like category, subcategory, SKU, description, and images. This is information that fundamentally defines the product. It can also hold pricing, costing, and inventory, the information that is critical when it becomes time to actually sell the product. A Product Information Management System also has the information that’s critical when it’s time to fulfill the product, such as information on inventory, shipping and handling, and suppliers.

Slide 15: Advanced Product Information
But advanced product information management systems can hold even more information than that. One feature of an advanced PIM that’s especially useful for the promotional products industry is product configuration information. In an industry where virtually every product is customized, it’s especially important to define which ways a product can and can’t be customized. It’s also important to have that in one master location, so you don’t have different sales reps telling different customers different things about what can be decorated where and how. Advanced product information management systems can also help drive more sales through kitting and bundling. A business can link items together in the PIM, such as linking a pen to a carrying case, for example. That information then can be automatically displayed on an ecommerce website, and made known to sales reps for more cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. And finally the most advanced product information management system will simply allow a businesses to track whatever product information it deems important. A configurable PIM lets the business define the information it wants to track. It’s a PIM that can evolve as business evolves.

Slide 16: Product Information All in One Place
A Product Information Management System, or PIM, can prevent many of those problems simply by creating one place to hold product information.

Slide 17: All in One Place
There are several advantages to having one central repository for product information. The first is that the information will be found much more efficiently because everyone knows where to go to get it. Instead of getting some information from the ERP, some from the website, and some by walking around the office, it’s all available in one electronic spot that’s known to everyone. Even more importantly is that having a centralized location like a PIM greatly enhances the accuracy of information. There’s only one repository, so it’s the master source for information. You won’t have a spreadsheet reporting one cost and a website reporting another cost, for example. So bad information is less likely to make its way into orders or to the customer. And having information all in one place makes it easier to automate and integrate that information. Electronic systems, just like people, can retrieve all of the product information from one complete, accurate source.

Slide 18: Configurations Manage Almost Endless Info
While a product information management system allows a business to have all of its product information in one place, a configurable PIM allows a business to store an almost endless variety of information.

Slide 19: Configurable PIM
A configurable product information management system allows a business to track the information that matters most to them. A configurable PIM allows user defined fields. So if a business has information related to its own unique rules and processes, it can configure the PIM to store that information. One example would be categorizing products to meet new markets. Say a company wants to start a campaign selling eco-friendly or U.S.-made products. It could use a configurable PIM to categorize certain products as eco-friendly or U.S.-made. That way they’re easy to find, and can be displayed together in systems that integrate with the PIM, like an ecommerce website. Another use would be categorizing products to meet new standards. The promotional products industry has a great example of this in its recent product safety push. Promotional products companies with a configurable PIM could create safety-related sets like CPSC-certified, lead-free, children’s products, and BPA-free to better manage product safety information and know which products are safety certified. The bottom line is that a configurable PIM lets a business manage all the product information that’s important – and all the product information that becomes important.

Slide 20: Linking Items for Kitting and Bundling
That brings us to product linking, which is a powerful tool that some product information management systems offer. Linked items have the ability to drive more sales and bigger sales

Slide 21: Linked Products
Here’s how it works. Linked products can be companion items, similar items, items most purchased with the a main item, or any relationship the business defines in its PIM. For example, if there’s a popular writing instrument that’s often sold with a popular stationary, you can link those items together in the PIM. This facilitates up-sells, cross-sells, kitting, and bundling. Any item can be listed simultaneously on its own and as part of a kit, bundle, up-sell, or cross-sell. Those products can then be displayed together in other systems, such as ecommerce websites. Defining the relationship in the PIM will show ecommerce shoppers that theirs more they may want to buy. The result is ultimately more sales and bigger sales because the business is providing the customer the opportunity to buy more. And it happens just by linking products in the PIM.

Slide 22: PIM Integration with Critical Systems
We’ve said that a product information management system puts all of your information in one place. But with an integrated PIM, product information can be in every place. Let me explain.

Slide 23: Integrated PIM
An integrated Product Information Management system can provide information for other electronic systems. All of the systems that need product information can automatically retrieve it from an integrated PIM. These systems can be colleague-facing like an ERP or customer and prospect facing like an ecommerce website. An integrated PIM can even share product information with your trading partners. For example, product inventory counts could be automatically shared with your buyers. And updating the PIM means updating all the systems that depend on it. Updating the price or description in the back office, for example, can automatically share the update with the ecommerce website, electronic product catalog, or a web service or web portal so that colleagues, customers and prospects all can see it.

Slide 24: Integrated PIM
Just to recap, a product information management system can integrate with systems including ecommerce websites, web portals or web services, a company’s own back office or ERP, and even trading partner systems.

Slide 25: 7 Signs a Business Could Use a PIM
Now that we’ve looked at some of the benefits a product information management system provides, let’s take a look at some of the ways to know that a business needs a PIM.

Slide 26: Product information is scattered throughout the organization
Product information scattered throughout the organization, and usually in different formats, is the chief indication that a business could benefit from a Product Information Management System. If some of the product information is in a spreadsheet and some is in an ERP or Business Management System and more still is in someone’s desk or brain, it’s going to be difficult to find and will reduce efficiency.

Slide 27: Colleagues spend a lot of time looking for product information
Second is the time it takes to gather information. Colleagues will spend a lot of time looking for product information if it resides in several different locations instead of one central PIM, and sometimes no one’s sure where to find each piece.

Slide 28: There is conflicting product information, and it’s hard to tell which is right
When product information exists in multiple locations, it’s an opportunity to invite conflicting or inaccurate information. Without a Product Information Management System, it gets hard to figure out just where the master product information resides.

Slide 29: Information is stored in inconsistent formats
When information is in different places, it’s also often in different formats. That’s going to make it hard to process for people and computers alike. Well-defined electronic information in consistent formats is the baseline for automation. And that will become much more difficult and inefficient if formats aren’t consistent.

Slide 30: Discovering mistakes after the sale
Mistakes discovered post-sale often stem from a need for a Product Information Management system. For example, if a sales rep has an outdated version of the pricing chart, an item that was supposed to have a certain margin might return a lesser margin or even get sold below cost. If there was one master Product Information Management system for pricing, that error would be avoided.

Slide 31: Customers receiving inaccurate information
Offering a customer something that can’t be delivered is one fast way to cause dissatisfaction. If there is inaccurate information about what’s in inventory, for example, a customer might be offered a product that’s not available. Or a customer may be offered four-color printing when the product really only lends itself to two colors. Having accurate product information in a centralized Product Information Management system helps ensure customers receive only the right information.

Slide 32: Customers receiving inaccurate orders
Finally, customers receiving inaccurate orders is the culmination of many of the other problems. If a SKU is recorded in multiple locations and one listing is off by a digit, the customer might receive the incorrect product. If an item has an error in its product configuration rules, the customer may receive drinkware that’s imprinted somewhere other than the customer specified.

Slide 33: PIM
As we’ve seen, there’s much more to selling a product than the product itself. There are volumes and volumes of information associated with a product that are all too often spread throughout all corners of an organization. A product information management system brings all of that information together in one central, master, electronic location. This boosts efficiency, cuts down on errors, and lays the groundwork for integration and automation.

Slide 34: Product Information Management
While there are substantial efficiency gains in centralizing product information, it’s also possible to store an almost endless variety of information. A configurable product information management system lets the business define the information that’s most important or that becomes the most important. A PIM that can link items, meanwhile, creates opportunities for even more sales by making it easy to create kits, bundles, upsells and cross-sells. And an integrated product information management system brings everything together. Your back office, ecommerce website, web services, web portals, catalogs, and even your trading partner’s back office can all retrieve information from the central repository. The result is a complete, accurate picture of what’s for sale with information made available to all the people and systems that need it.

Slide 35: The Power of PIM
Thank you very much, Will. Essent is dedicated to providing efficiency in the promotional products industry, and Essent solutions support all of the capabilities discussed today. Essent has an integrated, configurable product information management system built into its Business Management System. To learn more about Product Information Management, you can visit There you can learn more about everything we discussed today, and also get in touch with an Essent representative for a free consultation. Again, that’s to learn more. Thanks again to everyone for attending today’s webinar on the power o