PIM Distribution channels
The number of communication, sales and distribution channels companies can use has expanded rapidly in the last two decades. In the past 5 years mobile phones and tablets have changed from being non-existent to important communication channels. Internet television and smartware (e.g. glasses and smart watches) are expected to gain in popularity over the next 3–5 years, together with voicecontrolled applications like Siri, introduced by Apple. Channels can be divided into physical channels and digital channels, and into channels owned by the organization itself and channels where it relies on third parties. All channels need product information to inform, sell, and distribute products.
Some of the most common channel groups a PIM system distributes its information to are:
Although many believe that print is “dead”. In practice this is not the case at all. Catalogs are still very popular in industries such as travel, wholesale and even retail. However, the big catalogs with boring product indexes are slowly being replaced by glossy magazines and flyers with attractive visual displays of product offerings. These print communications are also becoming more personalized to specific customer segments and will, in the end, be created based on the personal interests of the individual receiver.
Digital customer channels
The company Web site, email newsletter, mobile apps, or point of sale systems, the PIM system should be able to deliver product information targeted to the specific needs of the particular channel. For example, a PIM system should deliver a low resolution photo to a mobile channel and a high definition video to the Web.
Digital internal channels
Wherever they are, employees need access to product information to better inform and sell to customers. Digital channels take a more explicit role in this as in-store sales staff can access product information via the till, call center agents have access to the company ecommerce system, and the sales force uses tablets to do the same.
Digital third party channels
In the last decade companies like Amazon, eBay and other online marketplaces have become important sales channels. As these marketplaces are aware, they sell more with good product information, and they have started to demand more and better product information from their retailers. Similarly, the same companies have now started experimenting with placing product information on social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
These systems (e.g. ERP systems) cannot only function as a source for PIM systems but may also receive enriched information backup that can be used in the logistical and financial processes of the company. One example is a product photo imported into the ERP system from the PIM system so that that warehouse staff can validate the right product has been picked.