Often, businesses can benefit from a PIM system to prepare their product data for market. The system holds product information, keeping it stored separately from other business data along the supply chain. Moreover, it allows you to enrich it into content before sending it off. But when you pair your ERP system with a PIM, you create an integration that drives both your business processes and your product experience to the next level.
Let’s dive into how to invest more revenue-driving opportunities with a PIM-ERP integration.
How PIM and ERP systems work together
Most companies use an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to manage daily business processes. An ERP system oversees the company's supply chain, finance, operations, manufacturing data, human resources, and other logistic processes. Considering how much it does, the ERP system tends to be the backbone of many eCommerce businesses.
Essentially, an ERP solution is excellent at managing stock and stock-keeping units (SKUs), which are the alphanumerical codes that businesses use to track products internally along the supply chain. However, the system is not responsible for managing customer-facing content. For that, PIM comes into play.
Product information management (PIM) software provides a single source of truth for teams to aggregate, optimise and publish product information. Most PIM systems include workflow functionality for efficient team collaboration, thus eliminating silos. As the command centre for product data, PIM provides all teams with access to accurate and consistent product details.
Marketers, sales team members, customer service, logistics, engineers, partners, and stakeholders can all acquire role-based access to the lifeblood of your business.
The advantages of ERP and PIM system synchronisation
Integrating the two systems removes the negative side effects of manual processing. Normally, manual data inputting results in many issues: data inaccuracies, lack of productivity, slow time-to-market, product page errors—all of which create a barrier to retaining customers.
The pressure is on for internal teams to constantly double-check their product information.
Linking an ERP system with a PIM system establishes a seamless flow of SKU data. From ERP, raw product data undergoes enrichment on PIM, before proceeding onto eCommerce channels. When integrated, the dual system supports harmonious back-end and front-end operations.
The combination provides the following benefits:
- Rapid transfer of data
- Effective inventory management
- Marketing and pricing accuracy
Rapid data transfer
Building a successful marketing campaign requires all of the products’ latest information. When businesses prepare the item setup sheets they normally use to organise and upload product data to a channel, they need data from both systems: product specifications, pricing, attributes, and content, like titles, descriptions, digital assets, and so on. Integrating ERP and PIM systems speeds up data transfers, as well as sharing product information to retailers and distributors.
Effective inventory management
ERP systems centralise stock information and control the inventory—mechanisms that ensure up-to-date stock levels on product pages at all times. Meanwhile, PIM gathers together products, separating them into categories by attributes. It creates the foundation for optimal product marketing. PIM ensures that accurate information from the inventory reaches multiple platforms.
Marketing and pricing accuracy
ERP system manages product prices of all kinds, including wholesale, category-wise, minimum advertised, and role-based. Pricing accuracy may fall short, however, because selling on different channels might require various pricing labels.
While the ERP solution provides pricing detail to each department, PIM takes over the marketing and sales aspects. When product information arrives in the PIM, the system creates a more accurate, channel-specific database for sales prices.
Conversely, an ERP system contains multiple pricing information that could be scattered and outdated. At the very least, it is not ready for shoppers’ eyes. When integrated, PIM obtains and analyses the information from the ERP. Finally, it restructures the data to give the right pricing details to the right customers.
Once you establish a connection between ERP and PIM systems, you have two opportunities for increasing revenue:
- Take products to market faster
- Reduce product return rates
Take products to market faster
The process of taking products to market can be tedious; it is a lengthy series of steps involving multiple shareholders and departments. From photography to copywriting, engineering to packaging design, it requires many approvals to flow. As such, many potential barriers can get in the way of timely product launches. Lost time equals lost revenue.
When ERP and PIM systems are working in tandem, they streamline the process significantly.
For example, when you introduce an SKU to the ERP system, it triggers a workflow in the PIM system, sending a notification to the correct marketing team member. This saves precious time, eliminating bottlenecks and breaking down silos. In a distributed environment, ERP-PIM integration consolidates teams. As a result of this chain of communication, everyone is in on the launch plan, and you can get to market faster.
Ultimately, speed-to-market results in reduced costs, quicker product page setup, and more selling time—which translates to greater revenue.
Reduce product return rates
One of the foremost reasons for product returns is inaccurate product dimensions. Because ERP solutions hold stock-level information, product dimensions and weights are often maintained in an ERP system. When integrated, the PIM system pulls that information and passes it along to all customer-facing product pages and channels. The process avoids duplicating efforts, such as manually keying that information in.
As a result, this guarantees product data accuracy. When sales channels have higher data accuracy, return rates drop. Reducing the number of expensive returns cuts costs in your processes, all while driving more revenue.
Three steps to maximising ERP and PIM system integration
Connecting your ERP system to a PIM system is often the solution that can help prepare your business to grow at scale. However, there’s always an acclimation period to any new solution or tool. To give you a head start, here are a few simple ways to enhance your ERP-PIM integration.
1. Schedule hourly, daily, or nightly syncs between your ERP and PIM systems
To ensure smooth back-and-forth communication, schedule hourly, daily, or nightly syncs between both software systems. Such a simple step creates a consistent flow of accurate SKUs flowing from your ERP solution to the PIM system. Setting up a schedule for routine systematic syncs between your ERP and PIM solutions maintains data consistency on both platforms regularly. This is a critical step in promoting efficiency between your back-end and front-end processes.
Without constant system communication between the PIM and the ERP, your marketing team might start to optimise product listings without sufficient information. As a result, this creates a backlog in workflow processes and increases time-to-market for new products. Other issues might pop up, like incorrect or out-of-date product information.
Utilising a high-limit API, PIM detects any new products or product changes made to an SKU in your ERP system. Anything from meta tags and digital assets, to technical and logistical data, is scanned and retrieved right away. Even the most minor changes, such as adjusted product weight, will sync immediately. It ensures the update will reach its intended channel via PIM integration.
2. Make sure your PIM includes a workflow feature
Many PIM systems include a workflow feature that businesses can tailor to their specific projects. Some PIM solutions even have built-in project templates, like a New Product Introduction workflow or a Product Update workflow.
The function allows you to create a sequence of tasks to process the relevant products’ data, from the initial SKU on the ERP system to the final publish-ready content. The ERP-PIM integration provides organisation-wide visibility; you can track your inventory and manage the security of critical information, including your product data. It also offers secure sharing across departments.
Teams have access to the same high-quality information on the PIM platform, and workflow enables close collaboration. Implementing a workflow gives you fine-tuned control of your projects. Detecting slight operational changes promptly becomes much easier, empowering you to continuously be at the top of your game. Ultimately, it propels your products to market.
3. Connect all channels to a PIM solution using a high-limit API
A high-limit API (application programming interface) is what allows PIM to connect deeply with ERP. The API is the integrative middleman, facilitating communication between the two systems. It also allows for tight integration with eCommerce channels. The higher the rate limit (the rate at which information is sent back and forth), the better, especially for large catalogues.
This means no matter how many products you have, all of their attributes will make it across the API, between the ERP and PIM systems, and from PIM to all other channels.
The high-limit API is a two-way connection, empowering you to enrich product data and assets on the PIM solution before returning them to the ERP system to maintain them alongside other resources. It’s possible to reduce errors while importing and exporting huge sets of product information in bulk.
The best caveat is the ability to continuously push data, including accurate inventory estimates. The data quality remains excellent for online stores, channel partners, and sales reams. The product lifecycle lengthens, and you suffer fewer returns.
Managing an online store certainly can be demanding. Some of the problems retailers face include lack of visibility due to siloed data systems, inefficiencies, unproductive internal teams, and data inaccuracies. These completely avoidable pitfalls often result in a low-quality customer experience, rendering you unable to garner new customers (or keep long-time ones). However, ERP and PIM system integration tackles these concerns.
In a nutshell, here are some of the benefits of implementing a PIM-ERP integration:
- Superior inventory management
- Product visibility for teams and customers
- Reduced returns
- Enriched product content
- Efficient product page updating
With regular ERP system data syncs, workflow-driven project management, and multichannel publishing on the PIM solution, you can assemble a tech stack that consolidates your backend and frontend operations. Operating the duo of systems properly is key to producing maximum results.
Ceejay Teku, Founder of Catsy, started in the trenches of eCommerce as a software developer and is now passionate about helping brands power through the complexities of selling online.