Production Information Management (PIM) sits at the core of the automotive industry. This sector deals with a vast number of products from numerous channels. Synchronizing all of that data to meet the expectations of both the buyer and the supplier is a challenging task. It cannot effectively be achieved without PIM.
You might have come to a point in your business development where you and your team feel overwhelmed with all the ACES and PIES data, translating that into fitment data for your auto parts catalogs and keeping track of all the inbound and outbound orders.
Product information management software is an excellent tool that will streamline your business process, improve efficiency and productivity, and lead to a better customer experience and improved customer relationships. It will save valuable time that you can invest in other areas of your business organization.
Here is what you need to know about PIM software solutions.
Main Pain Points
Businesses that manage hefty, complex product catalogs (such as car parts stores) easily get lost in them. It’s the nature of things as new products keep piling up, and old ones require edits at a pace that’s often too fast to keep up with.
If other factors are added in, such as promotions, product marketing, managing multiple price lists, languages, geographic locations, and similar, one or more of the following issues may occur:
- Overstocked or depleted inventory
- Inaccurate and error-ridden product updates
- Delayed time-to-market
- Inefficient processes, resulting in higher costs
- Higher customer dissatisfaction because of inconsistent, incomplete, or outdated data
- Inaccurate orders, resulting in increased returns
- Inability to collaborate across departments, both internal and external
- Ineffective merchandising and branding
- Inability to scale the business (open multiple stores, introduce new products, branch out internationally, etc.)
Product information is the lifeblood of a vehicle parts store. It needs to be accurate and up to date so that the customers don’t take their business to a competitor. Any issue with the product information leads to stifling brand growth and expansion in the long run.
Companies try many different attempts at product data management. Not all of them are successful. Here are some common solutions and strategies that may not be the best for your business:
- “Manual” PIM
Businesses that are just starting usually balance multiple Excel (or another spreadsheet tool) documents with pivot tables and maybe even cross-scripting SQL. In the beginning, this process may work just fine before sales pick up.
But sooner or later, this management technique becomes too burdensome. It takes more and more time to manage all the spreadsheets, your workflow slows down, and customers start getting frustrated with delayed or incorrect orders.
- Custom-Built PIM
Once they outgrow their spreadsheet/pivot table/SQL combinations, companies may resort to implementing a PIM solution independently. This is not a bad idea in general, but it usually fails in execution. The reach of the products is far, deeply integrated into the business systems. Companies tend to underestimate the complexity of their product management requirements.
A lot of work is involved in integrating a PIM solution into existing systems, especially concerning inventory synchronization and content management across different sales channels.
If a PIM solution isn’t installed correctly, it could result in inefficiencies and product information scattered over different departments.
- All-In-One PIM Platform
A logical solution to the problem mentioned above is to invest in an all-in-one platform. It may seem like an efficient choice at first – get software that does everything, so you don’t miss out on any feature you might need.
But the trade-off is specialization. A single software suite that hasn’t been adjusted to suit your business cannot handle the challenge of customizing front-end workflows, inventory and accounting processes, and more.
Usually, getting a single platform solution results in high costs and underutilizing of the software features.
The Ideal Option
A reliable Product Information Management tool is in charge of centralizing your car parts data and syncing it across the entire technology stack of your business (such as your eCommerce software, OMS, ERP, third-party integration, and similar). Marketing and back-office teams should be able to manage it without a problem so that a user can easily retrieve the information they’re looking for and have a satisfying shopping experience.
A single set of product data, a single “source of truth,” allows the back office to manage product details such as:
- Image and video files
- Part numbers
- Part sources
- Custom attributes
- Localizations, and more
At the same time, your marketing team will be able to:
- Push promotions
- Schedule highly targeted campaigns
- Create custom landing pages
- Support localized, international sites
- Expand to multiple marketplaces
Look for PIM digital solutions that are highly flexible and can be tailored to your specific business goals. Here are some features you should look for in an effective PIM solution:
Storing your data “on the cloud” is a lot more efficient than keeping it locally on your computer systems. There doesn’t have to be any complex infrastructure or systems stored on your premises. Cloud solutions allow you and your team to access car parts data any time, from basically anywhere. All you need is a device with an internet connection.
Your PIM solution should be able to grow along with your business. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re offering only a handful of products or tens of thousands of them – once you expand from one to the other, your software has to support it just as efficiently as it had at the beginning.
- Data Security
The data you’re working with must be protected at the highest possible level. This includes your product data, but also customer, employee, and business data. You do not want anyone snooping around these confidential files.
Your PIM solution should have many protection features, such as multi-factor authentication, protection against viruses and malware, DDoS protection, protection against natural disasters, vulnerability scanning, secure networks, and more.
- Data Accuracy
Even though this doesn’t have to be a crucial component of your PIM solution, given the nature of the aftermarket business, your product data must always be current and accurate. It would be a nice bonus to have software that performs regular health checks, so to speak, on both your application and product data to spot any spoiled information or holes that need to be filled in.
- Extensive Reports
Finally, consider the fact that you need to have access to your data at all times. After all, data is your most valuable business asset. Choose a PIM solution that offers a library of report formats customized to your specific needs. There should be no barriers between you and your data, and you should be able to export any bit of it you want at any time.
Fortunately, the days of thick file folders and paper spreadsheets that easily get lost are long gone. Now all your product data can be easily managed digitally, even online.
If you find that Excel spreadsheets and SQL scripts are becoming too hard to handle, look for a PIM solution. Make sure to opt for a customizable one that will offer you just the right set of features for the size of your business and allow for exponential growth at the same time.
Consider a cloud-based option, one that can easily be scaled when your business grows, that provides ample data security, can offer data checks for accuracy, and provides detailed reports any time you need them.
Evokat Premier, an Illumaware software solution, is worth checking out. Reach out to us for more information on how to manage your auto parts data, and we’d be happy to provide you with a solution that works for everyone.