Data management is at the heart of the aftermarket automotive industry. Retailers rely on data to manage their inventories, orders, and new supplies. Customers rely on data to find the parts they need for their vehicles. Even eCommerce platforms such as Amazon and eBay Motors rely on data to learn more about their vendors and customers.
However, the auto parts industry is also swamped with an enormous amount of information. There are tens of thousands of products in any given category, and all of them need organization and systematization.
An online car parts store cannot hope to survive without an efficient data management solution. It is simply too easy to get lost in all the parts numbers, sources, prices, dimensions, and digital assets you might be using in your marketing campaigns.
That is why many companies have opted for product information management (PIM) systems to help them handle their product data. Any organization that operates with vast amounts of data can benefit from PIM, regardless of what industry it’s in.
It just so happens that PIM and the aftermarket auto sector are a perfect fit.
But let’s start the guide to automotive PIM solutions from the beginning by defining what PIM exactly is.
What Does PIM Stand For?
As mentioned above, PIM stands for product information management. This is a process not only related to the automotive market – it is instrumental in all types of businesses that operate with a large number of products.
PIM represents a centralized product information repository that is then easily distributed through various channel options, such as different marketplaces, eCommerce platform websites, social media platforms, electronic data that feeds to trading partners, and more.
In a PIM tool, all product information is consolidated in one place, regardless of where it comes from (an internal or external source). This product information typically includes:
- Product description and technical specification
- Rich media
- Digital asset management
- Product metadata
- Product attribute and lifecycle information, and more
PIM allows businesses to increase their efficiency, compliance, and consistency. If you find that you are struggling with information management in your auto parts store, maybe it’s time to consider a PIM software solution.
Why Do You Need PIM?
Managing complex product catalogs such as car parts catalogs is a time-consuming, laborious process. New components are being added almost daily, obsolete parts are eliminated from the market, and those still on the market require fast-paced edits.
If a business starts falling behind on their product data management, one or more of the following problems start occurring:
- Inability to scale the business (expand to other marketplaces or internationally, open new stores, new product launch events, etc.)
- Ineffective branding and merchandising
- Departments cannot collaborate with each other (sales team, marketing team, customer service team, etc.)
- Increased product returns due to inaccurate orders
- Decreased customer satisfaction due to outdated, inaccurate, and inconsistent data
- Higher costs due to inefficient business processes
- Delayed time to market
- Error-riddled product updates
- Depleted or overstocked inventory
The big picture is that without PIM, a business cannot grow. In a vehicle parts store, product information is at the core of the entire operation. If this part isn’t managed correctly, shop owners cannot hope to evolve their business or increase their revenue.
Nowadays, PIM is integrated into a business mainly through the use of PIM software.
Benefits of PIM Software
A PIM solution is infinitely more efficient and accurate than using standard spreadsheets and pivot tables. Here are some benefits of incorporating PIM software into your company:
- Valuable and easily accessible data assets to use on the front-end of your eCommerce website
- Integration with existing systems (such as CRM, inventory management software, ERP, and similar)
- Synchronizing your data for ACES and PIES
- Easy information distribution to suppliers and across various sales channels
- No more manual consolidation – automatically receive and configure data from different internal and external sources
- Decreased inefficiencies and redundancies
The primary purpose of using a single solution is to create a centralized hub of data that you can effortlessly share with suppliers, eCommerce marketplaces, business partners, and more. It will dramatically improve the efficiency and productivity of your store.
What to Avoid
Before we dive into the particulars of an ideal PIM solution for you, we should take a moment to glance at the most common solutions organizations opt for that are not the most effective. You might have encountered some of these in your line of work before.
- “Manual” PIM
For a starter business, manually typing in data in a spreadsheet tool sounds like a good way to go. And it is. A reseller might also add some pivot tables of SQL cross-scripting, but all in all – spreadsheets are not a bad start.
However, there comes the point in the growth of a business when spreadsheets and teams that type data in just aren’t enough anymore. After all, spreadsheets are riddled with inaccuracies and repeated information. It isn’t easy to find what you’re looking for on the fly.
It is only a matter of time before manual PIM becomes a burden. Your workflow slows down, your employees become frustrated, and your customer satisfaction levels plummet.
- Self-Integrated PIM
When they recognize that they cannot rely on spreadsheets anymore, many businesses resort to implementing some form of PIM software that they feel is right for them. However, problems often occur right at the get-go.
Companies tend to underestimate how complex their product requirements are. Product information is deeply embedded in business systems, especially in an online car parts store. If a PIM solution doesn’t meet the organization’s needs, product information could end up scattered across different departments, and operations could become inefficient.
- All-In-One PIM Platform
PIM platforms promising a wide array of functionalities and features can be found all over the internet. A car parts reseller who isn’t happy with integrating a system on their own might choose to invest in one such all-in-one solution. And if you recognize that the platform has all the features you need, that’s not a bad idea!
But what if it has features you don’t need? What if there are more of those than the features you regularly use? Essentially, you would be giving money for something that doesn’t benefit you at all.
A software solution should be customized to fit all of your processes. There is no need to risk incurring high costs for software that you will end up underutilizing.
What to Consider
To avoid the common pitfalls listed above and find a perfect solution, consider the following features and functionalities and then look for them in your automotive PIM software proposition.
The main purpose of having a PIM tool is to manage your data. Your PIM hub will represent a single “source of truth” – there will no longer be redundant information from multiple sources. This data consolidation is why PIM drives accuracy, consistency, and completeness of the information.
Speaking of accuracy, it might be a good idea to look for a health check feature of sorts. It would make for fast discoveries of spoiled data or holes in your information that could be quickly corrected before any of your buyers even notice.
Expanding on the data consolidation feature above, your PIM software should be able to integrate data from multiple sources. These can be external sources, such as your suppliers, online storefronts, mobile apps, etc. They can also be internal sources, like internal systems, applications, and hard drives.
Even the most skilled product managers cannot hold their own when faced with dozens of different data sources. Keeping all your information in one place allows for fast error detection and correction, as well as efficient tracking.
You should also consider a PIM tool that can be integrated with other management systems if you have them. PIM, CRM, ERP, inventory management, and similar software that all work together in a cohesive manner can transform your business into a powerhouse of data. And the best part is that you won’t have to waste time keeping it all running smoothly.
The PIM software you choose should be customized for your business. It needs to be flexible enough to accommodate business growth and expansion. Scalability is a significant factor – if the solution can only support small businesses but cannot cope with those that offer thousands or tens of thousands of products, it won’t be suitable for long.
When thinking about customization, consider your business goals. This is what your PIM software should be built around. You might even find an option that can modify the user interface to how you like it! Customization greatly aids in managing and importing, and exporting high-quality data.
Local or Cloud-Based
Most PIM solutions will store your data online, “on the cloud.” This is simple and easy both for you and the software providers. With a cloud-based platform, you can access your product content anywhere, anytime, as long as you have an internet connection. It can even be from any device. Furthermore, storing data on the cloud also means that you don’t have to worry about additional and possibly expensive infrastructure and server systems in your facilities.
Regardless of where your data is stored, whether online or on your local computers, security is of the utmost importance. Your product data is not the only type that has to be protected – so does your business, customer, and employee information. These are confidential files that are not to be shared with anyone outside the selected few in the company.
Here are some data security feature examples to keep an eye out for:
- DDoS protection
- Anti-virus and anti-malware protection
- Multi-factor authentication
- Security networks
- Protection against natural disasters
- Vulnerability scanning
Do not commit to a solution before you have a data security discussion with your potential software provider. It is essential to keep your information safe from any misuse.
At last, having a place where your data is sorted and organized doesn’t mean much if you cannot access it or view it in a simple, understandable way. Look for PIM solutions that can generate all the report types that you need. These reports don’t have to be only for internal use – you can also choose to send them to your suppliers or partners.
Don’t invest in a platform that places barriers between you and your data. Look for one that can generate reports any time, about anything you choose. It’s the only way you will have a clear overview of your products and how your business operates.
PIM vs. Other Management Tools
A common question an auto parts retailer would ask is – which is better – PIM or ERP? PIM or CRM? PIM or inventory management?
And the answer would be – if you need them all, you should have them all. PIM isn’t the same as ERP or CRM, or inventory management.
PIM and ERP
ERP means enterprise resource planning. While PIM is focused solely on product information, ERP software collects data on everyday business operations. These operations can come from accounting, risk management, customer relationship management, supply chain management, human resources, and others. ERP gathers information from all of these departments, analyzes it, and generates reports that help automate and improve your business processes.
This is almost entirely different from PIM, which is all about the products. If you need an ERP to organize your day-to-day operations, there is no reason not to integrate it with your PIM system. PIM can draw information from the ERP tool, such as what products you’re selling and materials for product marketers.
PIM and CRM
Customer relationship management (CRM) is essential if you’re gathering information about your customers. It helps you find patterns in their behavior you can use to increase your sales. Are there particular times of the day or the year that your customers are shopping more? Where do they come from? How likely are they to click on an ad? CRM is invaluable in retaining customers and increasing sales.
PIM doesn’t collect any customer data. It can indirectly affect the customer experience – accurate, complete product information leads to a good customer shopping experience – but it does it in a completely different way than CRM.
PIM and Inventory Management
Quite a few people confuse PIM with inventory management. They are not the same. Inventory management deals with the stock levels in your warehouse or inventory, with options to alert you if you’re running low on certain items, if parts of your inventory are sitting too long in your warehouse, and similar. Inventory management allows for easier flow of goods in and out of your storage and reduces the chance of human error when shipping orders.
While PIM is directly related to products, it isn’t related to your inventory. You cannot use purely PIM software to track your inventory levels, order new supplies, or glance at the current status in your warehouse. PIM organizes information on the products you’re offering, even if you currently don’t have them in stock.
PIM and DFM
Data feed management (DFM) is closely related to PIM, but again, two different things. DFM software spreads your product catalog across multiple platforms and search engines. It can draw information from your PIM solution to synchronize orders, product information, sales, and inventory levels over different marketplaces. If you’re selling car parts on your website, eBay Motors, Amazon, and possibly somewhere else, too, you could benefit from a data feed management tool.
PIM transforms data sharing for the automotive industry. Without effective product information management, a business that handles thousands of products easily collapses in on itself. There is just too much data to keep track of and update.
PIM software has revolutionized many industries, including the aftermarket automotive industry. It has the power to consolidate product data all in one place, synchronize the information with ACES and PIES standards, eliminate redundancies and efficiencies, quickly disseminate information through multiple channels, and integrate with existing management systems.
When considering a PIM solution, try to avoid the three common errors that businesses make. Manual PIM works only if you’re offering a handful of products in your store. Self-integrated PIM software can create more problems than solutions if you’re not careful. Finally, an all-in-one PIM platform without much flexibility might just be a waste of money.
Look for a solution that fits your business goals. It needs to be scalable because your business will likely grow. It also needs to handle all the product information you have with ease. It would be best if your PIM tool can be integrated with other management software you’re potentially using – that way, all of your processes can seamlessly communicate with each other. Decide whether you want a local or a cloud-based system. Cloud solutions offer flexibility in terms of when and from where you can access your data.
There is never enough security, so make sure that your information is well protected. At last, don’t forget about the reporting feature. You want to have access to detailed reports of your products, both for yourself and other businesses connected to yours.
Illumaware has a flexible, customizable, and secure solution that could be an excellent fit for your shop. Contact us to find out more about Evokat Premier and how it can help organize your product information in an effective way.