A Product Information Management (PIM) software solution can help retailers and suppliers manage their product data more effectively. Are you embarking on the first phase of your PIM software selection journey?
We often find that information management software customers expect to hit Google running. If that's the case, you'll first want to prepare a detailed Request for Proposal (RFP) to ensure you find the right product management vendor that aligns with your business needs.
To help you in this process, we have compiled a list of 21 essential elements to include in your information management RFP. These elements will guide you in evaluating potential product information management solution vendors and selecting the best-fit PIM software for your organization.
What are the essential elements to include in a Product Information Management (PIM) Software RFP?
You want to work with a reputable company. So, begin your RFP by requesting information about the vendor company's background, including its history, years of experience in the PIM industry, and any notable achievements or recognitions.
Understanding your potential vendor's expertise and track record will give you insights into the credibility of their product information management (PIM) software.
Specify the technical requirements you expect from your PIM software. This may include compatibility with your existing systems, support for specific data formats, integration capabilities with third-party applications, and scalability to handle the future growth of your business.
Clearly outline your technical expectations so you can accurately assess each vendor's ability to meet them.
Here are some key technical requirements to consider when choosing a PIM:
Product Data Import and Integration:
PIM tools should support various data import formats (e.g., CSV, XML). They should also offer integration capabilities with your other systems (think your ERP, CRM, or e-commerce platform).
Data Modeling and Structure:
Make sure your chosen software is flexible when it comes to defining product data models and structures. It ought to support the right attributes, hierarchies, relationships, and classifications to cover all of the different product types and categories that apply to your retail business. So you can work the way you need to work.
Data Enrichment and Validation:
Enriched product data is the holy grail for your business. Look for PIM software that offers comprehensive product data enrichment tools, like allowing users to easily add and edit attributes, descriptions, images, videos, and other media across all of your digital assets.
A product information management PIM should be a self-sustaining, intelligent data hub. Data validation is an important aspect of this, so the solution should provide validation checks to ensure data consistency and accuracy.
Workflow and Collaboration:
You'll want to enable efficient and effective collaboration for your teams. A PIM tool that supports workflow management can make all the difference here. Certain features are essential, not just for small and medium businesses, but enterprise companies, as well.
Look for role-based access control, task assignment, approval workflows, and notifications to streamline product data creation and review processes .
Localization and Globalization:
If you operate in multiple regions or countries, choose information management (PIM) software that supports multilingual product data management. Be sure it allows for translations, regional variations, and localized content to accommodate different markets and languages.
This way, your PIM solutions can distribute information in whatever dialect your global consumers use, from one centralized location.
Digital Asset Management (DAM):
Do you need to manage and organize product-related digital assets such as images, videos, and documents in a centralized repository? If so, consider requiring integrated digital asset management capabilities within your solution.
Digital asset management goes beyond creating a centralized dashboard for product data and conversations. It helps brands manage and store all other digital assets, as well.
Data Syndication and Distribution:
PIM software should enable efficient data syndication, so you can distribute information to multiple sales and ecommerce channels. This includes a wide range of digital media channels and platforms such as: e-commerce websites, marketplaces, mobile apps, and product catalogs.
Check that your PIM also offers export capabilities and integration options for seamless data delivery across digital channels.
Scalability and Performance:
Your PIM software needs to be able to handle your current and future data volumes. It should be scalable to accommodate your business growth. You'll also want to consider performance aspects, such as response times, indexing speed, and search capabilities.
This will help with quality management as you scale, giving you the ability to add multiple users and complementary tools.
Data Security and Governance:
Data security is crucial when managing product information, but product data sheets rarely have a user friendly interface that encourages adoption. That's why you need PIM software that complies with all relevant data protection regulations.
Look out for robust security features in any PIM system you're considering, such as user authentication, access controls, encryption, and audit logs.
System Integration and APIs:
Check if the PIM software offers well-documented APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to facilitate integration with your other tools, business systems, and third party software. This allows for custom development, data synchronization, automation of processes, and the ability to distribute assets without leaving the tool.
Even if this is not important to you right now, it will be in the future as your retail business scales to include multiple channels and additional users.
Data Management Capabilities:
Digital asset management is a great start. However, you'll also want to ask about the PIM software's data management capabilities, which should go beyond the basics of IoT. Ask potential vendors how they handle data storage, data enrichment, attribute management, product hierarchies, and data import and export functionalities.
PIM vendors should go beyond adhering to data standards to glean actionable insights from your business processes.
Here are key data management capabilities to look for:
Centralized Data Repository:
Any PIM solution you choose should provide a centralized repository to store and manage all product-related digital data. This includes: product attributes, product descriptions, emotional data, SKUs, pricing, inventory, images, videos, documents, and other digital media.
When data is centralized, you can use your PIM systems to share product stories with online sellers and physical stores, without your team becoming mired in repetitive clerical work.
Versioning and History:
Your PIM software ought to offer versioning and historical data capabilities, so that users can track and manage changes made to your product data over time. The ability to revert to previous versions, audit data modifications, and maintain a historical record of data changes means you have complete visibility into who made specific changes, and when.
You'll want your solution to provide data governance features that support data standardization, data cleansing, duplicate identification and resolution, and data completeness checks. A good PIM helps retailers and suppliers enforce data policies and maintain high-quality product information across multiple sales channels.
Data Import and Export:
In addition to supporting various import formats, your PIM software should provide tools for data mapping and transformation during the import process. Working with multiple retailers and brands means your data format requirements are constantly changing, so your PIM software needs to be able to keep up.
You'll also need flexible data export capabilities, so you can easily disseminate product information to different distribution channels and systems.
Search and Filtering:
Search and filtering capabilities help your team quickly retrieve the right product data for the task at hand. Be sure your PIM includes advanced search options, faceted search, and the ability to create custom filters. Your system should be extremely flexible and let your team update your search categories by verious criteria.
This will help bring a quick resolution to any business specific search you need to execute, which will be a game changer for your business processes.
Data Relationships and Hierarchies:
Data relationships and hierarchies can get complex, quickly. Any PIM software you evaluate should support parent-child relationships, cross-selling or upselling associations, and hierarchical structures for product categories.
Again, this will simply help your team locate data more effectively when you're in a pinch. So you can make sales and get your product to consumer faster.
Data Analytics and Reporting:
What good is data if you can't analyze it? You'll need your PIM software to include built-in analytics and reporting capabilities. It should provide insights into product data, usage data, completeness, data quality, and performance metrics.
The ability to create custom reports and dashboards to monitor key performance indicators will also come in handy.
Data Governance and Security:
Data stewarding and security are critical aspects of PIM implementation. Request information on your potential vendor's governance practices, security measures, and compliance with industry standards such as GDPR or CCPA.
It may sound dry, but these security measures will protect your business. So, evaluate how your prospective solution ensures data integrity, confidentiality, and protection against unauthorized access.
Every of your sales channels will have its own data formatting requirements. So, ask vendors about their ability to transform and normalize data to meet the requirements of different sales and marketing channels, business partners, or marketplaces.
Workflow automation will get your business running like a well-oiled machine. Inquire about your vendor's workflow capabilities, including data validation, approval processes, and task assignment functionalities. You'll want a solution that simplifies and accelerates your data management workflows.
Here are key workflow automation capabilities to look for:
"Workflow automation" is an umbrella term that refers to many different aspects of your business, from production to the sales layer, from order management to end of life retirement.
Let's take a look at some of the most useful tools for retail teams, whether you're enterprise, small, or medium sized businesses.
Workflow Design and Configuration:
Your product information management software should provide a flexible, intuitive interface for designing and configuring workflows according to each user's specific business requirements. This includes defining the sequence of tasks, task dependencies, and participants involved in each step.
Task Assignment and Notifications:
Any software you evaluate should allow for assigning tasks to appropriate team members or roles. Ideally, automated notifications and reminders should notify users about pending tasks, approaching deadlines, or updates in the workflow.
This way, you can execute your product management workflow and order management process without worrying about oversights.
Role-Based Access Control:
PIM systems usually offer role-based access control to ensure that only authorized users can perform specific tasks. This helps enforce security and maintain data integrity, as only the people that need it have access to sensitive data.
Collaboration and Communication:
Look for a product information management (PIM) that facilitates collaboration and communication among all team members involved in the process of bringing your products to market. Features such as comments, annotations, chat functionality, and document attachments are key.
Your product information management software should support approval workflows. This will ensure that product data goes through necessary review and approval stages. You should be able to define multiple approval levels, assign approvers, and incorporate escalations or notifications for pending approvals.
Status Tracking and Reporting:
The best PIM software enables real-time status tracking on workflow tasks and provides visibility into the progress of your product data at any given time. It should offer reporting capabilities to generate workflow-related metrics, such as task completion rates, average processing times, and bottleneck identification. This way, you can refine your physical or ecommerce businesses to reach optimal profitability.
Integration with External Systems:
Ask if the PIM system has integration capabilities with other business systems, such as ERP systems (Enterprise Resource Planning Systems) or CRM systems (Customer Relationship Management Systems). Seamless data exchange and process automation between different systems will help you eliminate manual data entry, so your team can focus on what matters.
Audit Trails and History:
Ideally, the solution will maintain comprehensive audit trails and history logs of all of your workflow activities, from catalog management to the sales layer. This allows for tracking changes, identifying bottlenecks, and maintaining a historical record of data modifications and approvals.
Ask vendors about their syndication capabilities across various sales channels, including ecommerce channels, marketplaces, and social media. Assess their integration capabilities with different channel APIs and their ability to automate syndication processes, so your feed management process goes off without a hitch.
User Interface and Ease of Use:
Usability is a crucial factor in your team's successful adoption of a product information management (PIM). After all, it isn't a good software investment if your team doesn't use it. So request information on the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design of your prospective solution. Inquire about the ease of use, intuitiveness, and customization options available to meet your specific user requirements.
An increasing number of retail transactions take place on smartphones and tablets. So ensure that your PIM solution offers mobile accessibility. Inquire about the availability of mobile apps or responsive web interfaces that let users access and manage product data on the go.
Data Analytics and Reporting:
Ask vendors about the data analytics and reporting capabilities of their product information management (PIM). Inquire about the types of reports available, such as product performance, data completeness, or sales channel analytics.
Here are key data analytics and reporting capabilities to look for:
Properly utilizing product and customer data can give your retail team a leg up on the competition. Your product information management PIM software should do most of the work for you.
Let's take a look at some key features to consider.
Predefined Reporting Templates:
Look for a product information management (PIM) system that offers predefined reporting templates, which can provide a starting point to accelerate the reporting setup process.
Data Aggregation and Consolidation:
Any PIM in question should have the ability to aggregate and consolidate product data from different channels, marketplaces, or regions into a unified view. This enables comprehensive analysis and reporting across your entire product catalog, so you can make better business decisions.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):
When it comes to product data management, you'll want your PIM software to support the definition and tracking of all key performance indicators. It should provide standard KPIs such as data completeness, data quality, time-to-market, and performance metrics specific to your business objectives –– while also allowing for custom KPIs based on your unique requirements.
Ad-Hoc Querying and Filtering:
Look for a solution that lets users perform ad-hoc queries and filtering of product data. In other words, a user-friendly interface for defining complex queries and applying filters based on specific attributes, categories, or criteria. This will help your team locate the exact data they need, without wasting billable hours.
Forecasting and Trend Analysis:
Consider whether the software offers forecasting and trend analysis capabilities. You'll want it to let users analyze historical data and identify patterns or trends. This will enable your team to make predictions and anticipate future demand or market behavior. These insights will help in planning out your inventory management, pricing strategies, or product launches.
Real-Time and Scheduled Reporting:
Your PIM software should provide real-time reporting capabilities so you can access up-to-date information on-demand. Scheduled reporting -- i.e. allowing for automated report generation and distribution at preset intervals -- is also a convenient feature to have.
Integration with Business Intelligence (BI) Tools:
Does the solution offer integration options with popular business intelligence tools or data visualization platforms? This will allow for seamless data integration and analysis across multiple platforms and systems, leveraging existing BI investments to benefit your team's workflow.
Training and Support:
Effective training and ongoing support are vital for successful PIM implementation. Learning new technology won't be easy for all of your employees. So, request information about the vendor's training programs, documentation, and customer support services.
Vendor Roadmap and Product Updates:
Inquire about the vendor's future plans and product roadmap. Assess their commitment to product enhancements, updates, and incorporating new technologies –– such as AI or machine learning. A forward-thinking vendor will ensure that your PIM software remains relevant and competitive over time.
Ask vendors about their implementation methodology –– how they onboard their technology. Inquire about the project timeline, resource requirements, and the level of involvement expected from your team during implementation. Your prospective software providers should have the ability to deliver a smooth and successful implementation.
Total Cost of Ownership:
Discuss the pricing and total cost of ownership (TCO) with potential vendors. Request detailed information on the pricing structure, licensing model, implementation costs, ongoing support fees, and any additional charges that may be applicable. A "free version" isn't always free, so ensure that you have a clear understanding of your financial commitment.
References and Case Studies:
Ask vendors to provide references and case studies from their existing customers. Reach out to these references to gain insights into their experience with the vendor and the effectiveness of the solution in real-world scenarios.
Vendor Partnership and Collaboration:
Evaluate the potential vendor as a long-term partner. Inquire about their approach to collaboration, including how they incorporate customer feedback and how they involve customers in the product development process. If you want a successful and mutually beneficial partnership, seek out a vendor that values customer input and fosters a collaborative relationship.
Preparing a comprehensive RFP is crucial to finding the right PIM software to meet your business requirements. Including these key features and essential elements in your PIM RFP will help you effectively evaluate potential vendors to make an informed decision.
A thorough evaluation will help you select a PIM solution that empowers your organization and business users with efficient product data management, while streamlining operations to drive business growth.
Surefront Product Information Management Software
Surefront is a Unified Product Collaboration Platform to power growth and ROI. Surefront offers patented PIM, CRM, and PLM solutions to streamline the omni channel sales, merchandising and product development processes.
By combining these essential functionalities, Surefront creates a single source of truth throughout your sales and listing processes. The results? Up to 150% more revenue per employee and a 40% shorter product development cycle is just the beginning.
Try our 10x ROI calculator to see your company’s potential profits. Or, skip the noise and book a custom demo with one of our unified product collaboration management experts today.
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