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Surefront Blog

PLM, ERP, CRM, PIM … Oh My! Demystifying Retail Software Terminology

Surefront is a Unified Product Collaboration Platform with PIM, CRM, and PLM solutions. It's a centralized data home where stakeholders can freely share product information and assign access permissions. Most integrations are supported in Surefront, but none are needed. Our articles often focus on one aspect of our unified PIM, PLM, and CRM platform. With Surefront, each solution seamlessly works together to achieve a guaranteed 10x ROI for every customer.

Retail software terminology is much like the Wild West. There isn’t legislation around what software providers call themselves. The applications of most software solutions extend far beyond the umbrella term or acronym used to refer to them. This can make it challenging to identify the best software for your business.

Say you need a product lifecycle management solution (PLM). To find the best PLM software for your needs, you’ll need to look beyond product lifecycle management software names, ratings, and pricing. You’ll want to analyze whether the solution you’re considering has the unique features you need. You may need product syndication, massive data storage capabilities, quote customization, or the ability to interface with external suppliers… all of which are not included in mainstream PLM solutions.

But what additional features do you need, exactly? How can you communicate about them with a prospective retail solution provider? There are so many different acronyms out there that it can be challenging to understand – much less invest in – the right retail software solution to ensure your success. 

We wrote this article to help you find the best retail software for your business. In this piece, we’ll demystify four of the most common acronyms in retail software. We’ll talk about what they are, how to analyze them, and where their features secretly overlap. 

Commonly used acronyms for retail software

A modern retailer trying to understand software acronyms may feel like they’re juggling spinning plates… with hieroglyphics on them. We get it. If you’re in a retail C-Suite position, you probably don’t have time to moonlight as a software thesaurus. But you do need to make an informed decision about the best software for your team. 

Let’s unscramble the chaos, so you can make an educated decision.


PLM or Product Lifecycle Management is the process of tracking a product throughout its entire life cycle, from product development to end consumption. As it relates to software, “product lifecycle management” is an umbrella term that’s used to describe a wide range of capabilities. Any software solution that tracks products throughout their lifecycle can be called a PLM. However, since most PLM software solutions aren’t built to serve the retail industry,  the similarities end there.


Product lifecycle management solutions that are built to serve the retail industry may offer more robust functionalities, such as:

  • The ability to communicate with team members about products in one centralized place.
  • The ability to house and manage limited amounts of product data. 
  • The power to loop in external stakeholders throughout the entire product development process.
  • The ability to automatically customize product listings for hundreds of eCommerce platforms.
  • The power to customize product orders for hundreds of unique retailers’ specifications. 
  • The ability to request multiple quotes with a single click and ask for changes on the fly.  
  • The capacity to view historical data to see who completed which tasks. 

Many different features fall under the PLM umbrella, so it’s important to implement product lifecycle management software that has the right built-in integrations for your team’s unique needs. Retailers and suppliers need a unified PLM & PIM solution that’s industry specific. Only unified collaboration platforms with PLM, PIM, and CRM tools give teams the option to interface with external stakeholders –– such as buyers, suppliers, manufacturers, etc. And only a Unified Product Product Collaboration Platform can free your sales team from Excel documents and email communications. 

We take a deeper dive into PLM solutions in The Ultimate Guide to Product Lifecycle Management Software, which you can find here


Product Information Management (PIM) software is a centralized home for retailers’ and supplier's product distribution needs. PIM is also referred to as “Product Content Management (PCM) software.” PIM is the best software for brands that need to distribute properly formatted product information to numerous eCommerce sales channels with unique specifications. While PLM software focuses on managing product data and communications throughout a product’s lifecycle; PIM software focuses on managing an organization's marketing data, visual assets, customer data, design specifications, and financial data.

Use PIM software to store, organize, and disseminate accurate product data. It removes the risk of working with inconsistent information. This helps retail teams distribute better product data to sales channels, as well as provide more accurate internal data for cross-team communication. The result? Companies that use integrated PLM and PIM software experience improved efficiency across their entire value chain – including both internal teams and external stakeholders.


Enterprise resource planning software helps you gather, manage, monitor and report all the data necessary for successful product lifecycle management. ERP software manages your company's financials, supply chain, operations, commerce, reporting, manufacturing, and human resource activities. ERP solutions connect the steps in a product’s life cycle in one system for your entire organization. Think of your ERP solution as the wizard behind the curtain of your entire retail software suite. 

PLM and PIM solution providers are hyper focused on managing product data and communicating throughout the product life cycle. PLM and PIM create a microcosmic lens through which to view, audit, and share product details. Your ERP solution, on the other hand, is the best software for tying your entire tech suite together on a macro level. The right enterprise resource planning solution will give you real-time visibility into your company’s operational and financial performance.


The first three solutions we covered were focused on how to manage inventory and communication (PLM), how to manage massive loads of data (PIM), and how to manage your entire organization (ERP). Our next solution is focused on how retailers manage customer relationships. That’s what CRM stands for: Customer Relationship Management. CRM systems are focused on two core features: 1) managing customers and 2) managing potential customers, or leads. 91% of retailers with ten employees or more use a CRM system.

CRM is the best software for creating actionable marketing campaigns from customer data, then executing those campaigns. Suppliers use CRM systems to target B2B customers –– the retailers and buyers that purchase their wares with the intention of reselling them. CRM systems are also used by marketers to target B2C customers –– people who make purchases in retail stores or online. Suppliers and retailers use CRM systems to test and learn from marketing campaigns. Because of this, CRM systems need to seamlessly integrate with your marketing suite. They also need to integrate with PIM and PLM, so your team can swiftly access current and historical  data throughout the production and sales process. 

Now let’s talk ROI

ROI, or return on investment, is one of the more commonly understood terms in the retail industry. After all, everyone wants to make their money back. Funny thing about ROI in the retail industry? Very few solution providers offer any type of ROI guarantee, much less a calculator that lets potential customers calculate their 10X ROI guarantee

Before you sign up with a retail software solution provider, double check these two things: 1) The ROI that’s guaranteed, and 2) how long it takes to onboard the solution. The PLM and ERP onboarding process can be particularly labor intensive. To prevent bottlenecks during onboarding, find a solution provider that’s designed their system to be onboarded in a fraction of the time

As you go forth into the wild world of retail technology, keep in mind that the right retail PLM or ERP solution will have the other features you need –– such as CRM and PIM –– built into its functionalities. At the very least, seek out a solution provider that easily integrates with the rest of your software suite. Easy onboarding and integrations will help you customize the best unified software solution for your unique business model. 

You don’t want your data to be siloed. Your company’s CRM, PIM and PLM solutions shouldn’t operate in a vacuum, either. Surefront is a Unified Product Collaboration Platform to power growth and ROI. Our patented PIM, CRM, and PLM solutions streamline the omni channel sales, merchandising and product development processes. By combining these essential functionalities, Surefront creates a single source of truth throughout your product lifecycle, 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. The retail industry evolves quickly and has a lot of moving parts. We do all of the research, so you don’t have to. Stay ahead of market fluctuations, trends and new features by subscribing to our Unified Product Collaboration Management Blog.