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Surefront Blog

PLM vs PIM: Which Do You Need?

Updated with new information 5/31/24

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Product Information Management (PIM) tools are critical to the daily business tasks of B2B retailers. 

Whether designing new products or managing product information, choosing the right software is pivotal for success. Grasping the key functional differences between PLM and PIM software is the first step toward optimizing your processes.

Rather than focusing on which one is “better” or prescribing which software type you need, this article will focus on comparing and contrasting PLM and PIM features. We’ll see where their values intersect (if at all), and clearly define who may benefit from each type of software. 

Based on these insights, we can recommend what might fit your needs.

Table of Contents

Home > Blog > PLM vs PIM: Which do you Need?

  1. What is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software?
  2. What is Product Information Management (PIM) Software?
  3. The Benefits of PLM Software
  4. The Main Reason to Use PIM Software
  5. PLM vs PIM - Final Insights and Recommendations

What is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software?

Key Features of PLM:

  • Centralized data storage for design, product development, sourcing, production, and sales.

  • Facilitates collaboration from initial concept to final distribution.

  • Utilizes historical data to improve product quality, reduce production costs, and speed up time to market.


PLM Benefits

  • Streamlines collaboration across the product lifecycle.

  • Stores product data in a central location.

  • Uses historical data for better material sourcing and design tweaks.

  • Establishes a feedback loop with key stakeholders for continuous improvement.


Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a process by which an organization brings products to life. This considers everything from concepting to product development. PLM software serves as a centralized platform for development teams to collaborate with accurate historical data that exists for a product’s entire lifecycle.

Over a series of cycles, product development teams leverage data entered into their PLM system to improve product quality. 

It’s important to note that PLM systems don’t facilitate the actual design of a product. Design takes place in Adobe or other programs that are intended for creating visuals. However, once digital sketches and technical drawings are completed, teammates can leverage those design documents to collaborate on improvements or the next stages of development using a PLM system.

PLM streamlines collaboration across the product lifecycle

Without Product Lifecycle Management software, teams are left collaborating on design files via email or using generic communication software. These tools lack context and organization, leaving teams at risk of losing data or communications in long chains of emails or generic chats. PLM solves this by unifying product data from the earliest stages of a product's conception to the final product’s distribution.

Over each stage in the product lifecycle process, development teams use historical data to find ways to source better materials and make design tweaks that can cut down production costs and improve time to market. Using a PLM system to establish a design iteration process that leverages a feedback loop of key stakeholders is the best way for an organization to strike the perfect balance of time, cost, and quality.

PLM stores product data in a central location

Beyond visual data like designs and tech packs, a Product Lifecycle Management system stores an array of data relevant to a product’s journey from concept to market. Here’s a quick reference list for the types of data stored in a PLM platform:

  • Design
  • Product Development
  • Sourcing
  • Production
  • Sales

As Product Lifecycle Management starts right from a product’s conception, PLM software is naturally the origin point for a product’s overall data. Once that product is fully developed, the data is stored in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. From there, if a company plans to sell via e-commerce sales channels, a PIM solution is the next step for distributing accurate data to those channels.

PIM and PLM Product Software

What is Product Information Management (PIM) Software?

Key Features of PIM

  • Central repository for product information.

  • Ensures accurate and consistent product information across all channels.

  • Facilitates product syndication to multiple e-commerce platforms.

  • Integrates with ERP and DAM systems for comprehensive data management.

PIM Benefits:

  • Stores the latest and most detailed product information.

  • Automates product formatting and syndication to multiple e-commerce platforms.

  • Reduces time and errors associated with manual product uploads.

  • Improves efficiency across internal teams and external stakeholders.


Product Information Management (PIM) software, also sometimes called Product Content Management (PCM) software, serves as a centralized repository for all product distribution. PIM software is designed to help businesses distribute correctly formatted product info to their e-commerce retail channels. With the e-commerce boom over the last two decades, brands need more solutions to standardize their most current and accurate product information. 

Having PIM software to store, organize, and disseminate accurate product data eliminates inconsistent information. This facilitates the distribution of better product information to sales channels and more accurate internal data for cross-team transparency. In turn, companies that use PIM software experience improved efficiency across their entire value chain—including both internal teams and external stakeholders.

How PIM, DAM, and ERP systems work together

Product information management software works in tandem with other enterprise resources to assimilate all key product data. For example, it may receive product data specifications and other core information from an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. It may also receive visual assets like photography, videos, and digital images from a digital asset management (DAM) system. 

PIM software also allows marketing teams to upload enriched product copy, optimized for their relevant keywords and audiences before distribution to their e-commerce partners. This combines to create a comprehensive database for each product with the most relevant and recent product information.

Product Information Management software stores a wide variety of data that helps different portions of an organization in different ways. Here’s a list of the most important types of data stored in a PIM:

  • Marketing Data
  • Visual Assets
  • Customer Data
  • Design Specifications
  • Financial Data

Data Stored in Product Information Management (PIM) Software

For a more exhaustive list of the data stored in a PIM, check out our Product Information Management Guide blog.

The Benefits of PLM Software

We need to clearly define the benefits of product lifecycle management software to justify why it’s worth centralizing data in this manner. Let’s start with the problem PLM systems solve: there are next to no collaboration tools that create an immersive environment for teams to collaborate on the same product

Think of Slack or other chat tools. These tools are great for engaging internal team members for ad hoc communications. However, they lack the depth and specificity needed for product development or sharing notes about designs. Those critical pieces of information quickly become buried as time passes.

The issues only get worse when development teams lean on email attachments. Information is easily lost in translation.

Download the PLM Guide

How PLM solves product collaboration problems

This is where Unified Product Lifecycle Management tools enter the picture. PLM tools drive growth by optimizing each stage of a product's lifecycle. They do this by addressing issues with data silos and lack of contextual collaboration. The product lifecycle stages include the 4 main phases of PLM:

  • Concept 
  • Design
  • Production
  • Distribution

Each stage requires context, clarity, and clearly defined workflows for everyone involved to facilitate a healthy PLM process. Surefront’s unified PLM and PIM platform is a great example of a fully immersive environment that allows teams to collaborate on design and development initiatives with visuals and data in a single place. 

Taking context up a notch, Surefront’s patented built-in chat communications are tied to each page on which they occur. For example, if you created a tech pack on Surefront and need notes from your teammates, you can see a historical log of all communications on that page within the platform. This inherently eliminates data silos as all relevant data and communications for the product at hand are stored in a single, easy-to-access place.  

Benefits of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software

Surefront Unifies PLM and PIM functionalities

As a unified PLM, PIM, and CRM solution, Surefront goes several steps beyond traditional Product Lifecycle Management software. Most PLMs only facilitate internal product collaboration. Surefront, on the other hand, enables both internal and external collaboration. At any stage of the product lifecycle journey, you can invite your external partners to view showcases of your products. 

Where other software may help with the “one to many” showcasing of a product, Surefront facilitates the “many to many” showcasing of all your products. You can send tailored showcases with robust visuals of multiple products to several of your buyers and invite them in to negotiate sales or further product customizations—bringing you closer to finalizing purchase orders. 

Surefront combines all product data and stakeholders on a unified product collaboration platform. This makes it a fantastic tool for fostering and managing supplier relations

Surefront also helps you bring products to market faster and more efficiently while simultaneously giving you tools to drive down costs while driving up product quality over a series of product lifecycles. These are key ROI results that you should look for with any tool that includes PLM functionality.

The Main Reason to Use PIM Software

Back on the Product Information Management (PIM) side of the fence, let’s talk about why some companies are migrating toward this type of software.

Brands that sell their products through e-commerce sales channels use modern PIM systems for their product syndication and distribution capabilities. Product syndication refers to the process by which a brand broadcasts products with enriched product information to e-commerce sales channels. 

Product syndication with Surefront

PIM software stores the latest and most detailed product information, making it the best central hub for product syndication. Surefront now offers product syndication, so you can list products customized to the specifications of hundreds of different online marketplaces in a single click

This process is also known as Product Content Management (PCM). PCM solutions within a PIM platform ensure that your channel-specific content needs are met with predefined formatting so that each data point is uniform and accurate to each sales channel’s standards. 

For example, this guarantees that if you’re listing a new furniture item to Walmart, Wayfair, and Home Depot’s e-commerce sites, your information will be automatically formatted to each of those retailers' specific requirements. This helps brands cut the time required for manually formatting and uploading every product on every sales channel.

PIM Product Content Management (PCM)

The days and weeks it took previously to format and upload thousands of lines of product specifications and data to e-commerce channels are now done instantly with automatic syndication tools. This is a critical part of the merchandising management flow for both e-commerce brands and retailers.

With few exceptions, nearly every modern Product Information Management software provider offers automatic product formatting and syndication. As eCommerce sales become more prevalent in the retail industry with each passing year, the need for faster, more agile syndication tools will only grow.


PLM vs PIM - Final Insights and Recommendations

After looking closely at both Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software and Product Information Management (PIM) software, it’s clear that both solutions are vital for companies’ success in omnichannel commerce. The choice is not PIM or PLM but whether you should adopt one or both solutions.

If you are a brand that does substantial business selling through e-commerce retail platforms, then a PIM solution that provides Product Content Management (PCM) is a must-have. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What percentage of my sales are via e-commerce?
    If it’s a lot, that’s a point in favor of PIM.

  • Will that share of business grow in the coming years?
    If the answer is yes, you may need a PIM system.

  • How much time do we spend uploading products to e-commerce channels?
    If it’s a significant portion of your team’s weekly work, a PIM solution will help reallocate your team’s time for other growth initiatives

We recommend adopting a unified PIM solution that meets your syndication needs as you look to scale your e-commerce business.

If you’re a brand that develops products and engages with internal and external stakeholders for those development initiatives, a PLM software solution will most certainly meet your needs. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How is my development team collaborating on products?
    If your team relies on emails and Slack for collaboration, your process might be inefficient and could benefit from the streamlining capabilities of PLM software.

  • How do we engage buyers for product customization?
    If you're using email with attachments for product customization, consider switching to a more functional and collaborative system to reduce errors and improve efficiency.

  • How can I increase productivity in my development pipeline?
    If you're out of ideas for boosting productivity, PLM software can help by reducing costs, accelerating time to market, and enhancing product quality.

Combining PIM and PLM: The Surefront advantage

It's rare that a company only requires PIM or PLM functionality as a standalone. Usually, products are developed in a PIM system and stored in a product catalog or PIM system. Your PLM is your collaboration platform. Your PIM is for syndicating completed products for e-commerce platforms and other product information users.

With Surefront, these features are already synced together. The other option is to get separate PLM and PIM systems and attempt to integrate them. We’re biased in recommending Surefront’s complete solution, but we built it that way to keep things simple and consistent.

Let’s take a look at the advantages of using Surefront:


Surefront Unified PIM & PLM

Separate PIM and PLM

Unified Platform

Combines PIM, PLM, and CRM functionalities

Separate PIM and PLM systems requiring integration


Facilitates both internal and external collaboration

Typically limited to internal collaboration only

Data Consistency

Centralized data eliminates silos and ensures consistency

Potential data silos and inconsistency between disparate PLM and PIM systems

Contextual Communication

Built-in chat tied to specific pages/projects

Generic communication tools lacking context

Supplier Relations

Enhances supplier relations with integrated showcases

Limited tools for external stakeholder engagement

Cost Reduction

Drives down costs with integrated development processes

Higher costs due to multiple systems and integration efforts

Product Quality

Continuous improvement through a centralized feedback loop

Limited feedback integration across separate systems


Easy to scale with a unified platform

Scaling may be complex with separate PIM and PLM systems


Simplified implementation with a single platform

More complex implementation with multiple systems


You don’t want your data to be siloed. Your company’s CRM, PIM, and PLM solutions shouldn’t operate in a vacuum. Surefront is a Unified Product Collaboration Platform that powers growth and ROI. Our patented PIM, CRM, and PLM solutions streamline the omnichannel sales, merchandising, and product development processes. 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.