Behind every successful ecommerce experience is relevant and accurate product information. A product goes through multiple stages such as ideation, research and design, pricing and configuration, marketing, and digital asset association before it is deemed ready for channels like ecommerce, marketplaces, and more. This process of taking a product from ideation all the way to supplying information to distribution channels is typically comprised of two parts. One is the practice of taking the idea and turning it into a sellable product. The other being to associate rich content and supporting information with the product to benefit external channels and buyers.
Defining PLM and PIM
The process of taking a concept or idea through a series of steps such as idea validation, market research, prototyping and design, engineering specification, compliance, and approval to turn the concept into a product is referred to as the Product Lifecycle. When enabled through a software application, this process is called Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).
Once the decision has been made to take the product to market, it initiates a new set of steps to collect and associate additional information about the product, such as rich text, title & descriptions, related digital assets, channel hierarchy, and more as per the business and channel partner needs. This is best achieved by establishing a single source of truth enabled by another software application called Product Information Management (PIM).
The Product Journey
Before the conversation goes too far into software platforms and capabilities, it is critical to understand the product life cycle stages:
- Introduction: This is typically the most expensive stage, as the product is new to the market, and sales would be low.
- Growth: As sales start to increase and generates a profit, this allows the company to justify investments in marketing and promotions.
- Maturity: By this time, the product has been established in the market, sales have grown, and the brand is recognized in the market. The task ahead is to continue to improve the product and sales to scale to maintain a competitive lead.
- Decline: Eventually, a product’s market capture will start to decline, either due to increased competition, market saturation, fund shortage, or lack of foresight to innovate. It is essential for companies at this stage to evaluate their options to either switch to another set of products or to continue to invest in the innovation of existing products.
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A PLM system helps track the product journey across all these stages so that manufacturers can monitor the performance of the product, tweak strategies, and manage coordination with various internal departments as well, such as design, engineering, finance, and marketing.
These stages of the product life cycle can also be explained through the aspect of design, development, and distribution of the product:
- Ideation to introduction: Visual design and engineering teams work together to refine the concept, conduct market research, finalize specifications, and create a prototype of the product for executive review and feedback.
- Product to market: The approved product gets enriched with marketing content, digital assets, documents, channel-specific information, and supporting data. Then the product can be declared “ready” to be published and sold through various channels.
- Distribution and sales: The approved product is sent to various channels such as ecommerce stores, marketplaces, direct to distributors, syndication feeds, print, and others. This is where the product now starts to generate revenue.
A PIM system helps take this product from its introduction to the distribution channels through various steps of enrichment. Hence, a PIM system complements the PLM process by providing a single source of truth to collect, update, and distribute product content.
Do you need both?
Even though PLM and PIM systems sound similar, they serve very differently, distinct purposes. From a budget standpoint, companies have certainly tried to pick between one or the other. But one system does not replace the other. Instead, each system informs the other.
It is advisable to identify your detailed process from product design to distribution within your company. Every organization that manufactures and sells products goes through the stages described above. This means there is some form of PLM and PIM already being maintained internally.
To streamline this process, reduce redundancy, and increase efficiency and speed to market, you need to put the right systems in place. Not sure where to start? Consider seeking out an IT or strategic partner to discuss your unique PLM and PIM needs.