PIM is like advertising. Both are ever-present and just about everywhere. We hardly ever notice that they are there. Or we just take them for granted. Prices at the gas station, food ingredients, our new sports shoes' instructions for use and care. If they are missing, we claim them: "What are the ingredients of this bread roll?" "Can I use these shoes for a via ferrata?". That is the crux of the problem for the seller: Customers don't want to have to ask for information.
Customer and purchase behaviour in the retail sector has changed drastically in recent years - and will keep evolving. The internet brought about an unexpected transparency: Assortments, prices, availabilities and delivery times may be compared with just one click. User generated content and consumer ratings have a considerable impact on purchase decisions - fostered by the seemingly unlimited desire to communicate via social networks. The rapid adoption of smartphones seemed to sound the death knell for local retailers. Information is available everywhere and at any time. Consumers scope out products and seek professional advice at a local retailer and then buy online - from the cheapest source, of course. The logical consequence: Many online shops compete on price.
But consumers go one step further: They don't only get information in-store. They research online to learn about items before purchasing - at home, 24 hours a day. Niche market players and selected stores are faced with the challenge of transferring their expertise online to compete more effectively.
If a retailer cannot provide the right information at the right time, will lose competitive advantage and will not sell his product. The customers' need for information grows with the range of products on offer. Detailed product information and emotional texts create trust and have a positive effect on purchasing decisions. Retailers, manufacturers and search engines already know these facts. The consequence? The amount of information available increases - and with it our expectations. Because we always want the same (if it was good) and more. High-quality images with a 360° view, zoom features, product videos, images showing the product in the selected colour, target group-specific texts, product reviews. These features are well known and every consumer expects them. Retailers are constantly searching for value-added features and services to differentiate their market offering. It's a vicious circle.
Online market places like Amazon, with their seemingly unlimited assortment, are a real challenge. Consumers won't accept being offered only a limited range of goods and services. If something is not available, they won't seek an alternative product from those available at the retailer's shop: instead, they will turn to another shop.
They won't accept any restrictions in terms of consumer behaviour. They use the multiple channels at their disposal for different parts of the decision-making and purchasing process and are comfortable mixing their points of interaction during their Customer Journey. Online shops, web portals, local stores, mobile apps, catalogues - the number of touch points will continue to grow.
For companies, retailers and manufacturers, understanding consumer behaviour on a multichannel level is becoming ever more crucial for the successful management of their customers. But omnichannel commerce poses also new challenges for Product Information Management (PIM) for obtaining, managing and processing product information. Product Information Management as part of a strategy to differentiate your business offers great potential and many opportunities.