Research shows that the global market size for Product Information Management (PIM) is expected to reach $16.0 billion by 2025. The booming eCommerce industry and the increasing demand for hyper-personalized customer experiences fuel the need for curating and managing product data. Furthermore, as businesses – B2B and B2C – realize that managing product data efficiently gives them a competitive edge in the rapidly changing digital market, the demand for robust PIM solutions is fast gaining ground.
PIM delivers the infrastructure businesses need to scale their operations in today’s omnichannel world. It enables brand marketers to target new markets and utilize new sales channels quickly and easily. Studies show that PIM increases the productivity of a marketer by 50%, boosts sales conversion rates (up to 4X), and ensures faster time-to-market (up to 3X).
A robust PIM system consolidates, synchronizes, and integrates product information with existing software applications and platforms like employee resource planning (ERP) solution, order management system (OMS), eCommerce software, web content management system (CMS), third-party software, supplier database, point of sale (POS) systems, and more. This enables fast and easy data exchange between various business functions within an organization. With a centralized product data source, back offices can efficiently manage every unique product detail while marketing teams design and roll out customized and targeted campaigns to support local and global marketing needs.
Choosing a PIM solution – Open Source vs. Proprietary
Open source is the preferred software model for businesses looking to differentiate with innovative products and services in the new digital economy. According to Gartner, more than 95% of organizations worldwide use Open Source software for mission-critical IT requirements.
When it comes to selecting a PIM solution, the buy vs. build comparison gives Open Source PIM a distinct advantage over the proprietary version. Let us explore the pros and cons of each before making our decision:
Open Source PIM – Pros and Cons
From being considerably less cost-intensive to supporting an enterprise’s culture of innovation, the benefits of an open-source PIM software are worth a look.
Open Source PIM software solution provides unlimited access to source code. This means users have total control and maximum flexibility to modify the source code to their advantage. With Open source PIM, you can build new features and functionalities to suit specific business needs and create new extensions to explore new channels of innovation.
With API-based architecture, Open Source PIM provides a central repository that can be integrated with multiple data sources and third-party applications such as point of sale (PoS) systems, product databases, eCommerce applications, supplier databases, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, and more. This enables a single, holistic view of data that can be leveraged for enhancing workflows and driving innovation.
Open Source PIM software is supported by a dynamic, thriving community of developers, active contributors, and highly-motivated PIM enthusiasts who collaborate on problem-solving and shaping product improvements. This large network can also provide support for filling technical gaps by building various extensions, functionalities, and features.
Compared to proprietary software, Open Source PIM software is mostly free or has minimal license fees. You can get your in-house developers to take care of the development or execute it by contractual IT vendors. Open Source PIM software does not require you to spend a fortune on system maintenance, implementation, and operating costs.
From unforeseen costs and severe compatibility issues to quite steep learning curves, Open Source PIM software has its own share of challenges.
You need to be an expert coder yourself or hire someone to help you implement and customize the system. Some Open Source applications may be challenging to set up, while others may come with unfamiliar interfaces or features. You will also have to maintain infrastructure, hosting, and security and update the software by applying patches, testing, and deploying new versions.
Sometimes finding compatible extensions and connectors for an Open Source system is challenging. Some proprietary hardware components require special drivers to run Open Source programs. Such drivers are only available with the equipment manufacturers and additional costs. This adds up to your project costs and affects your project timelines.
Open Source PIM system does not include complimentary plugins, training materials, or customer support – perks usually associated with the licensed software. Having limited warranty, Open Source software licenses usually have no infringement or liability protection.
Key differentiators of Open Source PIM
Besides simplifying product data management and accelerating time-to-market, Open Source PIM solution adds value by being transparent, flexible, and scalable that is pivotal for driving innovation and business transformation.
When to consider an Open Source PIM
Businesses that are technically sound and have the required expertise to implement and maintain Open Source software consider Open Source PIM solution for product data management. Businesses, particularly small and medium businesses (SMBs), looking for freedom, flexibility, and customizability to suit frequent changes in business demands opt for Open Source PIM. It also allows companies to collaborate on technology and hire and retain the best talent. Last but not least, the cost is an essential factor in leaning over to the Open Source side.
Proprietary PIM – Pros and Cons
A proprietary PIM solution allows businesses to expand into a new digital marketplace with minimal configuration. If your organization does not want to invest heavily in customizations and integrations, then deploying a proprietary PIM system will effectively help you meet your product data goals. Proprietary PIM solutions can be deployed quickly, almost with a few clicks.
The cost of a proprietary solution includes license cost, hosting, maintenance and support service costs, and also training, implementation, and recurring costs. Proprietary PIM solutions are secured and bug-free, and the license cost also includes patches for bug-fixing and software updates.
Once deployed, learning how to operate the proprietary PIM solution is fast and easy. This leads to faster work processes. It is more accessible and includes 24/7 technical support through dedicated resources or chatbots, tutorials, and user manuals.
The first disadvantage of proprietary PIM that comes to mind is the rigidity of the software that prevents adding a new feature or altering an existing one to match the unique business needs. It also lacks the ability to talk to other applications and exchange data for connecting people, systems, and business functions within the organization.
Depending on commercial partnerships for implementations and customizations, proprietary systems do not have access to user communities and cannot benefit from idea exchange networks.
Apart from the high license cost, a proprietary PIM is often bundled with multiple, unwanted, and extra features that a business may not require. Also, the rigidity of proprietary software prevents an organization from experimenting with innovations to drive business growth.
Key differentiators of Proprietary PIM
Fast deployment, ease of use, and superior support are some of the key differentiators of a proprietary PIM system. As proprietary software is professionally developed and tested repeatedly and carefully, the risk of a data breach is minimized. Additionally, proprietary software can add to business value and help attract investors by being protected by copyrights and patents.
When to consider a proprietary PIM
Large enterprises looking to leverage efficiency gains and productivity improvement in managing their product data invest in proprietary PIM solutions as they can be deployed quickly and can be up and running almost instantly. Also, reduced maintenance cost and round-the-clock support are other factors that prod enterprises to invest in proprietary PIM solutions to ensure data integrity improvements.
Best Product Information Management (PIM) Software in 2022
We would like to end by looking at the top PIM players, based on their rating on a scale of 5:
- Plytix PIM
- Sales Layer PIM
- Akeneo PIM
- Syndigo Content Experience Hub
- Salsify Commerce Experience Management Platform
- Creative Force
- Widen Collective
Rakesh Kumar is CTO at Pimcore Global Services (A Happiest Minds Company). He is responsible for designing high-performing and scalable cloud applications and managing engineering and pre-sale functions across geographies. Pimcore is an open-source platform for product information management (PIM/MDM), digital asset management (DAM), content management system (CMS), and eCommerce.