Excel at its limit: Why a PIM software is the way
to efficient product data management

Blog PIM Excel

Microsoft Excel has become an integral part of our everyday office routine. Spreadsheets are considered easy-to-use data storage tools and find use in a wide variety of business units – or whenever data and information need to be compiled and analyzed.

But how reliable and useful is Excel when it comes to product marketing and managing product information? And when does it make sense to invest in a PIM system designed to ensure smooth data management and distribution?

Reasons for product data management: product marketing

Anyone aiming to successfully market their products faces the challenging task of having to continuously, consistently and flexibly serve many different marketing and sales channels with product content.

Product data must be:

  • collected
  • processed
  • enriched with marketing texts and media content
  • and distributed across different channels.

This process is not supposed to take up excessive resources. In addition, addressing customers at all touchpoints must meet the desired quality. This requires practical administration of each individual content component, starting with product information and media assets. To ensure consistency in product content management, every step of the process chain needs to be evaluated within the company. Only then the promise of added value can be realized. 

Product data management with Excel: Time-consuming and error-prone

For many, Excel is an ideal tool for product data management, as the software is generally available and already familiar.

Excel fundamentally

  • supports the import and export of structured data

  • offers useful structures such as tabs and columns for product categories
  • provides options such as formulas and drop-down lists to simplify and standardize entries.

In practice, however, the limits of Excel quickly become evident:

Employees often spend several hours a week preparing Excel files. Due to a lack of control mechanisms, errors in the tables often go unnoticed. This leads to inadequate, incomplete or inconsistent information being circulated. In addition, the individual files are usually distributed across different departments.

Although cloud solutions such as SharePoint and OneDrive make it possible to store and share Excel files centrally, this inevitably results in different versions of the same spreadsheets. In turn, these end up in opaque folder structures, meaning that control over where exactly the current data and information on a product can be found is quickly lost.

Ultimately, it becomes clear that Excel is not the right tool for data management. Instead, dedicated software solutions for product information management (PIM) are recommended for product marketing. A PIM system offers advantages because it has outgrown pure administrative work and is designed as a comprehensive marketing tool.

Product data management with PIM: efficient and secure

Product Information Management (PIM) is a software discipline that deals with the management, administration and distribution of product information.

The term is broadly defined and includes both the basic product master data and the editorially prepared product and marketing content as well as product media.

The corresponding systems are designed to give users maximum control over the individual product information and enable them to share and manage it across a wide range of channels.

Blog PIM Excel

The basic features and functions of a PIM are described below.

1. Consolidation and standardization of product information

PIM systems are designed to bring together all data, information and assets relevant to product communication in a central repository and to standardize the storage and maintenance processes 

This creates a “single source of truth” accessible across departments and independent of location and device. This source serves as the starting point for processing everything from product development through the entire lifecycle.  

The underlying data model determines how the product information is organized in the PIM system and displayed on the user interface. Depending on the provider and PIM solution, this can be industry-specific or individually modeled. 

2. Process automation in product information management

PIM systems are designed to simplify enrichment processes and automate recurring work steps. With a PIM, product attributes such as price and material can be updated with just a few clicks using predefined formats.

PIM systems using technologies like machine learning or language models are also able to generate or translate and localize product content. Companies that serve several target countries and need to provide product content in different languages and cultural contexts can significantly reduce the use of resources and target their customers more effectively at the same time.

3. Channel management and syndication of product content

PIM systems are able to

  • receive data and assets from other product and communication-relevant source systems such as ERP, CRM and DAM via API interfaces.
  • display all the information on the product that is required for marketing and the perfect advertising presence.
  • manage channel-specific representations so that the final product content can be automatically extracted and syndicated to the connected channels. Channels include your own website or online shop, retail platforms such as Amazon, social commerce or even non-digital channels such as print catalogs and flyers.

Product Marketing teams are now able to follow the omnichannel marketing approach efficiently and in real time.

PIM or Excel?

Excel is undoubtedly a great tool with many possibilities and has its place for a reason. However, it is unsuitable for managing, maintaining and providing product information for various reasons.

The disadvantages of Excel:

  • Excel cannot guarantee accuracy and data quality.
  • The larger the number of products, people, data sources and work steps involved, the greater the probability of errors.

The advantages of a PIM system:

  • The storage and maintenance processes are centralized and standardized.
  • Data import and export is checked according to integrated validation rules.
  • This ensures there are no data silos or duplicates.
  • Only quality controlled data records are published, shared and processed.

PIM and Excel interacting

However, saying yes to a PIM system does not mean that you should turn your back on Excel!

Excel will remain the preferred tool for bilateral data exchange between suppliers and retailers, for example. When selecting a PIM system, it is therefore important to ensure that it works in coexistence with Excel and can also take the processes developed with Excel spreadsheets to a new level.

We at Bertsch Innovation have therefore integrated a module into mediacockpit product content management solution allowing Excel files to be created and downloaded for entire product portfolios or for individual product groups. You can also import Excel files into mediacockpit, in order to add new information from suppliers or dealers, for example.

Are you reaching your limits with Excel when it comes to data management and product marketing?

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