IBM today announced enhancements to its product information management software designed to help retailers and manufacturers speed new products to market and enhance consumer shopping experiences. Analysts said the software reduces manual labor and the risk of error to make the multi-channel sales process more efficient.
In fact, according to the Yankee Group, product information management (PIM) is yielding a 25 percent improvement in top- and bottom-line benefits for enterprises. Moreover, 63 percent of survey respondents who implemented product information management found that they increased sales resulting from an improved relationship with retailers.
The Websphere Connection
IBM is trying to corner the market by delivering pre-packaged integration among a trio of products including its product information management software, WebSphere Product Center, WebSphere Commerce and WebSphere Portal. But analysts said there is plenty of competition from SAP’s Master Data Management and Oracle’s Product Data Hub in the PIM space.
Gene Alvarez, vice president of technology research services at Meta Group, told CRM Buyer that Big Blue’s differentiating factor is its WebSphere following.
“IBM is developing its product information management software to work well with Websphere Commerce,” Alvarez said. “As we see significant year-over-year growth in Internet commerce, being able to properly present your product on the Web as well as in print and at kiosks makes the WebSphere Commerce link significant.”
Specifically, Big Blue is combining WebSphere Portal and WebSphere Product Center to allow companies to make comprehensive product information — such as descriptions, images, packaging, promotions and prices — available to trading partners, employees and customers, based on the user’s needs, through a Web-based interface.
Dan Druker, director of product information management at IBM, told CRM Buyer that the software will ease the pressure and challenges of managing product information and associated business processes by pulling all the marketing, sales, shipping, pricing and other relevant data into a central repository.
“Most companies exchange this information manually, which can result in duplication, errors and wasted time,” Druker said. “By automating this sharing of information via IBM WebSphere Portal, critical new product information can be delivered in a fast, accurate and efficient manner.”
PIM in Practice
So what does this really mean in practice? Well, retailers can enable their suppliers to manage new and changing information about their products quickly and as often as needed without manual intervention. Also, manufacturers can make information about products available to its employees for training and to provide better customer service.
Alvarez said IBM’s latest play allows merchandisers to spend more time merchandising and less time inputting data so campaigns can be more timely and more targeted, and product, promotional and pricing information will be consistent across all of the company’s sales channels.
“Now there’s less risk of error,” he said. “What you don’t want is something in print saying one thing and something on the Web saying another. Then customers get confused and walk away.”