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The guide to smart product information management (PIM) software for fashion retailers

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Published on

April 24, 2020

Today’s era of e-commerce has given the power to consumers. They are the ones who have control over what, where, and how they buy. 


In order to stay on top of the game, retailers have to meet the demands of their customers. They need to be present everywhere, covering every channel their customers check. 


According to Shopify’s The Fashion and Apparel Industry Report, the global online fashion retail revenue is expected to rise from $481.2 billion in 2018 to $712.9 billion by 2022. In this sector, as one of the biggest in e-commerce, the seamless shopping experience is crucial. It’s not enough to only have a product description under a photo of the product. 


You need to have so much other content to capture the attention of customers and more importantly, retain them. Videos, detailed descriptions, blog posts, photos that catch every angle, zoom functionalities, ratings, and many, many other types of data. 


When creating all this content, the most important thing to have in mind is that your customers can’t touch or feel your products. Everything is on their screens, so you have to provide authentic information that will make them buy your product without going to a brick-and-mortar store. Your content needs to bring context to your products. This means that your content is here to lead the customer through the buying process and affect their buying decision. 


Replacing simple product descriptions with a deep content strategy isn’t a simple process. First of all, you need to create meaningful and rich content. 


Then, sharing and repurposing all this content and staying consistent and relevant at the same time is a very tricky business. Managing all this product information through various channels requires a lot of time, money, and focus. Moreover, you need to do it all while meeting a fast time-to-market.


To solve this challenge and manage data more effectively, many fashion retailers started using a Product Information Management (PIM) solution. This is a centralized software system that allows retailers to manage all information from one place. 


Effective management of data is the key to a successful online retail business. With a good PIM solution, you should be able to show the right product to the right customer, market new products fast, and get valuable analytics that will help you make decisions that reduce costs. 


In this guide, we’re going to elaborate on what’s PIM and how to use it effectively for your online fashion store. So, let’s dive in. 


What’s PIM? 


Fashion retailers who want to create a flawless customer experience and build long-term relationships with their customers have to keep their visitors engaged with consistent and relevant information. 


PIM (Product Information Management) software is a centralized system that allows retailers to manage all their product information, including descriptions, properties, attributes, categories, etc., unified, in real-time.


A PIM system should primarily improve the accuracy of the fashion retail store. As duplicated and inconsistent information is something they often encounter, this software is meant to eliminate errors and provide unified information for all channels and types of content. 


Various teams can be working on the same data points at the same time, providing information that’s visible to everyone. They can update or change attributes, descriptions, pricing, and more in no-time, and this won’t be a complicated and time-consuming task anymore. 


With consistent information, fashion retailers will reduce their costs and time they usually put into a task like this. The workforce will be able to focus on important operations without having to worry about losing data points. 


Most importantly, relevant information will significantly improve the customer experience. When a customer comes to an e-commerce store to search for something, they expect to get it fast. Accurate and unified information will improve search filters and deliver relevant results in the glimpse of an eye. 


Launching products will also become a painless task. Supply chain time and sales growth have a direct link, says a Goldman Sachs study. On average, it takes 4.5 months to design a product and get it ready for production and shipping. With an effective PIM system, online retailers will shorten this time and introduce new products much faster, satisfying customer needs and increasing their sales volumes. 


What are the product information requirements of today’s fashion retailers? 


Technology advances in the past few years have made online store management simpler than ever. At the same time, the amounts of information they have to manage have made this process more difficult than ever. Here some information types fashion retailers can use in order to provide the best customer experience: 


  • Website product information
  • Detailed product descriptions
  • Images with rich alt text and descriptions, zoom, views from different angles
  • Product videos
  • How to’s, educational posts
  • Brand information
  • Sections with similar items or “buy the look”


An effective PIM should cover the following processes: 


  • Fast time-to-market for a large number of products
  • Detailed information that answers most of the customer questions
  • Customer reviews 
  • Tags that improve search engine optimization 
  • International data translated to different languages
  • Customer data that improve personalization


A fashion retailer can benefit from a PIM system that’s adjusted to an omnichannel environment, with the ability to provide content across different channels. Moreover, it has to use flexible attributes that suit both the user and the store manager and ensure a unified format for all the data from a centralized system. 

How does bad PIM harm your online retail store? 


Bad PIM can be fatal to your online retail store. These are some of the severe consequences you can face: 


  1. No real-time overview of inventory


Inconsistent information can lead to inaccurate reports about inventory conditions. This makes orders error-prone, as there will be a huge gap between demand and supply. You might think you have a certain product in your storage, but when the order arrives, you discover you don’t. Or, the other way around, you might end up with large amounts of unsold products.


In fact, in 2017, 34% of businesses were late with shipping an order because they had sold a product that wasn’t in stock. Mistakes like this lead to a false location of resources and increased operational costs.


Products with correct tags prevent this from happening, giving precise visibility of the product stocks. With the right information, fashion retailers can forecast inventory, cut costs, and satisfy demands in real-time. 


  1. Reduced product discovery 


According to Shopify, customers are 1.8 times more likely to buy a product they searched for. This means that all products should be easily discoverable for people who search for them. However, not all customers have the same names and expressions about the same products. 


For example, if a shopper is looking for a sleeveless blue top, and your website shows them a top with sleeves, they will be very disappointed. Most probably, they will leave immediately, never coming back again. Precise information is crucial for the shopping experience, especially when a visitor has come to your website for the first time ever. 


That’s why retailers have to optimize product catalog data so it can cover all the names and terms for a certain product. Shopify also discovered that searchers can generate as much as 13.8% of an e-commerce store’s revenue. So, inaccurate search results can make serious damages to your sales volumes. 


  1. Inaccurate metadata


A product catalog needs to have rich metadata. Metadata is basically the description of other data, containing keywords that describe the objects of an image. These keywords need to be correct, as they are here to provide context and to educate about the brand’s products. 


Inconsistent and irrelevant product information leads to inaccurate metadata. Products will fail to rank higher on search results and customers will fail in understanding the context of the images. Overall, it will also lead to many missed conversions. 


  1. Slow product introduction


If you’re launching new products every month, or even every week, you need a fast and smooth onboarding process. This process should enable customers to find the new product instantly, on every channel they visit. 


However, this process is quite long and complicated. Every product needs to be digitized and marked with accurate data points. 


A good PIM system creates a flexible and automated product on-boarding process that releases you from the manual tasks and saves a lot of precious time. Product launch becomes a much shorter and painless process. 

Why do you need a PIM solution? 


We’ve already tackled some of the reasons, but here’s why you a PIM solution should be an essential part of your product management strategy: 


  1. To have a detailed overview of your data in one place

A PIM solution is a central source where you can add, manage, and optimize all your product data. You don’t have to use thousands of Excel sheets and lose track every time you go looking for some information. You’ll have one tool that covers all your data management processes, saving you time to focus on business operations. 

  1. To have a unified and recognizable brand voice

Your brand voice is a very important part of your brand’s identity. You’ll have a unified vocabulary for all the terms related to your brand and you’ll be able to tell your brand story correctly. Your messages will be consistent and relevant across all channels, something that many brands don’t have. You’ll also control permissions to your data access and you’ll be able to adjust the content of your stakeholders to your own style.

  1. To recognize patterns 

A PIM solution will give you enough structured and valuable data that you’ll be able to analyze and recognize patterns in sales, customer behavior, and other events on your website. This data will reveal market and customer trends that will shape your future marketing and product management activities. 

You’ll be able to make real-time analysis and reports in no-time, eliminating all those boring hours when you have to deal with numbers. Instead, you’ll be focusing on making smarter decisions faster from the actionable insights you’ll be getting. 

  1. To adjust to different channels easily

When you have a centralized place where you keep all your data, it’s easy to take product information from there and publish it to various channels. Electronic catalogs, printed media, mobile platforms, web platforms, are only some of the channels you can use. 

A PIM solution allows you to edit content whenever you want, repurposing it for different channels over and over again. You can use it to boost your marketing activities, personalizing them for different customers and regions.

  1. To create better content

Fashion retailers with a blog page are a few steps ahead. They give more value to their products and have space where they can talk about their expertise. The blog can be a place where your customers come to find out about the latest news from the industry or to get inspiration about their next fashion combination. 

Accurate data is crucial to creating quality content. Content creators can find product information fast and create relevant and attractive content for website visitors.



AI in PIM—When Data Becomes Smart


Product information management systems have the goal to organize the business’s product data and make it easy to use on the e-commerce platform. As AI has the ability to simplify and uniform long text into targeted pieces of content, it can find a wide use in PIM systems. 


When incorporated into a PIM system, AI can create an effective and error-free data onboarding process. This provides many benefits for online retailers, primarily in eliminating manual work and significantly reducing costs. 


Although PIM systems are all about product data organization, they have great impact on website features like search, personalization, recommendations, size assistants, etc. AI can boost the effectiveness of a PIM system with complex algorithms that improve customer experience and lead to greater conversion rates.


The AI algorithms use the metadata from the PIM system and connect it to the website interface through APIs. For example, when a customer is searching for a product, the e-commerce website receives the needed product data that’s stored in the PIM system to allow the customer to explore their desired product.


An advanced AI engine also interfaces with the PIM system to extract as much product data as possible and learn about the particular customer’s desires. Therefore, it can recommend products according to their purchase history. Moreover, the engine will also gain the ability to pair items and recommend outfits based on the previously extracted data. So, the next time the customer searches for running sneakers, the AI will also be able to return a complete sports outfit. 


With more customers searching through the website, the search and the recommendation machines become smarter. The AI algorithms take the most out of the initial data that’s stored and managed in the PIM system. 


How does AI make PIM systems more efficient? 


  • Extract keywords automatically. AI doesn’t need human intervention to extract relevant keywords from product data stored in the PIM system and categorize products accordingly. This saves a lot of time spent on manual work and improves the overall quality of data.
  • Create text automatically. AI can use product descriptions, categories, features, and other types of data to generate pieces of text automatically. The engine combines the data from the PIM system with grammar rules and phrasing to create product descriptions for the e-commerce store. 
  • No duplicate data. As the data onboarding process will be automated, the AI engine doesn’t allow the appearance of duplicate or inconsistent information.


The Solution—Automatic Product Tagging for Fashion Retailers


Product tags are an important part of a PIM system. Automatic tagging is a new solution that eliminates the manual work of adding tags and imports them automatically into a PIM system. The process is based on AI engines that organize the product catalog by tagging photos based on their features. The technology uses Deep Learning algorithms that automate the tagging process without a need for human intervention.


During the automatic tagging process, the engine generates metadata for the items in the product catalog. It scans the image, detecting every characteristic that’s linked to a certain keyword. 


Imagine it like this. When you, as a human, look at a picture, it takes only a second for you to identify an item and remember what it is. The trained AI system of automatic tagging can do exactly the same thing—analyze an image and recognize the objects on it, whether it’s a blouse, a skirt, or boots. Thanks to Computer Vision and Deep learning technologies, Neural Networks learn to scan an image and provide semantic information in form of text. 


However, this isn’t such an easy task for computers. In order to do this successfully, the engine needs to be trained. The AI system scans a large number of images to learn how particular clothes look like and what are the keywords linked to them. Eventually, you get a trained automatic tagging system that can increase catalog processing time by up to 90%. 


Automatic tagging provides a label for every attribute on the picture. These labels aren’t generic tags, they are carefully attached to provide deep and relevant insights about the products. 


One product doesn’t have only one tag. For example, the AI system can attach many tags to a skirt, like “midi skirt”, “high-waist”, “A-line”,”flower skirt”, “summer skirt”, etc. When a shopper is looking for a skirt, they might only look for a “midi skirt”, but the engine considers all attributes when searching. So, both the shopper who is looking for a midi skirt and the one looking for a high-waist skirt will find the same product. 


When the engine has enough information, it also generates information about the use of the tags. Therefore, retail managers can find out who is using the product tags and their connections to other tags.


Automatic tagging replaces manual product tagging, which takes up a lot of time and resources. By minimizing human intervention, fashion retailers also reduce the chances of errors in the tagging process.


Moreover, this technology improves the accuracy of the tags and the search results of the e-commerce store. Since the entire digitization process of products is automated, time-to-market is also reduced. 


An average worker needs days, even weeks to perform what automatic tagging does in only a day. Thanks to the advanced image algorithms, fashion retailers can improve their PIM processes and focus on business development.



Why Automatic Tagging? 


Here’s why automatic tagging is the best PIM solution for fashion retailers: 


  1. To get to the top of search results

Automatic tagging provides accurate, SEO-ready tags for the products from your catalog, playing a significant role in product discoverability on search engines. Every product is marked with quality information and rich metadata that gets indexed into search terms. Now that Google also takes the context of the image into consideration, websites with accurate and quality data rank higher than the others. 

  1. To create a holistic persona for the buyer 

As automatic tagging is AI-based, it can detect objects in visual content like images or videos. Identifying visual attributes that buyers engage with is crucial if you want to get a clear image of their profile. Thanks to Computer Vision processes, automatic tagging can extract multidimensional attributes and help you create a holistic persona for every buyer.

  1. To improve website functionalities

Apart from improving your product discoverability on search engines, you can do the same on your website. Automatic tagging can help you generate accurate search results and make product search on your website much simpler. Online shoppers can go through your product catalog faster, painlessly reaching their desired products. As every product will have multiple tags, your search engine will always be able to find the product according to the shopper’s own description. 

  1. To improve in-store and warehouse product management

Automatic tagging can also be useful for your in-store product management. Your sales employees can use tags to search the inventory and find what they need instantly. This will free up more time for them to dedicate to customers in the store, who will be pleased as they won’t have to wait long for the products they are looking for. 

Warehouse employees will also benefit because they will be able to use tags as keywords when searching through the inventory and getting shipments ready. 

  1. To have more efficient inventory management operations

Thanks to automatic tagging, you’ll have endless possibilities to categorize your products. Geographical locations, product features, and customer segments are only some of the options. Moreover, you’ll be able to change and adapt them in real-time, with changes being applied to every channel the particular product appears in. 

You can also use micro and macro attributes for an even better overview. 

  1. To create a more personalized offering

Product tags can help you understand the preferences of each customer. You can use these insights to personalize what they see on your website. Thanks to Computer Vision technology, the engine captures customer preferences that are connected to a certain attribute. When combined with patterns in customer behavior, they can result in accurate customized recommendations. The AI learns with every customer move on the website, providing personal offerings in real-time.

Create unique filters to provide personalized product recommendations for each customer. Place them in sections like “You might also like” or “Shop the look” outfit recommendations. Customers will appreciate their own styling assistant. Here’s how ASOS does it: 


Source: Screenshot


      7. To make better business decisions

Machine learning algorithms will uncover the performance of all your products. Moreover, you’ll get to find out the performance of each attribute according to their tags. Detect patterns in your data and use them to make better business decisions, like planning of inventory and marketing activities. Having the right data will enable you to make decisions with minimal risk and maximal gain. You won’t struggle with product waste or price deductions, which will make your business more sustainable. 


Conclusion: 


Product information management is a very complex, time-consuming process. However, it’s necessary for the normal functioning of every fashion retailer. An efficient PIM system is essential to answer the requirements of the modern shopper with consistent and relevant information from a centralized system. 


Automatic tagging is an external solution that supports the PIM system as it gives value to the product catalog. The AI-based engine automates all human-centric tasks, improves product visibility, reduces time-to-market, and makes the overall product information management process painless. 


Pixyle.ai’s automatic tagging engine can process your entire product catalog in minutes. Our descriptive tags will improve the discovery of your products, providing a deep understanding of your visitors’ behavior during the customer journey. Experience the power of AI and start your demo now


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