Over the last year or so I’ve worked on a few different projects that have involved a PIM (across Magento and Shopify Plus), which has helped to make data migration much easier, allow for more complex logic, add a layer of data governance, take various things out of the eCommerce platform and generally make managing product data more efficient and effective.
One of these was a Shopify Plus project, with various complex requirements and multiple international stores – which, although possible and relatively common, arguably isn’t the obvious use case for Shopify Plus. This is where the PIM (Akeneo) really helped to reduce the pressure on Shopify in places.
Benefits of using a PIM with Shopify Plus
Product data governance
With tags in particular (which are free-text fields and have no validation), there’s a lot of room for error with product data management in Shopify, so switching this into a more manageable / structured format helps to reduce error considerably. Within the PIM, you’ll be able to create attributes / fields with pre-populated options or be able to add a layer of validation, which can be really valuable.
In addition to this, a PIM allows you to set rules to not publish changes until all fields have been populated, helping to assure the quality of product data.
Managing product data across multiple stores
This is definitely going to be the big one for most Shopify Plus stores using a PIM, as this is a major weakness of the Shopify platform (lack of multi-store functionality). Using a PIM allows you to manage data at different levels and choose which data points are pushed to different stores (as well as share fields across different stores or create a global value). In my experience, this can be really valuable for Shopify stores and will help to reduce the amount manual / repetitive work teams need to do around merchandising and production tasks. This same principle applies for multi-brand setups and B2B / B2C setups.
There are a number of large Shopify Plus stores out there that manage way over 10 separate clone stores using a PIM, with more efficient management of product pricing, product descriptions, other product data points, product images and various other things. With pricing, a PIM can also help with creating more advanced logic around international pricing, for those without fixed price files.
Depending on the PIM, the system can also apply benefits for asset management too, including things like image resizing and then sharing assets across the different stores.
Automation of enrichment and other tasks
One of the biggest benefits of using a PIM is automation, allowing for logic and rules to assign data to products, associate products to categories, assign assets etc. This is the same for Shopify and can help to make things easier for store managers, particularly if you have multiple stores.
An example for a men’s Nike t-shirt could be:
- Because ‘brand’ is “Nike”, automatically add to Nike collections (and same for other attributes) across all stores
- Because ‘gender’ is “men’s” but gender isn’t in the product name, inject value into meta title – same would apply to things like collection and product type etc (e.g. Nike Dri-FIT Academy Men’s Football Short-Sleeve Top”
- Because ‘brand’ is Nike and gender is ‘mens’, automatically add Nike mens copy block to product
- Because availability is global, publish across all stores
- Because ‘brand’ is Nike, multiply GBP_price by 1.5 for AUD_price
- Send all images to all stores
- Inherit images for variant products from parent
Efficiency in managing various other areas
Examples of things that can be handled / managed via a PIM with Shopify, in addition to product data include category merchandising (dependent on how your collections are setup), logic for things like related products, product collection association, management and distribution of collection page content, use of images in different areas of the site, adding of breadcrumb links across the site and lots more.
As long as Shopify has the API available, PIMs can help to manage a lot of different areas that can be very time-consuming in the admin.
Unified product data against different stores and channels
Another benefit of using a PIM with a platform like Shopify / Shopify Plus is that you’re able to keep the data across different stores unified. When you’re working with completely independent stores, it’s very easy to have different product data in places, merchandise differently, forget to re-order categories etc. Using a PIM allows you to manage these areas at a global level and ensure that product data is unified.
PIM systems that are often used with Shopify Plus
Akeneo is the solution we’ve worked with the most and we’re big fans of it – having added value to a number of our Magento and Shopify Plus clients. Akeneo is widely considered to be a leader in PIM and they have a number of complementary modules to also support management of supplier data, B2B functions and various other things. Akeneo has a free and paid version and they also do a lot of professional services work and training for both the client and partners.
We’ve got clients working with both the enterprise (paid) and community (free) versions and generally advocate it due to its community, it’s simplicity and the open-source nature of the product – as well as the advanced nature of its features.
Some of the benefits that Akeneo added to the project I was referring to earlier include:
- Product data for different stores managed against single products and then different data points passed into different Shopify stores as tags and metafields
- Lots of logic handled in Akeneo (and ERP – pulled into the PIM) around product availability, product shipping classes and various other things
- Category association managed in Akeneo
- Category content managed via Akeneo
- Category sorting / merchandising managed in Akeneo
Jasper is much bigger in the US than the UK, so I’ve had very little exposure to it – but it looks like a good product and I’ve had clients who have said good things about it. Jasper is another SaaS-based PIM that’s used a lot with Shopify Plus and BigCommerce – with a similar feature-set to the other two solutions.
Pimberly is a Manchester-based PIM startup who service all ends of the market. Pimberly is different to Akeneo in that it’s offered as a managed service, meaning you don’t have an integration partner. Pimberly is used by retailers such as Moonpig, Current Body (Shopify Plus customers and our client – currently in implementation) and Harvey Nichols. In addition to having a strong PIM feature-set (automation, workflows, lots of channel management features, scheduling publishing / enrichment etc), they also have strong DAM features.
If you have any questions on using a PIM with Shopify, please feel free to add them below.