Why is data management essential in the fashion industry?
In fashion, data management is a major challenge. Whether you are a manufacturer, retailer, or a fashion brand, you have to manage a lot of product information: descriptions, sizes, colors, prices, images, etc.
Product data management is essential to guarantee fast, accurate and consistent communication regarding a product, both internally with your teams and with your partners. Things can quickly become complex and tedious, especially for brands selling a large number of products. This is where Fashion PIM comes in.
Data management is essential for e-commerce
The data relating to a product are essential to sell it - in stores and online - but also upstream, in terms of production, inventory management and logistics. In less than 20 years, e-commerce has gained a significant share in brands’ overall turnovers and is even the only source of income for Digital Native Vertical Brands (DNVBs), i.e., brands that only sell online.
Another specificity of fashion is the sheer number of online marketplaces used by consumers. This trend means that brands have access to many potential markets but also face major technological challenges, as each platform requires using appropriate content and a specific information flow.
How was PIM created? Growing data management needs
PIM originated in the 1990s when companies began looking for more efficient ways to manage their product data. Back then, data were often stored in Excel or Access files, leading to errors and inconsistencies in the product information provided to customers. This practice is still used by some. The challenge increased with the creation of the Internet and the multiplication of emails, and the countless file versions that go with them.
One of the main advantages of PIM is to offer a centralized solution to all the company’s teams who need to update or access product information.
But the challenges faced by fashion brands and all players in this industry go beyond this and the issues are multiple. Hence the need for a Fashion PIM solution connected to the other tools used for the creation, production, and marketing of a garment.
Why is the fashion manufacturing process so specific?
Fashion has its own needs, which are linked to the processes used to produce and market a garment. And each stage means a specific trade or activity. It starts with the planning of a collection, the number of size categories and colors, then there are multiple stages of product development, the choice of materials and suppliers, with many prototypes being produced. Then comes digital marketing, which aims at promoting the product by associating it with technical datasheets containing product information, its characteristics, categories, and sub-categories, etc. All this information is edited and integrated into the PIM solution.
Product information includes the description of the product, as well as information on material, size, origin, sustainability, certifications, etc. And all of this information is centralized in the Fashion PIM solution.
PIM and DAM: why separate them?
While the PIM solution handles written product information in an editorial form, other information is needed by marketing teams and further down the line.
Visuals, for example, are often centralized in a Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution. This software manages all the media content (photos and videos) associated with the product. In the fashion industry, images are everything and a connected PIM solution, combining both PIM and DAM features, is a must-have. This is even more true when it comes to selling online, whether it is on your own website or on one or several marketplaces.
From the drawing board to PIM, data are enriched along the way
In fashion, when a garment is being created, it generates data whose volumes increase during their creation, as they go through the various players in the chain.
The garment is created by a fashion designer whose sources of inspiration are countless: street fashion, other brands, trend books, social networks... And most often a mix of all these! This creative process must be collected and saved in one place, creating the first digital brick of the product. It is one of the bricks of a PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) solution. This solution is therefore aimed at fashion designers who design clothes, but also at pattern makers who develop technical patterns and at buyers who source from factories. This is the technical stage, linked to the production of a garment. The volume of data increases from one software to another, as they allow manufacturers, equipment suppliers and retailers to gain efficiency and agility.
Each of these actions generate data which, once organized, will be transmitted to the PIM solution.
How can a connected Fashion PIM solution facilitate collaboration?
A PIM solution centralizes all product information in one place. This is all the more important since in fashion, the different players usually work on the same project but do not communicate with each other, unlike in other industries. PIM solutions are therefore essential to help people who don’t speak the same language work better together. It provides them with accurate, tangible, and consistent information, whatever the distribution channel.
So, what does a Fashion PIM solution really do?
- A Fashion PIM solution collects information, usually technical information stored in a PLM (technical description of products, measurements, materials) or an ERP system, which manages prices, and also visuals, mainly photos stored in a DAM system.
- The Fashion PIM solution enriches and categorizes these raw data for digital marketing purposes. For example, by adding editorialized descriptions for the different marketing channels, it also undertakes their translation. In this case, the PIM solution also conducts data monitoring, checking its progress and validation.
- The Fashion PIM therefore allows the collected and enriched information to be transferred to the CMS software of the online store, the marketplace integration solution, or any other additional technological brick.
What can't a PIM solution do?
The role of a PIM solution is to collect, enrich and then transmit data. But it cannot replace an ERP system, which uses product information from the PIM solution to then manage stocks when a product is sold, for example.
Why is a connected PIM solution essential when managing marketplaces?
Product data can often be missing or inaccurate: wrong size, wrong, missing, or misleading description, the visuals appear corrupted, etc. These issues are all the more frequent as the risk of error has increased since the emergence of marketplaces, which now represent the largest market share for online fashion brands.
For each marketplace, brands must produce a different source file with its own attributes, data, and columns. This time-consuming task leads to many human errors. Not to mention the human resources they require. Some brands end up employing one full-time person dedicated to one marketplace.
Each marketplace is also available in several languages, then multiply this number by as many marketplaces… You’ll need a whole department solely dedicated to marketplace management!
But there is another way: using a connected Fashion PIM solution. It will act as a technical interface with marketplaces. When a marketplace makes a modification or an update, the connected Fashion PIM solution manages the interconnection and ensures that the brand’s data are still fed into the marketplaces.
Why is a good customer experience a win-win for brands?
“A satisfied customer is a returning customer” as the saying goes. Fashion manufacturers therefore have every interest in providing customers with as much information as possible about their products. Focusing on customer experience is particularly important for fashion brands as it tackles the main issue in e-commerce: product returns. Returns represent a net loss of turnover, disrupt inventory management, and even the entire supply chain, not to mention their negative impact on the environment.
In Europe, according to a survey published in 2019, clothing and accessories are by far the products that are returned the most often, with an average return rate of 19%. In countries like the Netherlands and Germany, with respective rates of 28.4 and 27.5, almost 1/3 of clothes and shoes purchased online are returned!
So why is a connected Fashion PIM solution so important?
- It centralizes all product information in one single database, making its management and transmission easier.
- It improves data quality: a Fashion PIM solution ensures that all data are complete and consistent.
- It reduces errors: by automating certain tasks, a Fashion PIM solution reduces errors related to manual data entry.
- It reduces the time required to put new products on the market.
- It makes collaboration between the different departments of the company (marketing, production, logistics, etc.) easier by providing them with accurate and up-to-date information.