PIM vs ERP: Finding the right data framework


March 22, 2024

PIM or ERP? Choose the right software for your needs with our complete guide.

For modern brands, manufacturers, and retailers, growth is the goal that drives innovation. But with growth comes new challenges: new channels, systems, and markets, each adding exponential amounts of information that needs to be managed. 

Growth is good—but only if it’s sustainable. 

To take control of these cascading informational needs and scale efficiently, forward-thinking enterprises often leverage two complementary systems: ERP and PIM. 

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) optimizes back-office functions like supply chain, inventory, accounting, and HR, serving as the backbone of operational integrity. Product Information Management (PIM) centralizes, manages, and enriches rapidly changing product information to fuel omnichannel experiences. 

Each brings unique strengths to managing data across enterprises. However, together ERP and PIM can optimize data-driven resource planning to drive truly sustainable growth. It’s important to understand how they differ. Let’s dive in. 

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It’s all about data flexibility 

Both ERP and PIM consolidate data from disparate systems into a single source of truth. This eliminates silos and discrepancies that result from disconnected or manual data workflows, ensuring high data quality. 

However, ERP and PIM differ when it comes to data structure and flexibility.  

What is ERP? 

An ERP solution utilizes a straightforward database (think of a filing cabinet with folders) meant to provide an overall view of internal resources across the entire business—from finance, to HR, to supply chain management. This enables the rigorous validation required for accounting, HR, and other functions. 

What is PIM? 

In contrast, PIM is the centralized platform where product data is onboarded, managed, and enriched into high-quality product information for any internal or external-facing channel. It’s built to not only organize and manage today’s product information, but also future data, leveraging elastic data models to effortlessly stretch to accommodate growth. This agility is critical in an omnichannel marketplace where product data multiplies seemingly overnight. 

So how can brands, manufacturers, and retailers determine the best platform for their needs? 

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Features of PIM vs ERP Systems 

The choice between ERP and PIM—or whether to utilize both—depends heavily on the needs of your business. First, let’s identify the specific features of PIM vs ERP:  

Features of ERP 

An ERP system encompasses a vast range of functionalities, so it can be hard to single out a specific use case. Overall, it works to integrate and automate essential business processes and internal operations, including: 

ERP integration provides the rigor needed for data integrity and regulatory compliance. With ERP software, businesses can achieve greater operational efficiency and visibility across core business functions, which can also help reduce costs.  

Features of PIM software 

Whereas ERP is geared toward internal operations, PIM software focuses primarily on managing and enriching product data to be used on both internal and external channels. It’s the cornerstone for businesses seeking to deliver powerful product narratives and engaging customer experiences. Advanced PIM solutions have capabilities like:  

With PIM, enterprises can ensure that their product content and information is not just present, but compelling, consistent, and perfectly tailored to meet the expectations of today’s consumers. 

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ERP vs PIM: What is the difference? 

While ERP and PIM both consolidate business-critical data, key differences emerge beyond that. ERP primarily focuses on updating inventory information and optimizing internal operations, whereas PIM ensures enriched, accurate product information is displayed across multiple channels. Unlike ERP, which primarily handles back-office functions, PIM platforms are tailored to centralize and organize product content and data for external channels, promoting enhanced customer experiences and omnichannel consistency. 

For example, let’s say you sell a t-shirt in three different sizes: small, medium, and large. In your ERP, that may register as three different products with unique price points, SKUs, and attributes. But what if you want to expand and add new color options? Selling that same t-shirt in 10 different colors now means you could have as many as 90 different products in your ERP. 

A PIM system simplifies this with efficient product groupings—much like you would expect to see on an e-commerce website. Rather than 90 products, PIM consolidates logically; one product, 3 sizes, and 10 colors. 

With PIM, you enable accurate data management from the very beginning. You get more accurate product data, a better customer experience, and more efficient internal workflows and product expansions.  

PIM + ERP: can they work together?  

While they have distinct purposes, integrating ERP with PIM into your tech stack can unlock comprehensive efficiency. 

Simply put, an ERP cannot use all the data it aggregates to its full potential. By itself, an ERP is not capable of standardizing, enriching, or syndicating product information across all touchpoints—from internal departments to omnichannel marketplaces. 

Working in tandem with an advanced PIM system, however, harnesses internal operations for better customer experiences.  

Take for example a multinational retail brand selling products online, in stores, and on third-party marketplaces. An ERP organizes the many business functions that make this all happen: accounting, inventory, order fulfillment, and so on. However, the data flowing in and out of these processes will be scattered and disorganized without a PIM to centralize and organize it.  

ERP and PIM integration leverages the powerful data behind the business’s production to optimize future customer experiences and provide closed-loop insights on their supply chain and product journey.  

ERP vs PIM: what’s the right solution for you?  

The PIM vs ERP debate comes down to the needs of your individual business.  

If you’re just looking for an enterprise platform to consolidate back-office data, then ERP fills that need. But if you value data accuracy, enhanced customer experience, efficiency, and sustainable growth, then PIM fits the bill.  

inriver: The complete PIM solution 

Early-generation PIM tools were designed primarily as systems of record for brands looking to elevate their sales and marketing strategies. However, in today’s market, that is no longer sufficient. Businesses need a complete solution that maximizes the value of their products through operationalizing raw data from across the value chain and transforming it into complete, compelling, and compliant product experiences for every buyer journey on every channel. 

The composable, multi-tenant inriver PIM offers the most comprehensive SaaS PIM solution on the market. With built-in syndication and digital shelf analytics technology, advanced data-sharing, and more, inriver offers the complete solution for every business in every market. 

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Schedule a personalized, guided demo with an inriver expert today to see how the inriver PIM can get more value from your product information.

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