PIM vs MDM: how to secure a single source of truth


January 11, 2023

Part 2: Looking for the right "golden record" to power your entire product journey? Explore your options and understand your use cases with the second blog in our series.

If you’re taking a trip somewhere, there are a few things you need to remember for the journey. Some water to keep you hydrated on the road. A fully charged phone, just in case the worst should happen. A few snacks to keep your blood sugar levels up. And, of course, the perfect soundtrack for your journey. After all, what better way to pass the time than listening to your favorite artists and albums?

It’s the same for your product journey. If you’re setting off on the long, sometimes arduous, trip from product development all the way through to after-sales, you’ll need a “golden record” for the entire journey. But this isn’t a record you can tap along to on your steering wheel. This is the “golden record” of all your product-related information. Your single source of truth that supports all your data needs.

If you’re getting ready to take your next product to market, how can you ensure you’ve got the right “golden record” for your entire journey? Let’s break it down.

Did you start your product journey on the right foot?

Read our post on PLM vs PIM for part one of this journey.

It’s all about the data

Before you start thinking about online retailers and marketplaces, you’ll need to get the preparation right. When it comes to your product data, this means securing a single source of data truth early on in the product development process.

But why do you need this “golden record” of product data truth?

In short, products these days are so much more than the product itself. Each and every item you see in-store or online is supported by a complex web of data, and the relationships between this data. For example, the data that connects part A to part B in product development, product C to product D for merchandising, or maybe even sustainability document G and region H to meet legislative needs.

The list goes on. To meet demands for this data, and these data relationships, you need the right software solution for your use cases. If you search online for software that delivers a single source of truth for all your product, you’ll probably come across two terms:

But which one is right for you?


If you’re trying to work out which of these solutions best meets your needs, first understand your options:

What is MDM?

Master Data Management provides a central repository for all company-wide data, creating a single source of truth for organizational information that can be used to execute internal processes and operations. MDM solutions are IT-led initiatives that employ a range of processes and tools to harmonize data from all domains within an organization. This removes inconsistencies in data across personnel, customers, locations, finances, products, and more.

What is PIM?

Product Information Management provides a central repository for all product-related data within a company, creating a single source of truth that can be used to support external demands for product information. PIM solutions are business-led initiatives focused on storing, enriching, and distributing product data for customer-facing activities, such as multi-channel sales and marketing, and in-store points of sale. For more information on PIM, read about how inriver PIM powers the full product journey.

What’s the difference between MDM and PIM?

There are quite a few similarities between MDM and PIM, and there are a number of key differences between the solutions, too. Here are the most important ones.

Firstly, MDM and PIM both secure “golden records” of data truth. However, MDM contains a greater amount of data, and due to the varying intra-organization needs for this data, this single source of truth is not tailored to any specific use. Therefore, MDM solutions can require customization to meet more specific needs and use cases.

PIM, on the other hand, creates a single source of truth optimized to specific use cases, such as the market-to-order part of the product journey. The product data contained, enriched, and distributed by a PIM solution is optimized for external audiences. As a more focused, business-led solution, PIM is also configurable, meaning you can build a PIM solution that meets your specific needs.

Finally, there are also differences in the implementation of MDM and PIM. As an organization-wide solution, integrating MDM into your business tech stack can be a time-consuming process, particularly if you’re looking for a faster ROI. As a more focused, business-centric solution, PIM is easier to integrate, faster to deploy, and typically cheaper. It’s also worth considering the ROI of PIM during your decision-making process

But before you choose PIM or MDM, can these two solutions work together?

Start your product journey right


If you don’t want to choose, or already have one of the solutions integrated into your tech stack, you might want to know if you can integrate both MDM and PIM. Indeed, the similarities between the two solutions, and the data truth that both provide, can cause confusion if you’re not exactly sure which software you should be using. But does PIM + MDM = success?

In short, it depends on your needs and the use cases.

For large enterprises, integrating both MDM and PIM into your tech stack can give you the best of both worlds. The two solutions are largely complementary. From MDM, you get an internal source of truth for all organization-wide data, while a PIM solution provides you with a “golden record” for all product-related information, optimized to the needs of external-facing activities.

However, for growing enterprises, having both MDM and PIM might be overkill. With the overlap between the two solutions, you might find that you can effectively meet your needs with one solution. But which one?

PIM or MDM: which solution is right for me?

Good question. As always, the answer depends on you, your needs, and the use cases.

Think back to that journey and finding the right soundtrack for the ride. If you’re choosing between CDs or playlists, let’s imagine you have two options: a playlist of different songs from various artists, or your favorite artist’s best album. It’s the same with software solutions and choosing between MDM and PIM. You can either listen to “Now That’s What I Call Data”, or “OK Computer”.

If you’re looking for a business-led software solution that maximizes profitability, supports sales and marketing ambitions, and ultimately leads to greater ROI, then PIM is your best bet. PIM’s single source of truth gives you control over all your product data, ensuring the accuracy and speed needed to meet the growing demands of omnichannel commerce.

PIM software is also configurable, meaning you can build the solution that meets your needs for the entire product journey, as opposed to using a one-size-fits-all solution that might leave you falling short. PIM also offers connectors that enrich the multichannel selling experience, such as those to print and digital asset management tools.

However, if your primary use case is providing your organization with a single source of truth for data from diverse domains such as finance, personnel, and customer, you might find that MDM is better suited to your needs.

For more information on securing the right “golden record” for your product journey, read the Gartner Market Guide for PIM solutions or download our free ‘PIM buyer’s guide’ now and speak to a PIM expert today and discover the difference inriver makes.

PIM vs MDM: how Samsøe Samsøe made their choice.

When fashion brand Samsøe Samsøe overhauled their data governance, they needed:

  • A true multi-tenant SaaS solution
  • A track record of seamless integration with Salesforce Commerce Cloud
  • A solution that supports international expansion

Samsøe Samsøe had a choice. PIM or MDM? Learn more about their decision in our customer spotlight. Read their story >

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  • Anders Josefsson

    Director, Product Management, inriver

    As the Director of Product Management, Anders leads a team of product managers, designers, and product marketing and launch managers. Their passion for understanding customer needs and pain points drive their focus on ideating, creating, and bringing to market viable solutions that meet those needs. Anders has 25 years of experience from product innovation in various industries and markets, and this experience comes in handy when creating the next chapters of inriver's product journey.

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