We sat down with Raphaël Iscar Gutierrez, Director of PXM and Product Strategy at Absolunet, to talk about this shift in the world of product management.
Q: So what exactly is PXM?
Raph: PXM stands for Product Experience Management, the science. It differs from PIM, Product Information Management, which often refers to the platform.
If you’ve ever renovated your bathroom then you know you need certain product details to make the right decision: measurements for the interior and exterior width of a bathtub, the material, the weight, the faucet and drain-type. Without those details, the tub that's delivered might not be what you expected. Today, having all these details on your website is indispensable.
PXM encompasses everything a company needs in order to create, maintain and send these product characteristics and media (like photos and explanatory videos) to all their online touchpoints where clients will buy. This way, end customers can make a trusted product comparison and selection online…as if they were shopping in-store. The choices companies make to structure product data will highly influence the User Experience wherever products are sold. That is what the X in PXM is all about!
Q: Why did the shift from PIM to PXM happen?
Raph: When we first started our PIM practice back in 2011, we focused on what clients expected from us, which was doing PIM technical integrations. This was important but, ultimately, not enough. Our clients had challenges adopting the solutions we had built for them as they were too complex and, often, their teams weren’t ready for such a change in their day-to-day processes. But we learned from it.
Today, our clients are educated on how they cannot rely solely on the technology to clean, structure and deliver the right product data to end customers. We need to help them create and implement a holistic approach for managing their product data and customer experience. We can do that by providing recommendations on team structure and processes to efficiently manage product information from product creation to syndication.
Q: What kind of companies need PXM?
Raph: Well, if you have a product catalog and intend to sell it online and offline with consistent information…you have no choice but to invest in PXM! Distributors need PXM because they have to quickly digitize their product and streamline data coming from multiple brands and sources into one unified format.
Here's another example. Think about the dishwashers offered at Home Depot. Imagine that Home Depot receives dishwasher characteristics from over 20 brands in many different formats, like PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, emails. Now think about what Home Depot has to do to structure 20 different product characteristics in a single unified format. Each brand has their own way of noting the weight, size, color code of their dishwasher and Home Depot has to unify all this information into one consistent platform. It becomes a nightmare for them to transform 20 different dishwasher product formats into one format that will help clients compare and select the right dishwasher among all these brands! If you aren’t easy to do business with, retailers like the Home Depot won’t prioritize your product line. PXM provides a foundation for these distributors to onboard data, enrich it in a way retailers and their end customers understand, and provide the same guided path to purchase.
How to Harness the Home Depot’s Digital Capability.
Absolunet CEO Charles Desjardins and inriver CPO and co-founder Johan Boström explain how.
Similarly, manufacturers need PXM to sell more products, because they need to accurately explain all their product characteristics to their customers, and send the right data to their distributors.
Retailers also need PXM because competition is high, and the more information they have on their products, the higher their chances are to rank and get selected by the consumer. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg!
Q: How is the market evolving?
Raph: In the past, the market was flooded with PIM platform providers trying to sell a magical solution that could clean, structure and send product information. Clients were amazed by the potential of these platforms, but they didn’t consider whether their ecosystem was actually ready for it. In the last 3 years, we have helped clients realize that change management is a key component for these PIM enhancement projects. So today, we offer technology implementation but beforehand, we do a 10 Pillar PXM discovery session to help clients prepare,. starting with a review of their objectives, processes, data readiness and team readiness! This is a prerequisite to be able to select the best technology.
And PIM is not always the answer. The big picture here is that the market is evolving rapidly and we are making sure that our clients are prepared to keep up and achieve their respective goals.
Q: What about PIM platform vendors? What changes have they been experiencing?
Raph: Vendors in the PIM space have been investing through both product innovations and acquisitions in various critical areas like supplier data onboarding, digital shelf analytics, and content enrichment automations. They have also been working to expand their partner ecosystem, both for “data consulting” and “technical” partners focused on translation, print, AI, to give a few examples. Increasingly, vendors have been adding “low code” and “no code” functionality that allows business users to perform what were traditionally developer tasks through simple configuration.
Q: What technologies do you use?
Raph: PIM is, of course, a major component of the technologies we offer to enhance our clients' product catalog management ecosystem. Master Data Management also became a hot topic to facilitate data onboarding from multiple sources of information in order to streamline it into one format. Middleware becomes important when clients have a large amount of data to exchange and/or transform between multiple systems in order to secure the performance of your PIM solution.
For companies with a creative team that needs to edit assets & videos on a day to day basis, you’ll need to consider a Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution. The difference between PIM asset capabilities and DAMs is that DAM platforms include much more advanced edition workflow capabilities and approval flows in order to best manage your assets. It can also allow you to store your legacy assets and do version history tracking.
Q: Where do you see the PXM team in 10 years?
Raph: Well…we’ll definitely be working from space! We’ll be celebrating our incredible results in Tulum, Mexico! We’ll have an AI practice to deliver automated product data enrichment to our customers. And we’ll be educating people in the world of data science and data management in an eCommerce context.
Q: How do you onboard new teammates to the PXM division?
Raph: Onboarding is crucial for the ongoing success of our PXM division. We started 2021 with 4 people and ended it with 8 talented leaders. We plan to double the size of the team for Q1 2022! We are in a niche market and we need niche profiles that are a mix of business and technical, with a focus on mastering product data management expertise.
Currently, we offer PIM platform certifications, consulting and change management courses and mentoring from more senior consultants. I’m also directly involved in teaching our PXM Pillars Discovery Framework to assess client needs to our new consultants.
In the future, we’re looking to develop a PXM Bootcamp to better train and directly certify our more junior consultants with our special PXM consulting approach. We want to be the best PXM agency in the world and our training is a critical part of that goal. Education is the future. We need to train people to do the job we need them to do. We’re also currently searching for universities in order to build PXM tracks in North America.