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ERP, PIM, DAM, MDM: To what extent do these solutions address retail sector challenges?

par Aurélien Dumont3 October 20190 commentaires

ERP, PIM, DAM, MDM… when it comes to organizing product data, there’s no shortage of tools to choose from. But are these solutions enough to address the challenges faced by brands and retailers? Here are our thoughts.

Let’s be honest: at first glance, information systems can sometimes resemble a game of pick-up sticks, a tangle of occasionally-complex IT tools. This is particularly true for retailers, who might be using multiple systems at once: ERP, PIM, DAM, MDM and more. This can get confusing. What role do each of these solutions play? Are they able to effectively facilitate information sharing among brands and retailers? What can companies use to complement these tools? Let’s take a closer look.

ERP, the all-purpose tool

Of course, not every company has access to all of these solutions. How many they use depends on the company’s size, the size of their offering, and the complexity of their processes. At the least, PMEs will typically use an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution, a generalized tool that manages subjects from accounting to HR, from order management to logistics.

Even if ERP tools are advertised as being retail-oriented, in practice, companies will often need to turn to additional solutions to manage data for the various different aspects of their products, as well as to organize all related marketing content. In addition, these tools rarely include features for exporting product data in retailers’ Excel templates or sending product sheets via the GDSN network.

The electronic catalogue, a (narrow) bridge

This is why SMEs often use electronic catalogue solutions to complement their ERP tools. These catalogues offer a way to send or receive information via the GDSN network (also referred to as the GDSN data pool), thus allowing products to be listed by supermarkets, food service companies, travel retailers, etc. With this standard, it’s no longer necessary to worry about naming product attributes or choosing a technical protocol – everything is ready to use.
However, as they’re often specialized in facilitating data sharing via GDSN, these solutions don’t (or only minimally) cover new channels such as marketing tools, apps and consumer-facing websites, or even service providers like Google. This means that companies who use these catalogues still need to duplicate their data for each of these channels. Note that these solutions all include a PIM-style tool, with each offering a different assortment of features.

PIM and DAM tools, the cornerstones of comprehensive product data

As they further develop their offering, small and medium-sized businesses often expand their information systems by adding PIM and DAM solutions. PIM (Product Information Management) tools provide a database that is used to centralize and manage all required elements of product information, such as complex product hierarchies and products organized by types of target consumers, distribution channels, etc. This provides a framework for product marketing.

The more a company develops its marketing, the more materials are created: both printed documents as well as visuals and videos for digital channels. Managing the lifecycle of these assets quickly becomes its own challenge, which can be addressed with DAM (Digital Asset Management) tools. These help companies organize this content, set up validation processes (including those with service providers), and categorize content with metadata before exporting it into the various required formats. DAM solutions also offer configurable toolkits to export data using different web protocols, but are rarely compatible with protocols specific to certain sectors, notably retail’s GDSN protocol. Compared to data pool electronic catalogues, PIM and DAM solutions are mainly aimed towards data storage and the company’s internal collaborations, offering generic methods of exporting product information. This means client companies need to configure all parameters to ensure data is sent correctly to each of their different recipients.


With one or both of these solutions, companies have access to the tools they’ll need to manage rich and complex product data. Nonetheless, they’ll still face three key challenges:

  • To ensure quicker time-to-market, manufacturers will need to correctly anticipate their retailers’ data requirements in order to provide them with the exact information they need, right from the start. They’ll also need to adapt to all of the different technical formats used to share product data.
  • For retailers, a key concern is product data quality. How can their data be verified and improved on a regular basis?
  • Finally, all businesses have to ensure that their teams remain agile, notably by enabling them to monitor data completeness and compliance and even to further develop data for a specific channel if necessary.

MDM, the company’s dictionary

For companies with large-scale operations, each subsidiary, business unit or national office will typically manage their own ERP, PIM or DAM. A few questions inevitably arise: Who really owns all of this data, and who therefore can manage it, modify it, etc.? Where is the reference data located? How can this data be centralized? To address these questions, another tool is often added to the mix: a MDM (Master Data Management) solution. This consolidates all reference data and allows for permissions to be configured (who can view the data, modify it, etc.)


One benefit of MDM tools is that they offer a way to centralize data and ensure its quality, while keeping all of the company’s systems up to date. However, like PIM and DAM tools, they don’t offer users a way to request or share their data needs with their interlocutor, track data quality based on these needs, or share product data according to retail’s business and technical standards.


Here’s where the limits of these technological solutions in a retail context can be seen:
for small and medium-sized companies, these solutions’ complexity (or cost) can render them infeasible. For both SMEs and larger companies, though these tools help them centralize and organize their business data, they don’t address the challenges that come with publishing this data in a highly-regulated and ever-changing omnichannel environment – an environment that requires adjustments to be made in an agile manner, and all published information to be monitored constantly.

Are you a small or medium-sized company?


Read about how Mémé Georgette automated their process of sharing data with retailers

Are you a retailer?


See how Franprix uses Alkemics to complement their PIM