Is every PIM essentially a headless PIM?

A Product Information Management (PIM) system is a powerful tool. But how does it play into the headless eCommerce landscape? In this article we're going to explore whether there's even such a thing as a headless PIM and how a PIM can power your entire architecture to create a powerful super-system that helps across all areas of your business.

Do headless PIMs exist? What does a headless PIM look like?

Let's first tackle this big question. Our Frontkom team has several experts on the topic of headless solutions and we've talked about headless eCommerce or headless Drupal in the past. We've even published an entire eBook about headless CMS platforms. So when writing this article, I've started by opening a discussion on the topic of headless PIM solutions. And the results were very interesting, here’s some of the key points our team made:

In my mind, PIM is in a way headless by default. Just data waiting to be presented somewhere else entirely. 

-Jan-Helge Hansen, Senior eCommerce Consultant at Frontkom

A Product Information Management system is never there just to exist. Whenever a company has a PIM, there's always a purpose behind it. Why else would you meticulously catalogue data? In most cases the PIM serves as a centralized hub of all product data that is somehow connected to other systems (a website, eCommerce store, intranet etc.).

So even if there's a frontend of the PIM that's used to input and manage the data, the entire thing can be considered headless - because in the end the data is presented to the end user somewhere else. All this being said, it depends on how you define a headless architecture. Some people on our team thought that the better way to describe it would be an API-first approach.

Is the data served directly from the PIM or consumed by a website or system and enhanced for displaying purposes? Because that in my eyes would be the difference between a headless approach and an API-first approach to the PIM.

- Jakub Piasecki, Lead Software Architect at Frontkom

An important distinction is between headless and API-first architecture. The line between them is quite blurry but it's safe to say that if a frontend service uses a PIM directly to retrieve data from it, we're talking about a headless set up. However, if there's an additional database between the PIM and the presentation layer (UI), it can't really be called headless anymore and instead becomes an API-first solution.

How to use a headless Product Information Management system

Now that we've talked a little about what it would mean for a PIM to be headless, let's move on to some ways you could use your PIM as a headless platform. Even though there's still the UI you use internally to input and manage the data, the PIM could still be headless in a way.

When talking about a decoupled architecture we often invoke the analogy of the body (backend) and the head (frontend). A headless solution separates the body from the head, as the name suggests. But when it comes to PIM platforms, it's almost like the PIM's internal UI is not the head, just the clothes the body (backend) wears. And so if that's separate from the end-goal frontend (head) like an eCommerce store or company website, we can still talk about it being headless or at least having headless capabilities.

And that's when you can really start seeing how much more you can get out of your existing PIM system. With a properly designed API, all your product catalogues, product data, descriptions and other content can be utilised across various different channels depending on your needs. This makes your PIM extremely future-ready for whatever direction you take.

Let's look at an example: How AOC uses their PIM to power their website & more

You've probably heard of AOC already. In fact, you might be using an AOC monitor right now. What you might not know is that AOC is a brand of TPV Technology – the world’s largest manufacturer of computer monitors, with a 33% global market share. AOC designs and produces a full range of LCD TVs and PC monitors, sold worldwide. AOC Gaming is also a challenger on the gaming market, offering stylish monitors and peripherals for gamers.

With this scale, you can imagine the sheer volume of product data AOC manages and handles daily. They do that using a PIM solution. And that PIM solution can be used to power different AOC digital products. We're going to take a quick look at two of them - their website and their portal for retail partners.

PIM-driven website & CMS integration

The website Frontkom built for AOC is tightly connected to the PIM system and this cuts down on the time needed for content management. Previously, the process to change out information about a product would sometimes take months. Now, even though the changes need to be applied to several pages in several different languages, the process is painless and almost instantaneous. 

To make things even better, by integrating the PIM with a CMS we've created a highly scalable infrastructure that enables AOC to launch new landing pages or product pages within seconds. The CMS gets all the product data from the PIM and can turn it into separate landing pages for each language quickly and efficiently. To learn more about the AOC website and custom solutions we implemented - visit the full case study.

PIM-driven portal for partner retailers

AOC works with several retail partners who sell their products across multiple countries. To effectively sell products, it's essential to have all the key product information as well as assets like pictures, videos, user manuals etc. But it's not realistic to provide external retailers with access to AOC's PIM.

The solution here was to use the PIM to deliver data to a separate platform for the retailers where they can get all the necessary assets without having access to the core business architecture. This way AOC doesn't have to share their PIM directly but they also avoid the hassle of sharing assets and product information with a retailer every time there's a change or a new product coming out. They can also control the UI of the platform for those retailers which makes for a better user experience and helps maintain positive relationships with partners.

Key takeaway: Use your PIM to the fullest

The bottom line here is that even a basic PIM can be transformed into a powerful business integration. With the right API, you can really get the most out of a PIM solution (which is rarely inexpensive). This means better optimised business processes, more streamlined workflows and better ROI. 

If you're looking for a partner with experience leveraging PIM systems across multiple channels, contact our Frontkom team and let's work together to make your PIM into a super-powerful tool.

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