Which to Use for Ecommerce Catalogs?

Removing friction from the online shopping experience should be the main objective with your ecommerce presence PHOTO: Negative Space

Ecommerce is harder to execute than originally expected.

Companies — both B2B and B2C — have near-unanimously come to this conclusion after a few years in the ecommerce space. And for those who have yet to start, the window of opportunity narrows as the ecommerce leaders continue their exponential growth.  

Defining WCM and PIM

One of the more significant challenges involves deciding which application or applications to leverage when developing an ecommerce product catalog: a content management system (CMS), product information management (PIM) system or a combination of the two.

Let’s start with some definitions. No single definition exists for either and so there’s some ambiguity and overlap between the two as well as with Master Data Management (MDM) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) which we won’t cover here.  

With that in mind, every organization tackling this challenge must allocate adequate time to consider the subtleties involved, as a well-structured product catalog is a key foundational component of any successful ecommerce implementation.  

  • Content management system (CMS): A software application or set of related programs used to create and manage digital content. CMSs are typically used for enterprise content management (ECM) and web content management (WCM). An ECM facilitates collaboration, integrating document management, digital asset management and records retention functionalities, and provides end users with role-based access to the organization’s digital assets. A WCM facilitates collaborative authoring for websites. ECM software often includes a WCM publishing functionality, but ECM webpages typically remain behind the organization’s firewall. Our focus here will be on WCM
  • Product information management (PIM): Manages the information required to market and sell products through distribution channels. A central set of product data can be used to feed information to media such as websites, print catalogs, ERP systems and electronic data feeds to trading partners.

Shortly after the World Wide Web (WWW) emerged as a commercial medium in the mid 1990s, people became captivated with the idea that content could drive online commerce. Unlike a distribution center or store, the ability to offer relatively unlimited product information online, especially as data storage costs declined, allowed customers to better educate themselves on products, substitutes and complements. 

At this point, using WCMs on a regular basis to develop websites was a few years off. As website development sophistication grew, so did the use of WCM.  

WCM vs. PIM: Which to Use for Your Ecommerce Catalog?  

With the exception of some pure play ecommerce merchants, companies usually developed their websites before establishing an ecommerce presence. WCMs therefore became the de facto standard for…

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