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Using PIM and Real-Time Data to Simplify Returns and Exchanges

Here’s a universal truth: product information management (PIM) is one of the utmost necessary tools for any online or mobile retailer. PIM platforms are designed to house information needed to advertise and sell items through a variety of channels, and take into account geographic data and linguistic patterns through a centralized catalog.

Although one may think a flurry of returns and exchanges could cause a PIM system to contain temporarily inaccurate product data, they can actually help brands accurately identify valuable consumer behaviors and purchasing patterns in real-time.

The first step in mastering PIM is selecting the right vendor to partner with. Most companies will need to outsource this tool to a third-party vendor, meaning they must screen potential partners based on the number of channels they cover. For instance, a retailer that operates solely on mobile and online platforms will be forced to choose a vendor that has the capability for these channels, instead of only bricks-and-mortar.

Once a brand has established a relationship with its PIM vendor, it can begin tracking the flow of returns and exchanges made by consumers. It is imperative the vendor provides the brand with access to real-time data so the necessary personnel can view up-to-date information and purchasing patterns.

By enabling returns and exchanges to be easily made by shoppers, retailers can stay in favor with their customers while receiving invaluable product information for nearly every inventory item. For instance, if a brand sees a new pair of running shoes is being frequently returned by consumers around the country, it can tweak its inventory levels appropriately and consider phasing out the product entirely. However, if a retailer discovers that a particular item is being frequently returned in only a specific region or city, it can then conduct a deeper investigation to pinpoint the cause. Perhaps the wrong angle of marketing was used for that area, or the product is not well-suited to a certain climate. Whatever the reason is, leveraging product information management can help solve the problem.

Another major benefit to retail PIM systems? Their ability to prevent frequent returns by ensuring that the correct shipments are made to customers. In today’s omnichannel world, many retailers are mimicking the Amazon retail model and opening up multiple order fulfillment centers in their most populous areas, or joining forces with several suppliers to hit their fulfillment quotas. By keeping real-time shipment information readily available—and accurate—retailers can avoid serious missteps like shipping the wrong package to numerous consumers during peak shopping times, which can be more prone to mistakes.

Ultimately, the intake and output of returns and exchanges does not have to be considered a negative experience for retailers. Instead, it should be looked at as a way to garner new data regarding purchasing patterns, consumer shopping behaviors and order fulfillment processes. And the key to making it all easy? Placing a high value on product information management.

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Editor, The Mobile Retail Blog

Editor-in-Chief of The Mobile Retail Blog with NewStore.

Topics: PIM