PIM vs. DAM -- What's the Difference?

Both PIMs and DAMs are common in the worlds of ecommerce merchandising, digital marketing, graphic design, and even consumer goods sales. These enterprise software systems, (spelled out PIM and DAM stand for Product Information Management and Digital Asset Management, respectively) help organizations manage data that’s essential to their business functions. The line that separates these two types of systems can be a bit vague since both are used by businesses to store and organize data and share some overlapping capabilities, but these systems actually serve very different core functions.

The really short version is that:

  • PIMs incorporate product data and content into one centralized system to facilitate sales and marketing, organizing that data around the relevant products or Stock Keeping Units (SKUs).
  • DAMs facilitate the planning, creation, storage, and management of a wide variety of digital assets such as videos, logos, and documents, often to help streamline the production of digital assets for marketing campaigns.

So which system does your organization need? In this post, we provide details to help you understand the difference and answer questions like:

  • What types of files are considered product data versus digital assets?
  • Which system would be best to automate different processes within your business?

What kind of data does a PIM or DAM store?

One key difference between a PIM and DAM lies in what data they manage and how it’s organized. PIMs store information and media content associated with a product, and organize this information on a product by product basis - or rather, by each specific Stock Keeping Unit (SKU). For a typical PIM, this range of information can include the following:

  • UPC numbers
  • Catalog information such as dimensions and weight
  • Product digital assets, including images and videos
  • Product marketing materials/documents
  • Lists of materials/ingredients
  • Relationships with other products
  • Shipping requirements

Generally, DAMs act as holistic solutions for managing an organization’s digital assets. Through metadata and tagging, DAMs index digital assets in a structured way, so service providers can find the information they need in mere seconds. A typical company using a DAM would likely use it to manage the following:

  • Images and graphics
  • Videos
  • Marketing documents
  • GIFs and other animations

What capabilities do PIMs and DAMs share?

PIMs and DAMs both provide users with powerful tools and workflows to manage, optimize, and distribute product information and digital assets more effectively. Below are some processes commonly managed by each type of system.

PIM capabilities

  • Collect, organize, and view all your product related information and content from various departments in a single central repository
  • Edit and refine descriptions, images, and other product-related content
  • Manage product information and content distribution across multiple sales channels including online, mobile and in-store POS platforms
  • Monitor sales and content analytics so you can assess product content performance and refine your product content
  • Track different shipping requirements and limitations for each item in your catalog and communicate them with your fulfillment platform

DAM capabilities

  • Plan and organize marketing campaigns and the creation of digital assets for different departments
  • Edit and format digital assets including images, videos, and other graphics
  • Manage digital asset distribution across multiple marketing channels through a library of plugins and integrations
  • Monitor marketing analytics so you can assess digital asset performance and refine your digital marketing strategy
  • Generate metadata with automatic tagging of your assets so you can search them easily and track performance

You can see that there’s overlapping functionality, and, to make it a bit more difficult to draw a line of differentiation between PIMs and DAMs, many PIMs offer some basic DAM functionality-- but not to the same extent as a dedicated DAM system. For a visual overview, check out this article.

Ideal use cases - PIM vs. DAM

As with any software solution, each system is designed to meet the needs of a target user or a target range of users. PIMs make sense for clients with product catalogs and portfolios and these clients are typically manufacturers, vendors, and retailers. DAMs, on the other hand, make sense for businesses that regularly create and share digital assets, have digital assets to organize, and would benefit from automation in the content creation process.

Generally, a PIM might benefit your business if you meet the following criteria:

  • You have large product catalogs and portfolios and want to make it easier for your team to access product-related information in one place.
  • You want to improve the amount of time it takes to get your products to market.

Alternatively, a DAM can be helpful for your business if you meeting the following criteria:

  • You regularly create valuable digital assets for marketing purposes.
  • You find it challenging to ensure different teams are using current and up to date digital assets.

Also to keep in mind, you don’t necessarily need to choose one solution or the other. Several technology providers offer systems that feature aspects of both or provide PIM and DAM functionality as separate services within the same ecosystem. If you need to store product information and have a large library of non-product-specific digital assets, then you might want both a PIM and a DAM or, alternatively, an enterprise platform that offers the capabilities of both. And, if you’re looking for an even more complex solution, Content Management Systems (CMS) might come into the mix.

Popular PIMs and DAMs

The available PIM and DAM systems present quite a range for businesses to choose from with different features, levels of sophistication, and prices.If you’re looking for a detailed list of what’s available and differences in offerings, check out this review of Top Product Information Management (PIM) Software 2018 and Gartner’s Top 19 Enterprise Digital Asset Management Solutions.

We work with a growing list of PIM and DAM providers like InRiver PIM, STIBO, Riversand, PIMworks (Mobius), Plytix, and Widen. Since Venzee is a pure-play technology solution for product content distribution, we’ve built an API that can integrate with whichever platform (e.g., PIM, DAM, EDI, ERP, or CMS) you choose to help you get consumer-ready product content to all of your retailers, thus augmenting your existing content management workflows and eliminating yet another manual process.

Should you invest in a PIM or DAM?

12% of all retail sales now happen online, and that share is only going to increase going forward. To capitalize on this trend, many vendors are adding new online sales channels, and whether that's an internet retailer or a marketplace, doing so oftentimes requires web-ready product content (and more big retailers are placing the burden of providing product content onto manufacturers, vendors, brands, and suppliers). Maintaining consistent product information or brand identity across all these different sales channels, while also effectively customizing content for each unique audience, is a massive challenge. Realistically, if you’re doing it all manually, it only takes a few products and marketing campaigns across a couple channels before it becomes impossible to ensure that you’re using consistent messaging for all of your product lines--you need a central repository for your product information. Thus it really isn’t a question of if you will end up needing a PIM (likely one with some built-in DAM functionality) to manage your product information, but when.

Unfortunately, the case for when companies should consider investing in a DAM isn’t as clear-cut. The value of a robust DAM system really comes from optimizing the processes around the creation and sharing of digital assets, as well as the improved security. A blog post by Widen contends that “DAM software includes tools that deliver peace of mind by restricting access, viewing and archiving — all of which reduces security concerns. This is called user governance, and it allows a DAM admin to have incredible control over ensuring the right digital assets are being viewed by the right people, at the right time.” User governance typically becomes a greater concern as organizations grow. Once your business reaches that threshold (and this is different for each organization), it’s essential to have control over where and how your brand assets are being used.

Of course, budget is a key concern, and some of the capabilities we’ve discussed in this article come at a premium. Luckily, there are more than a few PIM and DAM systems available, ranging from some surprisingly effective free tools to enterprise solutions. If you’re encountering any of the challenges we’ve discussed, rest assured that you can find a solution that can help you tame the chaos, no matter how large or small your business is.

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