Your product catalog is large and complex, coming from multiple sources in various formats. You face global expansion problems and sell or think of selling over numerous channels. Are there any problems your business is about to face? Consider a PIM solution, like Pimcore and Sylius.


Here is what you will learn from this article:


What is Product Information Management (PIM) in the eCommerce context?

Business is concerned with data. This statement may bring sales graphs, site traffic statistics, and other information types to mind. The business’s job is to gather the correct data to develop a successful strategy, but we will discuss a different kind of data – products and their data. The scope of products information is broad – it may include manufacturing material, specifications, size/weight, photos and schematics, and many more.

The biggest challenge in supplying products in the global market is to adapt product details to the needs of every retailer (while providing a great customer experience). In addition, retailers need more flexibility in selling products in various geographic locations (or in each sales channel). Thus they must maintain product data information via an integrated catalog, the one source of truth.

Here is where the PIM software is used. In general, it is intended for advanced product management, including collecting, refining, editing, and storing product data.

The main functions of the PIM system include:

  • a quick and easy data import process,
  • a simple user interface that is easy and efficient for non-tech-savvy users,
  • a variety of features enabling the creation of rich product pages.

A well-organized product data management system is crucial for a successful online eCommerce business.

Why would you use PIM for your eCommerce?

Today’s customers are looking for the best deals, and if the product and its information are presented neatly, the chance of finalizing the purchase process increases. Therefore, retailers should have uniform product information throughout the contact point and strive for product data standardization and simplified processes for distribution across channels.

Product data quality, multiple channels and more:

  • PIM systems allow for the advanced creation of relationships between products
  • In eCommerce systems, it enables you to standardize sales and order handling
  • Efficient management of a large number of multi-attribute products
  • Inheritance between objects
  • The structure created from the PIM software
  • Multichannelling (channels created as separate objects)
  • Managing information that is available on various sales channels (WWWs, point of ales, mobile apps)
  • One source of truth – the possibility to standardize data on each of the channels thanks to one connection with the PIM system
  • Built-in translations
  • Product knowledge database
  • Access Control Layer – the ability to set rules for a specific user
  • Versioning – the ability to restore the appropriate/selected version
  • Data creation and publishing process

The purpose of the PIM system and when should you decide on it?

Software for Product Information Management solves major information issues such as inaccurate results. PIM centralized and organized data, available from the one accessible place. With automated data processing, every group member can enhance product content quickly.

PIM seamlessly combines with sales platforms providing products to the marketplace, points of sales, or other sales channels. In addition, it keeps data updated and reduces the chance of data misreporting.

When may you consider implementing a Product Information Management system?

  • The built-in eCommerce PIM is not enough
  • Lots of people that are constantly working on content (creating and managing it)
  • You care about data standardization, data quality, and product data governance
  • Your system handles lots of different, divergent, complicated data and digital assets
  • Data from multiple channels and sources must be consistent within multiple applications
  • When you know your business will grow and you have scalability in mind
  • You want your team to get used to content creation standards from the very beginning

Pimcore’s CoreShop or Sylius?

If you are familiar with Pimcore, you might have heard about the CoreShop – eCommerce extension for Pimcore. Although having all-in-one PIM, CMS, MDM DAM, and eCommerce software sounds like a dream come true, it comes with some limitations you should be aware of.

eCommerce extension for Pimcore is called CoreShop. It gives the option of having a simple eCommerce store. Like Sylius, CoreShop is built upon Symfony, using Twig natively, consisting of components and bundles. 

Advantages:

  • Updates of product data within one system
  • Faster implementation time
  • Easy to set up, especially if you opt for PIM implementation first

Disadvantages:

  • No separation between systems
    CoreShop uses the codebase and database Pimcore does. In an emergency, the whole system goes down. What is more, it is less secure for eCommerce to have access to the entire product database. In the case of more advanced eCommerce infrastructures, separating responsibilities and connecting external systems, e.g., using API or queuing protocols, is a much better and less risky idea. It also allows separating teams and their responsibilities.
  • Scaling limitations
    Pimcore is much more difficult to scale itself; hence, eCommerce being part of it might face some limitations when setting up multiple store instances.
  • Codebase quality and complexity
    Both Sylius and Pimcore use Symfony. Still, Sylius uses it more „beautifully” without introducing a middle-standard between PHP and Symfony the way Pimcore (and therefore Coreshop) does. Pimcore+Coreshop setup is harder to learn and maintain.

To summarize, you might want to consider CoreShop if you decide to go with PIM first and need a simple, single instance eCommerce solution on top of it.
It could be a case for B2B retailers selling more traditionally (i.e., over e-mail, phone, print catalogs), and their total share of sales is not mainly driven by eCommerce. They also don’t plan to change anytime soon. For more complex setups that need to scale with business easily, Sylius will be a better option.

When and why choose Sylius and Pimcore setup?

If you’ve reached this point, you probably know what the Sylius and Pimcore are, so we provide knowledge in a nutshell without going into details. However, if you are looking for detailed information on each of these solutions, please click on the links below:

What are the advantages of each solution?

  • Open-source PIM for eCommerce
  • It can be „built” from ready-made elements
  • Independent modeling of the structure (you don’t have to use product templates)
  • The advanced data management tool and more (Product Information Management, Master Data Management, Digital assets Management, Digital Experience Management, Customer Data Platform)
  • Many built-in tools, such as WYSIWYG editor, e-mail templates, PDF’s creator, data import/export
  • Reduced manual data entry
  • Multiple languages support
  • Modern open-source eCommerce platform
  • Highly expandable
  • Like plasticine – you can make whatever you want from it
  • Easy integrations, data import
  • Well testable
  • A large number of open-source plugins
  • Large community

Best of breed – Sylius + Pimcore – what do they have in common?

  • They are based on Symfony – the trend-setting PHP framework, so there’s a huge community behind the framework
  • They are based on the MIT license
  • Lots of open-source plugins and people to help
  • Commercial assistance – agency
  • You can use some solutions from one system in the other (reusability)

Can you use the same team to work on Sylius and Pimcore?

As both solutions have a lot in common, the most significant advantage is that they are based on the same framework – Symfony. It means that if you already have a dedicated „Sylius (or Symfony) team,” there is no problem using them during Pimcore implementation. However, to make it happen, your developers should have additional training for Pimcore because it has a higher/different entry barrier than Sylius.

Your developers should be made aware of the differences between systems!

If you manage a large team, a good practice is to separate Sylius and Pimcore teams.

So what is our advice?

  • Option 1: Split your internal team into two teams, and educate individual people.
  • Option 2: Get support from an external implementation partner.
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How to prepare for Sylius + Pimcore setup?

OK, now you know more about both solutions and have dedicated teams. The next step is to set everything up! Those next steps are presented in a simplified way as follows:

  • Data scope
    First, think about the modeling data structure that will be consistent between systems and reflect the actual data. Remember that it should reflect the real state and be standardized (for example, in eCommerce – price, attribute, variant).
  • Think about processes and events
    After you have your data structure, move on to planning processes between systems, such as creating a product, removing a photo, and removing a product. Think about how you want to handle the events. For example, what happens when the product is bought? Think about threats- ensure the possibility of accepting information that has more/extra fields in the structure, in case of an update the data version sent by a given system should be received by the other, and so on.
  • Based on those mentioned above, create a communication map.
  • Research and plan the MVP (minimum viable product).
    If there is no integration you are looking for, you can raise the topic with the ecosystem. If someone is already working on something you are looking for, you can use the agency’s help because creating a new integration or functionality is not a problem.
  • Prepare your repository.
    The recommended connection is via Symfony Messenger – a library that facilitates the connection of both systems. It allows you to focus on the technical implementation without going into the details of the queuing mechanisms. The advantages of this solution include application performance and high development values.

What are the challenges and potential risks of implementing a PIM system for your business?

Integrating your eCommerce store with one of the PIM solutions (e.g. Pimcore) is a complex process that requires deep analysis of the data ecosystem—starting from distribution channels, digital assets and product data governance, ending with customer experience. You may face risks at every stage, so you need to be careful.

What are these risks and how can you deal with them?

  • Entry threshold and team competencies
  • Appropriate tests of the applications themselves and their communication
  • Prevention and preparation for emergencies:
    • If one system relies on the other, both have to run stably and smoothly, handling the situation where one system goes down.
    • Network problems
  • The most straightforward protection may be logs, which allow you to search for potential problems and recreate the situation before the failure happens again.
  • Large data synchronizations (e.g. synchronization of 100k or 400k products) should be planned so as not to paralyze the system
    • Think about separate queues
    • Answer the questions: What delays do you accept? How will the data be synchronized?
  • Other problems resulting from the specifics of a given business

At BitBag, we work with projects facing these problems every day. Choosing us as implementing and consulting partner will probably turn out to be less risky and, therefore, wiser in terms of time to market and overall costs – both short and long term.


Check out our live Sylius and Pimcore integrations!


Conclusion on PIM Solution

PIM tools are effective in enhancing eCommerce sales and marketing. However, before implementing it, you must determine your company requirements. Pimcore could be a valuable option for your business, but you probably want to check it out with a consultant first.