Tops Products recently rewrote its system for collecting and storing product information.

In January 2016, the manufacturer of office products launched a new product information management, or PIM, system, Julie Schmitt, e-commerce marketing analyst, said this week during the B2B Workshop at IRCE 2016 in Chicago. The launch was long overdue, she said.

Tops Products, a unit of printing company R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., hired Schmitt in February 2015 to analyze its e-commerce situation and craft a new digital strategy. What she found, she said, was a mess.

Tops stored information on its more than 12,000 SKUs in its Magento Enterprise e-commerce platform from Magento Inc. This information included color, size, images, demo videos, brochure videos, “everything that tells a story about your product,” Schmitt said.

Tops, which operates an e-commerce site at Tops-Products.com, manufactures private-label products for retailers like Staples Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Office Depot Inc. Tops also stores product information on these retailers’ products in its e-commerce platform.

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None of this information, however, was routinely updated in the e-commerce platform. Instead, Tops put updated and accurate product information into the hands of its sales reps, who are located across North America. Tracking down this information often took a long time, Schmitt said.

“It would take a lot of time to find out where the images are, who has them,” she said. “We have people spread across the country, different product managers in different areas, in different time zones. Tracking all this down is a giant time suck.”

Although everything was located in disparate areas, everyone—internal employees, retail buyers and end-customers needed accurate product information. And Schmitt was tired of scrambling to find the most accurate data. In January 2016 Tops deployed a PIM system from inRiver Inc. “We needed one central system that everyone could look at, and where everything is simple, easy to manage, push data through and track data out to where needed it to be,” she said. Tops also wanted a system accessed via a web browser, she added.

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With the new PIM system, Tops now organizes all product data in a single place. Schmitt said having accurate and current product information displayed on the site will drive B2B e-commerce sales, although she declined to provide updates sales or financial figures.

The new system also makes it easier for the manufacturer to comply with new federal regulations on how products must be described, both on Tops-Products.com and by resellers, Schmitt said. For example, Tops sometimes has new products—such as “green” recycled ones—for which the Federal Trade Commission regulates the descriptions. Under the old system, it was difficult to ensure that all pertinent product descriptions carried the FTC’s required information.  “Now we’ve implemented a system where we can track information, and share information with our customers so they can immediately push it out,” she said.

The inRiver PIM integrates with Tops’ Magento e-commerce platform. Schmitt declined to comment on its deployment price.

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