Integrating PIM and Search and Merchandising Solutions into your ecommerce platform


We sat down with two of our technical ecommerce experts Cris and Therese to talk about integrating Search and Merchandising and PIM into your ecommerce platform. 

Cris is Technical Director at Ampersand and Therese is our Solutions Consultant. As senior leads who work with our amazing clients on a daily basis, they’re able to share their unique perspective on both the technical benefits and implications of integrating dedicated technologies as well as provide useful insights for clients on how projects like this can impact retailers day-to-day. If you’d like to watch the full 22 minute interview, you can do so on our Vimeo channel.

What does a modern ecommerce system architecture look like and how does this differ from the old architecture? 

Modern solutions generally have a modular approach, or a microservice architecture. This means that you can have multiple systems working in unison that focus on a particular set of tasks, as opposed to an older approach which is usually described as monolithic architecture. A monolithic architecture has one application doing everything, meaning features are limited and none of the technology is designed specifically for its task. 

A modern solution will also need some form of middleware that manages conversations between all of these applications, and provides ease of integrations between them, and any new ones that may be needed in the future. For us at Ampersand, that’s, an integration platform as a service we’ve built and maintain internally.

What are the common types of challenges retailers with older architecture can face?

Retailers can reach a ceiling in terms of their growth, for example, there is only so much you can do to optimise conversion rate with basic search and merchandising functionality. Retailers can often end up spending more money driving traffic to their website to increase the top line, which in turn can hinder the bottom line and effect business profitability.

New architecture integrations can also help with efficiency. Those retailers with older manual processes can become inefficient when staff have the laborious task of managing product architecture and associated data in a CMS manually.

How might a retailer benefit from integrating new technologies, such as a PIM or search and merchandising solution, rather than relying on their current ecommerce platform for these features?

Dedicated platforms have full teams designated to product and feature development, and provide capabilities that may just not be possible on a monolithic ecommerce application. Having applications which have separate concerns can also reduce technical and business overheads. By integrating a PIM, you ensure the benefits of having:

  • A defined product architecture, which upholds data integrity
  • A complete end-to-end product creation process, with configuration management for when a product may be defined as ‘ready to be published’ on the website, this helps to build brand identity and exceed customer expectations
  • A middleware facilitates automation through integrations which can increase efficiency throughout the process

Is there a particular type of retailer who would benefit significantly from this state-of-the-art architecture? 

There is no ‘right’ retailer as these systems provide a stable core foundation for growth, implementing this kind of architecture propels retailers forward, giving internal teams the functionality required to drive business growth.

It’s probably most suitable for those retailers who are looking for new ways to grow using state-of-the-art technology. Perhaps they’ve found limitations with their current system(s) or are considering developing their systems to handle functionality which can be better found in these state-of-the-art solutions. Or there could be inefficiencies or limitations with managing new products, pricing or stock, or potentially a retailer may have a solution in place currently but it’s not giving them the flexibility to make the optimisations they require.

If you’re not sure whether this is the right sort of project for your retail business, you can contact us for a ‘no obligation’ chat.

Are there any common misconceptions about this type of project?

The most common misconception in this type of project is likely not understanding the true benefits of having a PIM as part of the workflow. This, coupled with the belief that adding a search and merchandising system in isolation is sufficient for their business growth ambitions.

Without having a well defined product architecture, businesses can leave all kinds of gaps in their system, so ensuring that a business has this guarantees data integrity and helps to define a merchandising strategy.

What technology stack must a retailer have before we can implement search and merch or PIM systems? 

Not much is needed before we can start on this type of project, but of course this depends on the scope and budget the client details.  

We can start work from absolute scratch, but often our clients will have an ERP in place that they may want to keep or migrate, and so we’ll normally have some product data that can flow through all the new systems as a starting point.

What are the common challenges with this type of project?

Time investment is needed from both Ampersand and the retailer, the work carried out shouldn’t be too disruptive to the retailer and will not impact their day-to-day operations, however, the retailer will need to be on hand during the scoping of the project and creating product data. Depending on the project the retailer may also be required to update product data across both their live site and test environment for a period of time.


If you would like to watch the full 22 minute interview with Cris, our Technical Director and Therese, our Solutions Consultant, you can do so on our Vimeo channel.