Spreadsheets are very common for storing and editing product data, but in reality, they are a nightmare. Excel spreadsheets have their uses, but acting as a product data database should not be one of them. Here are several reasons why a PIM system is far superior to Excel for managing product information:
It is hard to keep track of which spreadsheet is the most up-to-date and who is making changes and editing at any given time.
On a PIM system the data is stored and edited in one single place. This is not the case for Excel. Multiple people and teams may be in charge of editing the data and it can be hard to know which spreadsheet is the most up-to-date. Without an activity log, it also gets complicated to know who edited what, and when. Only one person can edit at a time too, which slows the product data management process further.
It is also difficult to distribute the spreadsheets to different channels such as your eCommerce websites due to differing requirements for CSV files.
Manually distributing Excel files to different retailers, wholesalers or customers can be time-consuming. Although CSV format is widely accepted by sales marketplaces, the needs of each one is different. They all have different criteria for the data, whether it is character limits or attribute names. Spreadsheets might have to be duplicated to fit each marketplace. At the very least, it's going to need a member of staff to manually upload product data to each location. It all gets very messy and time-consuming. With a PIM system, this can be automated and ensures that the latest correct information is sent out whenever it is needed.
Spreadsheets also don't have validation rules, so errors can and will occur frequently.
For example, one product page might have the length of a product listed in mm while another might be in cm. This creates inconsistencies with the data and can lead to human errors. This is a significant weakness because wrong data could be sat on a eCommerce page or website for months. It might only get spotted by a potential customer and at that point it's too late.
You can't store your media assets alongside your product information, which adds another layer of complexity to your data management.
A huge disadvantage of Excel is the inability to store and view images for an item alongside its information. In the eCommerce world of today, photos are every bit as important as the information itself. It's inefficient and awkward if a product information spreadsheet has a link to an image or a file name. The photos can't be viewed alongside all the data. This makes checking the images take much longer. It also makes errors more likely, as it's more difficult to match up the correct image to the correct data.
Filtering the data is difficult
Control+F and column filtering is about as good as the search function gets in Excel. A good database like a PIM System will have a robust search and filtering system. PIM Systems will also let you stack filters which makes finding products much easier. This problem becomes amplified when managing large amounts of data. It can be very hard to find a specific product or range of products if there are thousands or tens of thousands.
Not a single source of truth, like a PIM system
More than likely a company who uses spreadsheets in place of a PIM system uses multiple spreadsheets for their product information. Combine this with storing media files separately. This contributes to increased complexity when multiple departments and teams are editing data. It also makes it hard to know how much of the content required is actually completed, like a PIM system would tell you.