How Tops is managing product data to drive online sales

US office products vendor Tops Products has described how a new product information management (PIM) system is making it easier for customers to find its products online.


US office products vendor Tops Products has described how a new product information management (PIM) system is making it easier for customers to find its products online.

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

In January 2016, the manufacturer launched a PIM system, e-commerce marketing analyst Julie Schmitt stated during the B2B Workshop at the recent IRCE 2016 event in Chicago. The launch was long overdue, she said.

Tops, a unit of RR Donnelley, hired Schmitt in February 2015 to analyse 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. This information included colour, size, images, demo videos, brochure videos, “everything that tells a story about your product”, Schmitt said.

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

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. At the beginning of this year, Tops deployed the PIM system from inRiver. “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.

With the new PIM system, Tops now organises 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 updated 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 and by resellers, Schmitt said. For example, Tops sometimes has new products – such as ‘green’ recycled ones – for which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 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 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.

By Nona Tepper, Associate Editor B2BecNews where this article first appeared before it was slightly amended to appear on The original version can be viewed on B2B E-Commerce World.