What Is PLM Software (Product Lifecycle Management)?

Product Lifecycle Management applies to the process of managing information about the product’s whole lifecycle – from beginning to finish, which includes stages like designing, prototyping, manufacturing, maintaining, and troubleshooting. Thanks to that, multi-disciplinary teams in different locations can strategically collaborate more effectively and strategically with partners and consumers using advanced, trusted, up-to-date product information.

Nowadays, products can become more complicated, so businesses need to apply strategic procedures before going live to remain competitive and relevant to their buyers. To meet the market demand, companies must implement automatizations to ensure that their products will reach the market’s most efficient scale and with the lowest possible costs.

Product Lifecycle Management software is an application that integrates people, data, processes, and business systems not only to increase profits but also to highly improve accuracy, productivity, and efficiency.

To simplify, PLM brings benefits across the entire lifecycle of the products. Thanks to it, designers can get the opportunity to run digital simulations, manufacturers can faster share data with suppliers, and what’s more, the maintenance team will appreciate more a straightforward troubleshooting process with a centralized data management system.

How to manage your product portfolio on Facebook and Instagram stores?

Online stores and product catalogs on social networks are functionalities that are within reach of any company. An entrepreneur or a small business to a large multinational can start selling their products today through platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

The exciting thing about social commerce, and what differentiates it from any other type of e-commerce, is the high level of interaction between the user and the company. The social media ecosystem is interactive by nature. Posts, comments, „likes,” shared content, tags, hashtags, among others, are elements that, added to payment processors, shopping carts, and digital catalogs, make buying and selling products online natural, pleasant, and intuitive as it has never been before.

Next, let’s describe the social commerce features offered by Facebook and Instagram.

How to sell products on Facebook?

On Facebook, you can use three different functionalities to sell products: stores, catalogs, and the marketplace.

Facebook Shops

Also known as Facebook Shops, they are online stores within the social network that can fulfill two functions:

  • If you have your eCommerce site (outside of Facebook), you can use the store only as a showcase for your items and, from there, redirect interested parties to your eCommerce site, where they will have the option to make purchases.
  • If you do not have your eCommerce site, then you can enable the „Checkout” option in your Facebook Shop, which will allow users to purchase your products within the social network itself.

To create your Facebook Shop, you must go to the Commerce Manager (or Sales Manager) and choose the option „Create a store.”

Then, you will have to choose a purchase method among the three available, which are:

  • Finalize purchase on another website (when you have an external eCommerce site).
  • Check out Facebook and Instagram (when you want to purchase within the social network).
  • Checkout with a message (you can buy via Messenger or WhatsApp).

Once you have chosen the purchase mode, you have to link your Facebook business page with the store you are creating. Again, you can use an existing page or create a new one. The same thing you must do with your Facebook business account, you must link an existing one or create a new one.

Finally comes one of the most exciting steps: adding the products.

Product catalogs on Facebook

Facebook catalogs serve to show your audience detailed information of everything you want to offer, which can be from a single product to millions, as well as different kinds of services.

However, the catalog works as a kind of showcase, without any option that allows the direct purchase of products. To enable the purchase option, you have to link the catalog with your Facebook store or the marketplace (also from Facebook and explain later).

In this sense, if you don’t want to link the catalog with one of these two resources, you can use it to generate traffic to your external eCommerce site.

That said, to create a catalog, you must go to the „Commerce Manager,” select „Create a catalog,” and then choose the type of catalog you want to publish based on the products or services you offer in your business.

Facebook Marketplace

The Facebook marketplace is a place where any user of the social network can buy and sell products. Its operation is similar to that of the most famous marketplaces, such as Amazon. The person interested in purchasing a product must go to the Facebook marketplace, search for the item of interest, compare the different results of those users who have published the same product for sale, choose the most suitable seller and contact him to process the purchase.

Moreover, the marketplace is designed only to maximize the reach and discovery of products to facilitate the relationship and communication with your potential customers. However, people cannot process payments on this platform, so you must have an external payment mechanism.

That said, to start publishing products, you must go to the marketplace section, click on „sell items,” and then select the type of publication you want to make since each category has its characteristics.

How to sell products through Instagram?

Instagram is the social network developing and presenting more social commerce options during these pandemic times, intending to help all kinds of businesses, entrepreneurs increasingly, and content creators to sell their products.

In this context, Instagram Shopping has been consolidated, consisting of various functions that you can use to sell products, including digital stores, Instagram Shop, Instagram shopping tags, and badges on Instagram Live.

Digital stores

On May 19, 2020, Instagram announced the functionality of digital stores, which users can access by clicking on the „View shop” button, located just below the description of the accounts that have enabled this feature. Users can visit these stores from the stories and feed.

Each digital store is a showcase where the publications occupy the entire screen, thus offering a more immersive experience as users explore your product collections.

The process of creating a digital store on Instagram is similar to creating a store on Facebook, so much of the setup will be through Facebook’s Commerce Manager.

Instagram Shop

This functionality should not be confused with the digital store, which we explained in the previous point, as each has different features.

The Instagram Shop feature was introduced on July 16, 2020, and is a shopping in-app where users can browse and receive product recommendations based on the profiles they already follow.

For your products to appear on Instagram Shop, you need to open a digital store on Instagram, create collections of your products and tag them in the content you post. This way, the contents with the labeled products will start appearing in Instagram Shop.

Shopping tags

Shopping tags serve to highlight the products that appear in your content, whether you publish them in the feed, stories, advertisements, etc. By doing so, these tagged contents can also appear in the Instagram Shop section. In this way, people get to know your products better and even buy them directly on the platform through the buy without leaving the Instagram feature, which works like Facebook Pay (although this feature is only available in the United States).

Badges on Instagram Live

The company allows the use of badges functionality on Instagram Live, through which you can sell products during live broadcasts you make on Instagram Live. However, this feature is still in the process of expansion. It is only enabled for some specific brands and will be available to all countries in the future.

The history of EAN codes and their application in trade

If you’ve ever scanned or looked at a product barcode outside of the US, you should be familiar with EAN codes. This stands for European Article Number. Now known as the International Article Number – primarily due to its use outside of Europe also – EAN is the dominant barcode numbering system used internationally.

EAN codes come in two variants: a 13-digit EAN-13 code or a shorter 8-digit EAN-8 for smaller products and packages that wouldn’t be able to fit a full barcode. In this article, we’ll explore the creation of the EAN standard and how they are used in trade.

Origins

The origins of the barcode are unclear but can be traced back to Miami with the American inventor Joe Woodland. As a boy scout, Woodland was interested in morse code and drew out what would become the barcode in the sand on Miami beach. His design was closer to a bullseye, but it would eventually transform into the bar shape we know today by the time it was patented in 1952.

Barcodes in the US were developed by the Uniform Product Code Council (UPCC), which created the Universal Product Code (UPC). This was initially a 12-digit UPC system developed by George Laurer. The first recorded use of this in trade was in 1974, where a 10-pack of gum was scanned using the UPC numbering system.

The European Article Numbering (EAN) Association – later EAN International – was set up in Brussels to develop a European equivalent to the UPC. Hence, the EAN-13 was created. Now, both the Uniform Product Code Council and the EAN have been combined into one global authority GS1. This authority is responsible for assigning barcodes and managing the supply chain standard to make sure codes are compatible across the world.

It is precisely GS1’s work that led to EAN and UPC barcodes being compatible. This is extremely important as retailers may have older scanning systems that wouldn’t ordinarily recognise an EAN code. A UPC can be converted into an EAN-13 by placing a 0 prefix at the beginning of the number.

How it works

The 13-digit EAN-13 code is split into four constituent parts. These are:

  • GS1 Prefix (also known as a country code)
  • Manufacturer Code
  • Product Code
  • Check digit

The country code is used primarily to designate the country of origin of the manufacturer. All manufactures will need a GS1 company prefix to create a GS1-compatible barcode.

The GS1 prefixes 000-099 have been reserved for compatibility with UPC for use in the US and Canada. Similarly, GS1 has also blocked out 0000001 – 0000099 as GS1 and company prefixes to avoid confusion with EAN-8 codes.

Since 2009, EAN codes have been used to encrypt a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). This is a unique identifier for your product. The first twelve digits relate to both the company prefix and the item indicator. Once a GS1 company prefix has been allocated to a specific company, the remaining digits in that 12-digit allowance make up your item reference. The length of this will depend on the length of the assigned company prefix.

The final digit is the check digit. This is to catch out misprints or eliminate human error. EAN check digits are calculated by summing the numbers in odd positions and multiplying by three. Then, the sum of numbers in even positions is added on. This number is then subtracted from 10 to create a check digit. This ensures the integrity of the code.

Why do we use EAN Codes (or GTINs)?

Suppose a product is manufactured in China and needs to be exported to another country like the US or the UK. If every country had their own barcode standard, this manufacturer would have to develop separate packaging for each country it wishes to export – along with tagging it with China’s agreed barcode standard. If this manufacturer wanted to track the product, its systems would need to be familiar with the standard used in every country the product travels through. Any tracking scanners in those countries would need to recognise the Chinese standard. It should be clear this would be woefully inefficient – and that international standardization is crucial.

EAN codes facilitate easy tracking of goods and where products can be searched and found even across borders. This reduces the cost of administration when goods are traded internationally.

All the processing of an EAN code is completed by a computer. All a human operative like a cashier will need to do is scan the barcode. This means anyone can use a POS system, and universally recognized barcodes have led to self-checkout systems being possible without any difficulty.

GS1 plays a crucial role in ensuring global compatibility between barcode standards. By developing the GTIN standard – the modern replacement for EAN codes – GS1 removed the need for manufacturers to print different barcodes on products depending on whether they will be sold in the US and Canada or elsewhere in the world.

Final Thoughts

According to GS1, there are 5 billion bar codes scanned every day around the world. It took a genius-level foresight to develop a system that can be used so ubiquitously in every country on earth. The achievements of Woodland, Laurer and EAN International (and more recently GS1) has led to massive increasements in productivity in global supply chains, allow for products to be tracked across the world and has made product lifecycle management possible and easy. In trade, the EAN barcode is possibly one of the most important inventions of the 20th century.