A Subscription Product Catalogue differs from an eCommerce Product Information Management (PIM) in a variety of ways. Here we explore the key differences.

Permutation and duplication

In a traditional eCommerce PIM, a product will generally be a standalone item that may have some variants. For example, a T-Shirt with blue and orange variants.

In a Subscription Product Catalogue, the product is often the same - it's always the same digital application. What matters is the various offer permutations and the campaign efforts. For example, a free initial trial for one month followed by a $50 yearly subscription is one permutation. $45 per month with no trial is another.

Then comes the 'Campaign,' a marketing effort to acquire, convert, retain, cross-sell or upsell a subscriber. A campaign can be evergreen, for example a default set of campaigns with list pricing, or a temporary campaign, for example Christmas promotions. It’s important to group your subscription product catalogue in campaigns in order to set up tracking and derive the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts.

A New Year's resolutions campaign (Headspace)

It’s likely that the next time you are doing a campaign, say for Easter, it will be with the same product, but with some tweaks to pricing, bundling, terms, segment or channel. In practice, this means you will probably re-use an old campaign and modify it to fit your new Easter pricing, messaging and targets. This approach causes duplication, which in turn can create operational complexity which is not well handled in PIMs.


Pricing can be complex with subscriptions, for example first month free, three months at half price, then full price. PIMs are typically built for eCommerce, which are one-off payments.

The hierarchy vs. flat

One of the most important choices to decide early on is whether a subscription product catalogue should be flat, (like an Excel table or a database), or a hierarchy, (like Windows or Mac folders). As an alternative metaphor consider ‘flat’ to be series of individuals and a ‘hierarchy’ as a series of families, each potentially with their own sets of children and grand-children.

There are significant advantages for either approach. From a system perspective, flat subscription product catalogues are efficient, easy to index, and fast to search. However, from a human perspective, flat subscription product catalogues are tedious to organise, with no visual cue on where things are, and an inability to logically group products according to their marketing or operational logic.

A flat view of a catalogue (Limio)

Hierarchy of subscription products or subscription offers appear more logical with easily grouped service subscriptions and subscription campaigns. This makes it far simpler to access those you will perhaps run in December, broken down into various subscription promotions you will promote through various channels and for varying segments.

A hierarchy view of a catalogue (Limio)

The truth is that this is not a ‘either/or’ debate. You need both. With the explosion of online channels and the level of personalisation customers require, you need strong APIs that can quickly and flexibly retrieve product, offer and promotion information. To achieve this, you need a flat subscription product catalogue. Likewise, for marketers to work in a logical platform, you need to offer a fully customisable hierarchy.

Manage a catalogue with Limio Catalog

Limio Catalog was built by subscription experts with experience of subscription billing and payment vendors. They know what works for subscriptions and what doesn't. Catalog can manage a multi-brands, multi-products, multi-campaigns product catalogue.

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