Definition

Classification
A product classification is defined as a simple and logical way to order products in different classes, without any notion of hierarchy or level. The ETIM classification aims at reducing unambiguity and allowing its users to communicate on products whithout misunderstanging each other.

For example, a fluorescent tube is classified in the ETIM Class EC000108 "fluorescent lamp"

Characterization
By this term one means attaching data to each product according to a format or defined values. The ETIM model provides a list of the most important technical features in order to describe - or in some case, find through an algorythm - products in the best possible way. Each class also has synonyms attached to it for even more efficiency.
 
For exemple, a fluorescent tube must be defined by its power (watt), its luminous flux (lumen) and its diameter (mm). Each feature can have pre-defined (following standards) or free values.

ETIM usage

Consistent product classification like ETIM are not end products in their own. They are not either software applications or databases or search engines. All of these applications can effectively use ETIM as basis. The model provides a standardized structure for product data that can then be exchanged through any communication standard and used in lots of different applications.

With data becoming more and more of mandatory use, it is important to note that some companies are reluctant to cross the line because of their fear of price comparisons. They are afraid that transparency about product information may allow easier comparisons when it comes to product pricing. There is truth in this affirmation, but on another hand it is probably already the case because of new technologies impact. Furthermore, price is only one of many customer selection factors : quality, reliability, logistics, advising expertise also play a prominent role. A manufacturer able to deliver its data electronically will have the edge because he saves time for all involved partners, and thus money.