The buying public’s appetite for detailed product information to be available anywhere, anytime has become a competitive focal point for big box retailers.
To compete, retailers are asking vendors to provide an increasing quantity of detailed product information that is tailored to their internal systems and business rules.
For vendors this means not only managing the growing volumes of high quality, rich and consistent information, but also providing it in a myriad of different combinations to satisfy the requirements of each of their retailers.
The challenge for vendors and suppliers
Vendors have to act fast to stay relevant. Requirements from their retailers are growing in complexity. Typical content for any given product ranges from images and video, to manuals, safety information, regulatory information, warranties and relevant marketing information as well as pack, case, pallet packaging hierarchy information.
Making sure product information meets the needs of each individual retailer has become a critical business requirement for vendors and suppliers. The task of product syndication, whether in-house or outsourced to a 3rd party vendor, has reached a tipping point.
- Meeting retailers’ increasingly complicated and varying requirements is both awkward and expensive for vendors.
- It slows down the process for introducing new products resulting in a loss of revenue and market share.
- Managing multiple content spreadsheets or custom retailer portals manually is no longer viable.
For an idea of the scale of the problem, a typical retailer may be managing information on more than 100,000 items at any given time with, on average, 120 or so attributes per product that typically vary per category.
With one in four products needing a flurry of calls, emails and interactions with the retailer to resolve or correct an error of one kind or another, it’s no wonder that working with spreadsheets to get the right data to the right retailer is killing the bottom lines of everyone involved.
The missing link
Some of the biggest retailers have already introduced application programming interfaces (APIs), essentially opening up new pipelines into their assortment. Taking advantage of those programmatic interfaces is not within the scope of in-house abilities for even the largest and most sophisticated vendors.
The emerging solution from a number of IT vendors, is a PIM system that leverages these retailer APIs to provide a central repository that not only enables vendors and suppliers to create, edit and manage their product information, but also syndicate it out to retailers.
The core benefits of placing an IT solution between the vendor and the retailer include:
Speed – Onboarding more products faster, is a key competitive differentiator. Because of the automatic workflows, validations and error notifications between the two systems, the overall time taken to get new products out to market is dramatically reduced.
Quality – One interface to manage multiple retailers means a vendor can focus on the richness of the data rather than the method of communication to the retailer, increasing product accuracy and consistency.
Compliance – Automatic workflows, validations and error notifications between the systems keeps the vendor compliant with the latest requirements from retailers in near real-time.
One platform to rule them all
As the landscape matures and more retailers open up API pipelines of their own, choosing a platform that has all the retailers a vendor wants or needs to do business with will become an easier choice to make.
Each syndication platform will undoubtedly have differing features that will be important to some vendors and less so to others.
Some vendors and suppliers will ask themselves ‘is it the right time?’ to make a changes to their current product information management process.
Affordability – The question of affordability is rarely an issue given the relatively low entry cost and the efficient gains these systems provide.
Time-to-value – By their very nature, cloud based syndication solutions require little to no custom development work to implement and vendors can get value almost immediately.
The real question may be ‘can vendors afford to wait?’ given the pace of change.