The Product Data Value Chain: What is product data acquisition and syndication?
When it comes to product data, legacy processes usually involve the cumbersome and time-consuming processing of data of various formats in order to onboard incoming information from suppliers, vendors and sellers. Until recently, there have been very few efforts to create a solution guaranteeing universally managed connectivity and content.
Compliance with requirements for all resellers, marketplaces and marketing endpoints is essential, hence the importance of high-quality product data syndication. Most projects in the area of product data management and master data management have focused on internal processes and technology, so there are solutions for that today in the form of PIM and MDM solutions. However, the other challenges still remain – those encountered in the exchange zones between trading partners. In other words, data acquisition and syndication.
Product data acquisition
In broad terms, vendor data onboarding involves the holistic acquisition of different types of data from suppliers or data providers. Data can encompass a multitude of data types – product, pricing & supplier information.
The process of onboarding vendor product data is a daily occurrence and a critically important part of the creation of a viable, scalable product offer. It doesn’t matter if you call them ‘vendors’, ‘sellers’ or ‘suppliers’ – the fact is, by implementing better onboarding practices, it not only improves the chances of increasing sales revenue but also helps companies cement really firm business relationships.
There are two phases for onboarding product data: the initial integration into your system and then the exchange, and upkeep of that data.
Business challenges in acquisition
As technological advances drive improved capabilities, the end game for retailers and distributors is to achieve a consistent, ready-to-publish catalog by mapping all incoming vendor product data in accordance with clearly-established standards, ideally by using a standards based taxonomy and data model.
However, there are still a very large number of companies still relying on manual practices which cost them time, money and employee energy.
Most distributors and retailers acquiring product information do not operate with streamlined processes. Incoming vendor catalogs tend to need to adhere to strict requirements. Although this is understandable, given that businesses want to integrate and understand vendor data as easily as possible, validation of data is a highly resource-intensive activity. This is reflected in the most common problems;
- Manually processing incoming product data of varying formats (including the need to write custom code for exception management)
- Mapping, normalising and validating data and getting it to a universally agreed high standard
- Unifying data across multiple sources, standards and types
- Adapting to new product lines or variants with additional features and attributes
- Larger product assortments requires automation of data onboarding processes
- Speed – retailers and distributors need shorter times to market for new products
- Supplier experience – make it easy for suppliers to onboard their product data
These challenges lead to lost revenue on disapproved products, high opportunity costs and high running costs. These approaches are not scalable.
Product data syndication
While data acquisition and PIM is all about collecting, enriching, storing and publishing product information, Product Data Syndication is about sharing that product information among manufacturers, merchants and marketplaces. The challenge here is in distributing product data feeds across these multiple digital sales platforms and marketplaces while, at the same time, being in absolute compliance with their varying requirements. In a nutshell, syndication is the process of synchronising product data across the range of sales portals and channels in use nowadays.
Business challenges in syndication
A lot of companies are still having to manually execute whatever processes are required to syndicate catalogs in line with a channel’s rules. Departments like IT and marketing then have to spend time preparing and monitoring and adjusting product catalogs with the accompanying opportunity costs – there’s not much time to think about growing or scaling the business when your time is taken up juggling differing priorities for different channels.
- Speed and efficiency- faster time to market for new products and product updates published to sales channels and marketplaces
- Larger product assortments and scale requires automation (time and resources otherwise are high)
- Varying channel formats and requirements – channels constantly change and adapt their data requirements
- The unification of different data domains required by these channels such as product, price and inventory
When we compile the list of challenges posed by the acquisition and syndication processes, it’s clear that there is still a need for further technologies to complement the service offered by a PIM. To make scalability genuinely feasible in a market with an appetite for variation, customisation and new product offers, platforms with are required;
- Mapping, normalising and validating incoming data quickly
- Unifying data across multiple sources, whether from different suppliers and vendors, or of differing formats.
- Every larger product assortments will need greater automisation of processes to deliver the speed required to offer an agile time to market response.
- Supplier experience can be further enhanced by offering systems which make it easier for them to provide data in a form which is usable by the distributor or retailer.
The good news is that SaaS providers in the field of product data are very much onto these outstanding issues. There are ongoing R & D and innovations which will solve the challenges outlined above, thus providing those truly data-driven organisations with a competitive edge in rapidly expanding eCommerce sectors.
And finally, Customer Support Services
It is well worth researching what features you expect before implementing PIM. Vendors may provide a range of out-of-the-box functionalities, while others only offer these features as custom add-ons. When buying licences, enquire about the customer support offered inclusive of the price per user. What channels do you get? Chat and automated online support, or a real person?