July 29, 2002, 12:00 AM

Retailers forced to reap benefits of data integration

Prodded by Wal-Mart and others, the retail industry is cleaning up product data for improved integration, driving better connections and relationships with trading partners, says an AMR consultant.

Prodded by leaders Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and others, the retail industry is cleaning up product data for improved integration, driving better connections and relationships with trading partners. In the process, companies are also vastly improving their systems of storing and retrieving digital assets such as product images and other digital content.

"Retailers are learning how to better use digital asset management," says Pete Abell, analyst in the retail industry practice at AMR Research Inc., Boston. "They realized they have to pull all of their product information and images into one place."

The alternative of not organizing digital content can be painful, he adds. A recent Grocery Manufacturing Association study found, for example, that product data was inaccurate by as much as 30%, resulting in costs of some $40 billion related to errors in invoices and purchase orders.

The process of integration can be costly, as high as $300 to $600 per SKU, to build and scrub data that accurately reflects a company’s products, Abell notes. But once internal data is in order, that paves the way for companies to meet global data standards set by UCCNet.

Just as Wal-Mart and other major retailers prodded the retail industry and its suppliers to adopt bar-code technology in the mid 1980s, the big merchants are now forcing the retail world to integrate data according to UCCNet standards.

The payoff comes in greater domestic and global business opportunities. Wal-Mart, for instance, reportedly expects more than 50,000 suppliers to be up on UCCNet standards by the end of this year. UCCnet, a not-for-profit organization, is a subsidiary of the Uniform Code Council Inc., a global e-commerce standards organization based in Lawrenceville, NJ.

Abell notes that a number of software companies are making inroads in serving the digital asset management market, such as Trigo Technologies Inc., Brisbane, CA, Artesia Technologies Inc., Rockville, MD, and MediaBin Inc., Atlanta.

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