April 2, 2004, 12:00 AM

Help for the smaller guy in synching data with the big guys

To help more small retail industry suppliers synchronize product codes with those of retailers, Extol International has launched a $2,500 tool designed to let small companies connect their data with UCCnet’s Global Registry.

With pressure from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., more and more retailers and their suppliers are synchronizing their product data under common standards set by UCCnet, a data standards organization of the Uniform Code Council Inc., and its European counterpart, EAN International. The push is on because Wal-Mart and other industry leaders believe product synchronization creates more efficient and accurate data communications between retailers and suppliers, saving all parties money.

But while the benefits may be plain-at least to large companies-the costs of full-scale synchronization applications running into tens of thousands of dollars are enough to make the rewards hard to justify for small suppliers.

And there are thousands of smaller suppliers who could be left behind, experts say. “There are lots of smaller vendors who need to get their data to UCCnet and their retail partners,” says Kara Romanow, a retail industry analyst with AMR Research Inc.

Now some new applications for smaller suppliers are appearing. To help more small retail industry suppliers synchronize their product codes with those of retailers, Extol International last month launched a $2,500 tool designed to let small companies connect their data with UCCnet’s Global Registry.

The application, a scaled-down version of Extol’s UCCnet Synchronization Suite, which costs about $40,000 in its full-scale version, is intended for companies that would code up to 25 products but that don’t want to invest in a complete application, says Extol vice president of marketing Steven Rosen. The full-scale version is designed to automatically integrate synchronized product data with a supplier’s back-end software, including inventory records. This eliminates the need to physically change product information when, for instance, a retailer says it no longer wants to receive delivery of a particular product.

But many smaller suppliers aren’t concerned about such automation because, with a small line of products, they can achieve the same result with manual data entry, Romanow says.

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