June 21, 2005, 12:00 AM

How syndicated information enhances content delivery for Office Depot

Office Depot, which carries more than 200,000 SKUs online, may use outside content from as many as 100 manufacturers and other third parties to update products and images on its e-commerce sites.

As they look for new and different ways to expedite content management and delivery, more web retailers are turning to product information supplied by third-parties.

For instance, Office Depot Inc., which carries more than 200,000 SKUs online, may use outside content from as many as 100 manufacturers and other third parties to update products and images. Office Deport receives product updates, photos and other rich media-enhanced information such as product demonstrations from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. through a third-party platform provided by WebCollage Inc.

Though the flow of product updates, technical specifications and images is constant, it takes Office Depot about five working days to collect the information, edit the information to comply with internal standards and work-flow procedures and post to the web store. “Adding more content is critical,” says Noah Maffitt, director of e-commerce for Office Depot. “Creating content is expensive and we deal with multiple brands. Using more syndicated content, especially for technology products, which are constantly changing, enhances our customers’ shopping experience.”

Office Depot has been using outside content in a major way for more than two years, Maffitt says. The information supplied to Office Depot can come in a variety of formats, including XML-enhanced applications, a vendor intranet and through batch electronic data interchange messages.

Web retailers are using more syndicated information because the cost of developing new internal content can be substantial, ranging from $80 to more than $500 per hour, depending how much internal time and resources are needed to build out a new product page and to what lengths the retailer has to go to obtain the initial information.

At Office Depot Maffitt says content from consumer brand manufacturers and others helps the office supply retailer form better relationships with customers. “It’s a critical aspect of our program,” he says.

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