By giving their suppliers access to product data management processes traditionally cordoned off in “walled gardens,” omnichannel merchants are rethinking how they collaborate with their trading partners to please omnichannel shoppers, writes Josh Silverman, senior vice president of retail and distribution at Salsify Inc.

Joshua Silverman_Salsify

Joshua Silverman

Many retailers have historically fashioned their product data ingestion processes into “walled gardens,” narrowly architected systems that required their suppliers to pay for access to portals to submit product information.

These walled gardens make the collection of data extremely challenging. Brands would have to go through one system to submit GDSN (Global Data Synchronization Network) data, another for ecommerce setup, and another just for submitting images. This web of single-purpose systems created manual work for brands that delayed product launches, led to error-prone data that resulted in fees, and ultimately worsened the quality of product detail pages and jeopardized the shopper experience.

Walmart recently launched its new Omnispec API, a new product information submission process for suppliers that combines all of the data requirements for both online and brick-and-mortar.

While some retailers still have these traditional processes in place today, many more have begun to rethink how to offer their suppliers a better experience. This new trend has been driven by several factors:

  1. Recognition that high-quality product information drives conversion. The  latest consumer research reports found that 78% of consumers will abandon a product purchase when the product information is incomplete. Additionally, the 2023 Forrester WaveTM for Product Information Management states: “The macro trend shaping product information’s criticality is that consumers find online shopping more convenient than offline shopping in stores…Product information quality [is] the North Star to drive conversions. Bad content on product pages is a barrier to sales.
  2. The rising importance of retail media as a revenue source. According to new research from Stratably and the Digital Shelf Institute, brands reinvest, on average, 7.2% of their digital sales into retail media spend with their retailer partners — and that figure is steadily climbing. But 67% of brand leaders say that content quality is a meaningful part of this investment equation, meaning that brand leaders will reconsider additional investments until the data on the product detail pages their ads connect to are best-in-class. Inaccurate or incomplete product data means lower return on ad spend (ROAS) for the brands. For any retailer looking to derive revenue and margin from their first-party data, the quality of the product detail page (PDP) is critical.
  3. The introduction of AI is giving retailers the ability to scale content quality checks in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. Part of the walled-garden approach was an attempt to force data consistency through a narrow submission channel. AI allows for data checks at scale, without the need for a limiting submission mechanism.

A key way retailers have begun to tangibly invest in better collaboration with their suppliers is through “omniconnectors,” new application programming interfaces (APIs) that are purpose-built to support data ingestion for all content for both the digital shelf and brick and mortar.

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These omniconnectors create a single, streamlined process for brands to submit information and reflect the omnichannel shopping habits of today’s consumer (eg., through BOPIS, an industry that is forecast to grow at a double-digit. compound annual growth rate of 19.3% until 2027, globally). The technology of APIs, as opposed to submission portals, also offers the ability for AI-propelled quality checks and two-way feedback between the retailer and their suppliers, driving collaboration at scale.

Leading retailers are investing in this technology now. Walmart recently launched its new Omnispec API, a new product information submission process for suppliers that combines all of the data requirements for both online and brick-and-mortar item setup. Other retailers like Kroger and Albertsons have also “opened up” their existing walled gardens, allowing their suppliers choice when it comes to which syndication provider they prefer to use when they submit their product information. This means that brands no longer need to pay multiple providers to get content to the same retailer. The Home Depot is another retailer now rethinking how it can create more agile ways for its thousands of suppliers to submit product content updates.

Over the next couple of years, it will become possible for any retailer to efficiently offer similar capabilities at a reasonable cost, transforming the industry.

What should brands and retailers do now to prepare for an open, collaborative, omnichannel, future?

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Retailer Executives:

  1. Think strategically about where supplier collaboration sits in your roadmap of priorities, given its impact on consumer experience, retail media ROAS, and PDP conversion rates.
  2. Complete an analysis of all the various disparate methods across teams for product ingestion from suppliers today and how they might be streamlined.
  3. Start conversations with leading suppliers and their chosen product data management and syndication technology providers to begin designing a roadmap towards your own omniconnector capabilities.

Supplier Executives:

  1. Consider how and where your product content is stored and managed today. Are you still using spreadsheets, or do you have a product experience management solution in place? How ready are you to scale processes to automate delivery of your content to all endpoints?
  2. Think about which teams will need access to product content and whether it’s easy for them to access. How will you power your product enterprise and break down silos, allowing your legal, support, ecommerce and retailer media teams to access the same set of optimized, complete and accurate product content?
  3. Talk to your retailers about any pain points you experience in the content submission process today and the consequences (e.g., delayed product launches or stale information on PDPs). Your influence could help to get improvements on the roadmap.

A focus on open and easy collaboration between retailers and their brands drives efficiency and revenue, impacting both top- and bottom-line growth by creating product experiences that drive conversion.

About the author

Josh Silverman, is senior vice president of retail and distribution at Salsify Inc., a provider of product information management and related technology applications.

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