The Dead End in Product Information Management: Your Supplier Portal

There is a tendency when deploying Product Information Management (PIM) solutions, that you may want to add a portal for your trading partners:

  • Manufacturers may have a customer portal where their downstream re-sellers can fetch the nicely arranged product information that is the result of their PIM implementation.
  • As a merchant, you could have a supplier portal where your upstream suppliers can deliver their information nicely arranged according to your product information standards in your PIM implementation.

Dead End SignHowever, this is a dead end for both manufacturers and merchants, because:

  • Manufacturers and you as a merchant probably follow different standards, so one must obey to the other. The result is that one side will have a lot of manual and costly work to do to obey the strongest trading partner. Only a few will be the strongest all time.
  • If all manufacturers have a customer portal and all merchants have a supplier portal everyone will be waiting for the other and no product information will flow in the supply chains.

This topic was discussed in the post PIM Supplier Portals: Are They Good or Bad?

If you want to learn about the better solution than – or supplement to – a supplier portal, please get in contact here:

How Merchants Can Sell More and Reduce Costs

In a data driven world being the best at receiving product information from your suppliers is a winning formula.

You will sell more if you have the most complete, accurate and timely product information in front of your online customers when they make self-service buying decisions.

You will reduce costs if  you can pull product information in one uniform way and let your suppliers push it in their many ways. Hereby you can automate the processes,  avoid errors and reduce product returns.

You will also be able to manage a broader product range by turning ad hoc products into a regular product in your assortment with minimal extra costs.

Our solution using emerging technologies within Product Data Lake will make you be easy to do business with in the eyes of your suppliers and make your product information transform into a powerful weapon in the quest for winning more online market share.

The people who may buy your product range deserves to know all about it and wants to get that information when making the buying decision. Remember: 81 % of visitors will leave a web-shop with incomplete product information.

Downstream sell more reduce costs

 

Product Data Syndication Freedom for Merchants

When working with product data syndication in supply chains the big pain is that data standards in use and the preferred exchange methods differ between supply chain participants.

As a merchant you will have hundreds of suppliers who probably have data standards different from you and most likely wants to syndicate product data with you in a different way than you do.

The aim of Product Data Lake is to take that pain away from both the manufacturer side and the merchant side. We offer product data syndication freedom by letting your supplying manufacturers push product information using their data standards and their preferred exchange method and letting you as a merchant pull product information using your data standards and your preferred exchange method.

Product Data Syndication

 

How to end the standoff with your suppliers

Who should have the burden of lifting product information as your suppliers have it to the way it is presented at the digital point-of-sales provided by you? Often this seems to be stalled in a standoff as described in the post Passive vs Active Product Information Exchange.

Using spreadsheets

Most companies participating in cross company supply chains use spreadsheets for exchanging product data. Doing that is very cumbersome, error-prone and does in most cases not provide the needed data quality for getting self-service ready product data from your suppliers.

The most common way of using spreadsheets for this is that you as a merchant gives each of your suppliers a spreadsheet with columns of attributes based on your taxonomy to be filled out. As a supplier, they will typically be tasked with filling in a different spreadsheet from each of their re-sellers. This is very inefficient seen from a supplier perspective.

Deploying customer (and supplier) portals for product information

There is a tendency when deploying Product Information Management (PIM) solutions, that you may want to add a portal for your trading partners:

  • If you are a manufacturer, you could have a customer portal where your downstream re-sellers can fetch the nicely arranged product information that is the result of your PIM implementation.
  • If you are a merchant, you could have a supplier portal where your upstream suppliers can deliver their information nicely arranged according to your product information standards in your PIM implementation.

This is a death trap for both manufacturers and merchants, because:

  • As a trading manufacturer and merchant, you probably follow different standards, so one must obey to the other. The result is that one side will have a lot of manual and costly work to do to obey the strongest trading partner. Only a few will be the strongest all time.
  • If all manufacturers have a customer portal and all merchants have a supplier portal everyone will be waiting for the other and no product information will flow in the supply chains.

Standoff downstream

At Product Data Lake we offer merchants and suppliers an honorable way out of this standoff by offering Product Data Syndication Freedom.

 

How to Combine eClass and ETIM

eClass and ETIM are two different standards for product information.

eCl@ss is a cross-industry product data standard for classification and description of products and services emphasizing on being a ISO/IEC compliant industry standard nationally and internationally. The classification guides the eCl@ss standard for product attributes (in eClass called properties) that are needed for a product with a given classification.

ETIM develops and manages a worldwide uniform classification for technical products. This classification guides the ETIM standard for product attributes (in ETIM called features) that are needed for a product with a given classification.

It is worth noticing, that these two standards are much more elaborate than for example the well-known classification system called UNSPSC, as UNSPSC only classifies products, but does not tell which attributes (and with what standards) you need to specify a product in detail.

There is a cooperation between eClass and ETIM which means, that you can map between the two standards. However, it will not usually make sense for one organization to try to use both standards at the same time.

PDL How it worksWhat does make sense is combining the two standards, if you as merchant use one standard and your manufacturer use the other standard. The place to make the combination is within Product Data Lake, the new service for exchanging product information between manufacturers and merchants.

What a PIM-2-PIM Solution Looks Like

The importance of having a viable Product Information Management (PIM) solution has become well understood for companies who participates in supply chains.

The next step towards excellence in PIM is to handle product information in close collaboration with your trading partners. Product Data Lake is the solution for that. Here upstream providers of product information (manufacturers and upstream distributors) and downstream receivers of product information (downstream distributors and retailers) connect their choice of in-house PIM solution or other product master data solution as PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) or ERP.

The PIM-2-PIM solution resembles a social network where you request and accept partnerships with your trading partners from the real world.

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After connecting the next to set up is how your product attributes and digital asset types links with the one used by your trading partner. In Product Data Lake we encompass the use of these different scenarios (in prioritized order):

  • You and your trading partner uses the same standard in the same version
  • You and your trading partners uses the same standard in different versions
  • You and your trading partner uses different standards
  • You and/or your trading partners don’t use a public standard

Read more about that and the needed data governance in the post Approaches to Sharing Product Information in Business Ecosystems.

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Then it is time to link your common products. This can be done automatically if you both use a GTIN (or the older implementations as EAN number or UPC) as explained in the post Connecting Product Information. Alternatively, model numbers can be used for matching or, as a last option, the linking can be done in the interactive user interface.

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Now you and your trading partner are set to start automating the process of sharing product information. In Product Data Lake upstream providers of product information can push new products, attribute values and digital assets from the in-house PIM solution to a hot folder, where from the information is uploaded by Product Data Lake. Downstream receivers can set up pull requests, where the linked product information is downloaded, so it is ready to be consumed by the in-house PIM solution.

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This process can now be repeated with all your other trading partners, where you reuse the elements that are common between trading partners and build new linking where required.

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