Are Product Data Standards Important?
by dataZen Engineering
Which ones, you ask?
If you’re doing business electronically you know that compliance with on-line data standards is necessary to get in the game. For example, if you’re an EDI shop, then you know about “standards” like ANSI X12 that help trading partners “speak the same language” when exchanging EDI documents on-line.
EDI paired with a leased line or VAN (Value Added Network) provides a highly secure and available means of doing transactional business. Unfortunately, only about 5-7% of companies decide to invest in EDI and ANSI isn’t the only game in town when it comes to data standards.
Product Data Standards, overwhelming?
Enter the e-selling experience on the internet and the proliferation of data standards that can be downright overwhelming esp. in the retail industry. In the early internet days of ecommerce, there was fear and resistance that data standards would only hasten the commoditization of a company’s products. The worry was that price would become the ONLY thing that mattered to the web consumer. Many companies were reluctant to serve up structured product data fearing that it would allow a web shopper to “compare” their products to the competition. Some companies chose not to include pricing. Sadly, that practice didn’t work because price is a critical element in the customer’s selection and ordering decision process. Lastly, some just hoped that the world of paper would somehow prevail. Sadly, we all know what happened to the JC Penney and Sears catalogs.
Welcome to today’s Unified Commerce and its channel along with the normalization and synchronization of everything for the web. Bottom line, like it or not, if your product data isn’t suitable for the digital marketplace together with prices, 360-degree photos, videos and other mandatory “standard” attributes needed for selling through channel partners or direct, you are pretty much out of the game.
So, what are the Product Data Standards anyways?
EDI processes aside, product data standards for the internet is where things get tricky. Navigating the world of product data standards from GS1 (Global Standards 1), ETIM (Electro-Technical Information Model), UNSPSC (United Nations Standard Products and Services Code) are some acronyms that take some getting used to. These standards organizations are all presumably helping to simplify the on-line digital experience for consumers / buyers. There are others. And, the value proposition for each one is pretty much the same; by aligning your product data with these standards, you will save money. Again, the idea is “save money”.
Remember the GDSN (Global Data Synchronization Network) which changed its name to 1Sync to presumably get better brand recognition in light of the “synchronization and normalization” buzz phrase for product data? It’s not bad to be GS1 or UNSPSC compliant, but just like EDI, there are costs involved in getting there but then by implementing you save in the long run.
Are these Product Data Standards for me?
More importantly, understanding which standards affect your company and specifically retail industry takes some digging. Fortunately, there are folks like us around that have been down this road before. If you need a little help, we can help you speed up the process.
So, what to look for and what are the byproducts? These are some outcomes to look for in general after you have applied some Product Data Standards.
The idea is to start with a small footprint following some proven technology and methodologies to meet your desired objectives. Say, you want to implement UNSPSC standards. Then one of the goal from the get go must be how do you initialize your taxonomy down to the product attributes and values at the SKU level. That way a consumer is more informed to distinguish yours against what the competition offers.
Today, it is data about the product or service that is more important than the product or service itself. Therefore, having solid product data standards across the board is super critical for any business!