How to easily connect to the GDSN

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How to easily connect to the GDSN

par Chen Do12 March 20190 commentaires

While GS1 and the GDSN network represent a series of standards, sharing product data remains a complex subject in the current omnichannel landscape. Here are a few tips to simplify the process of adopting these standards, while using your product catalogue to accelerate your business.

E-commerce pure players (such as Amazon and CDiscount), food information apps (such as Yuka), platforms like Google Manufacturer Center and third-party services (like Swaven and Clic2Buy), and of course, buying groups and retail stores: all of these are part of a new omnichannel context in which new channels are emerging, but are rarely replacing existing channels — just complexifying them. This can prove to be a struggle for brands, who find themselves faced with more and more challenges in the process of sharing their product data with retailers.

This suggests a need for a standardized approach to sharing product data. In fact, this standard already exists (the GDSN) but the various different aspects of this can sometimes be poorly understood. Let’s be honest, the term itself can sometimes result in confusion: “GDSN” (Global Data Synchronization Network) only refers to the network that is used to transfer product data between a manufacturer and a retailer.

In practice, despite the technical terms often used to describe it, the network is very similar to tools that we use every day, such as email. Within this network, each actor has their own address: in this case, it’s the GLN (Global Location Number), which can be compared to an email address. Each item also has a code, the GTIN, which corresponds to the bar code on the product packaging. This would be the subject line of our email. The body of the email would correspond to the product page, which also has a specific format, established by the GS1 organization.

As GS1 has defined a set of standards for sharing product data, what role does a platform such as Alkemics play in this context? Firstly, it represents an access point for the GDSN network. This network uses Internet protocols, but that doesn’t mean that it is public. To share data, you need to use an accredited gateway such as Alkemics, which is a GS1 certified platform.

Secondly, Alkemics makes it easier for brands to adopt GS1 standards. Using the platform, product pages can be exported in GS1 format with just a few clicks. Finally, though developing standards is not Alkemics’ primary mission — that’s the objective of GS1 — like all contributors, they can test new product attributes that are not yet part of the standard and suggest them to GS1, thus playing a role in the large-scale process of standardization.

Have all retailers decided to use the GDSN network to share product data?

No, not really. In practice, each company chooses based on their existing IT resources, their organization and their processes. Many companies still use Excel. More precisely, each of these retailers have defined their own format for sharing product data using Excel. Or rather, their own formats, as each retailer will have various different listing processes, each with its own specific format. They may have one Excel format for nationally listed products, another for promotions, another for regional buying groups, etc. Unsurprisingly, while large companies may have the necessary resources to manage this complex technical challenge, it can quickly become a nightmare for small brands. And there’s a good reason for this: as the number of channels increases — along with the formats used to share data — it may become necessary to maintain multiple versions of a product catalogue and use various different software solutions. Fortunately, the aim of solutions such as Alkemics is to prevent the need to have many different versions of these catalogues.

How can you prevent your product catalogue from becoming a work-intensive technical challenge, and instead turn it into a resource that can boost your business?

Here are 5 key steps:

  1. Whether you’ll be entering information manually or importing data in bulk, the key is to use a flexible solution that is well adapted to the company’s needs, tools and processes.
  2. Manage various different types of data
    Have you entered the necessary logistics data? Have you added additional content (such as visuals and videos) to highlight your products? Your catalogue must offer a complete and scalable template for these different types of data.
  3. Verify data quality
    Check if your product data is compliant with your retailers’ requirements, as well as with regulatory requirements (such as INCO, CLP and CELEX). To do this, it is extremely helpful to use a system that automatically detects if these fields have been filled in, while also checking for errors.
  4. Publish your product data
    Whether you’re using a tool to generate the Excel files required by your retailers, or connecting directly to the GDSN network, improve efficiency by publishing product data from a single catalogue.
  5. Steer your operations
    Reply to retailer requests, verify that the necessary data has been entered, etc. Centralizing all of this data in a single location simplifies this process and ensures accuracy.

How can you determine if a solution is truly able to address these needs? Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Does the solution require software to be deployed on the site, or does it have a quick online set-up?
  • Is the solution user-friendly, and does it offer a simple way to enter information and verify this information quickly?
  • Can users search for products by GTIN, EAN code or brand?
  • Do product page templates take into account regulatory and retailer requirements?
  • Is the data quality verified as soon as the information is entered, and before it is sent?
  • Can errors be easily identified? Are there tools to detect errors and automatically suggest corrections?
  • Does the solution address all of the different ways of sharing data (GDSN network, Excel, pure players’ APIs and connections to professional and consumer apps)?

In summary, connecting your product catalogue to the GDSN network is an important task, but it is not the only element to take into account while looking for the solution that will best meet your needs. In our current omnichannel landscape, brands need to connect to new channels in addition to the GDSN, ideally without needing to deploy a solution or a specific version of their catalogue for each of these channels.

Chen Do

Senior Product Marketing Manager at Alkemics. Chen-Do leads market analysis, product monetization and go-to-market (including partnerships) activities at Alkemics.

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Working together: Creating a consistent brand experience through collaborative data management

The latest news about Alkemics

Working together: Creating a consistent brand experience through collaborative data management.

par Chen Do9 February 20180 commentaires

With the advent of online, and especially multi-channel retail, it is essential for companies to digitize their marketing data and adopt an effective approach to managing digital content, in order to ensure a consistent brand experience across all channels.

This can notably be done through streamlined and effective management of the brand’s content and other data (Digital Asset Management). Centralizing, managing and maintaining this data can prove to be an operational challenge for companies, both internally, within the companies’ various different departments, as well as externally, with its collaborators and communication channels.

This also presents companies with another significant challenge: delivering a consistent brand experience in a complex environment.

For this article, we spoke with Chen-Do Lu, Marketing Manager at Alkemics, and discussed how the collaborative aspects of content management tools are key to addressing these operational and marketing challenges:

Nowadays, why is a collaborative approach essential to managing data more effectively in companies?

Digitization was first implemented by companies to address department-specific needs (logistics, quality control, analyses, marketing, etc.) using specialized solutions, each of which stored and managed data and content in their own ways. However, having their data spread across different types of software and formatted in different manners prevented companies from being able to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies. This is because it was challenging for company’s teams to access this data, keep it up to date, and ensure quality control.

Nowadays, this content is extremely important, especially for marketing departments, as it is the foundation of a company’s online visibility and product listings. This means that companies need to centralize their data, as well as use collaborative digital content management solutions that both complement the department-specific tools, used daily by different teams to keep the data up to date, and are specifically designed for omnichannel content sharing.

Previously oriented towards training needs (such as digital learning and MOOCs) and internal communications in companies, more and more collaborative platforms are becoming available that are designed to address more operational needs. These models no longer follow a top-down approach when it comes to data, but rather a horizontal, team-focused model, in order to make the data management process more collaborative.

By offering all contributors a single, connected communication channel, business processes and organization are optimized, providing a significant increase in efficiency and operational excellence. Moreover, more efficient data maintenance, sharing and verification processes, as well as the use of collaborative platforms for the digitization of these processes, allows them to be steered more effectively — companies can view indicators on the maturity of these processes, including completeness, quality, compliance, how the data is used, etc.

 

Can improvements to how operational data is managed also benefit the rest of the company’s ecosystem?

This approach can certainly be used by the company’s entire network. Collaborative tools and platforms link the network together, providing the entire ecosystem with a consistent way to to share data.

The increasing number of collaborative platforms available, as well as the ability to link these together through the use of APIs or web service bindings, bridges the gap between companies and their collaborators, facilitating the entire collaboration process. Some software companies, such as Alkemics, are truly creating a collaboration network that connects a wide variety of different actors.

This approach fits in perfectly with new developments in omnichannel business, in which different collaborative tools, connected to external platforms, enable companies to enter data in a single location and share it with their entire ecosystem.

This collaborative model takes a more qualitative approach, creating a bridge between data and those that use it. For example, these platforms facilitate collaborations between brands and retailers in the mass-market retail sector, notably by making it easier for them to collaborate on e-commerce projects. With these types of projects, managing and ensuring the consistency of online content ensures better visibility, and most of all, a seamless brand experience.

At the same time, though collaborative tools are breaking down the barriers between companies and their collaborators, the implementation of these solutions also enables each actor to focus on their core business. Once again taking the example of the grocery retail market, Alkemics enables retailers to collect brand content and data in real-time. This allows companies to enhance their customer experience, providing information and assistance to customers and improving customer engagement. Suppliers once again have the ability to steer their brand experience, while ensuring that retailers also benefit from this.

What impacts do these initiatives have on customers’ brand experience?

As we mentioned before, collaborative content management platforms are primarily designed to share, verify and maintain company or brand data, comprehensively and across all channels. Using a single platform for both data entry and management ensures the consistency of the brand’s digital content.

Over time, this approach to digital content management, which we could refer to as brand consistency, will strengthen the brand experience. A concrete example of this is a consumer’s ability to view identical product pages on all of the e-commerce sites that they visit, regardless of which device that they are using.

This strategy will also facilitate communications throughout the company, breaking down the arbitrary separation between online and offline activities. Having a more complete understanding of products and consumer behaviour will make it easier for companies to determine which channels to sell their products on, manage stock in a consistent and connected manner, and better understand consumer habits and trends.

Consistent data management is therefore one of the key drivers of a seamless brand experience. Through Digital Asset Management, new practices are also emerging. Effective data management also offers companies the ability to improve their products’ rankings on e-commerce sites, via a sort of specific SEO for online stores. This is truly becoming a form of digital merchandising, in which creating effective product listings will improve their visibility on websites, whether via a search by product uses or characteristics, or through filters and navigation elements.

In summary, using a collaborative data management platform enables companies to increase their productivity, both in internal processes and communications with collaborators. These tools ensure more effective data management, as well as consistency throughout the process. Over time, this consistent and multi-channel approach to sharing data strengthens and supports the brand experience, ensuring it is effectively managed across all channels. All of the practices mentioned here are the first steps towards adopting a Smart Data approach, in which effectively using and managing data strengthens the brand experience. What’s the next step? Go beyond optimizing the multi-channel data sharing process and the brand experience, and work on drawing insight from consumer data. In short, develop a Big Data strategy.

Chen Do

Senior Product Marketing Manager at Alkemics. Chen-Do leads market analysis, product monetization and go-to-market (including partnerships) activities at Alkemics.

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