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How to easily connect to the GDSN

par Aurélien Dumont12 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.