Of all the technological and digital advances made by the human race in the last 20-30 years, there is one area where we still remain extremely primitive: product information management and data flow. Why? Spreadsheets.
Spreadsheets are the bane of the retail world, from big Fortune 500 companies down to the smallest Mom & Pop retailers In the absence of a system integration, 90% of suppliers and manufacturers around the world use spreadsheets to share critical information about their products with their retail partners. And we rounded up the 6 biggest pains and issues caused by their reliance on spreadsheets:
A supplier sends a spreadsheet to its retail partners. Perhaps it contains new products or price changes. Maybe it’s an inventory update. However, no matter what information the spreadsheet contains, that information needs to find its way into the system the retailer is using. That system could be a point of sale system, an ecommerce store, a database, a sales channel.. all of the above. And last time we checked, spreadsheets don’t talk to these systems without work. They just lead to labor-intensive work that costs money and often results in errors.
Not only are spreadsheets slow, but they also lead to many natural errors seeing as no human’s brain is meant to stare at and accurately process numbers all day. And a few missing zeros in an inventory list can cause major headaches and really strain a business relationship, as is the case with a very large global beer brand we’re working with to correct its issues with the inaccurate data it provides its distributors.
“When KPMG Management Consulting audited spreadsheets from over 21 major UK banking and financial organizations, they found that 92% of the spreadsheets dealing with tax issues had significant errors, 75% had significant accounting errors, and 59% were judged to have poor design!”
One might think that backorders are a result of demand outstripping supply, which would be a great problem for suppliers to have. That would be false. Backorders frustrate shoppers, who in turn make retailers crazy with order status updates. Retailers then drive their suppliers crazy with shipment status updates.
All of this creates frustration and adds to a company’s support overhead which means expense and in some cases loss of revenue or degradation of customer service quality. If the support team is servicing back order issues, they aren’t upselling or helping with other issues. Spreadsheets make real-time inventory impossible to deliver and back orders are the result.
We know that on average, it takes 6 minutes to learn a line of data from a spreadsheet into a product on an ecommerce store with web ready images. You’re an online retailer and a brand has 6,000 SKU’s that you want to add to your store. add those 6 minutes per SKUt to the time you’re already spending handling spreadsheets containing updates from your existing suppliers.
In the case of a supplier, 30% of your product line has been picked up by Walmart, who want your products uploaded in a specific format. Your warehouse management solution or ERP could, should, would integrate with Walmart, right? Maybe, but you might want to rethink plans to open a showroom at that popular new trade show for a couple of years and spend the money on getting your system to talk to Walmart. Or do it manually and you just might get 5 of your products into Walmart by the end of the year. Your choice!
Often, even more time consuming are updates, where one line out of 12,000 SKUs will have changed and the supplier won’t tell you which one. Those situations make finding Waldo feel like a walk in the park.
At the end of the day, anyone using spreadsheets knows that they are simply a Band-Aid solution for the patient awaiting surgery. Using static spreadsheets, that are updated infrequently and often incorrectly, is simply not a long-term strategy for any business’ success.
But is this really the best tool to use? Most popular response is: “it gets the job done.” Well, using a knife instead of a power-screwdriver may also get the job done, but how fast, how efficient, and how satisfactory is the end result?
So we’ve got all these issues with spreadsheets, but like it or not they are a necessary evil and will likely live for years and decades to come. It’s up to you to find a way to remove them from your daily lives as much as possible by finding software that can save you the time and money.
The most important elements to look for in a Product Information Management and Integration solution are:
“Rising customer expectations for seamless brand experiences underscore how important it is for commerce solutions to work together more closely than ever to harmonize information across systems and touchpoints.” - Brendan Witcher, Forrester Research.
As consumers drive the market, companies must consider how to better collect, manage, and analyze the data from consumer engagements. In most supply chains, this data is relegated to silos by organization, and often further siloed within organizations by department or function. The lack of connectivity makes it impossible to analyze data effectively, let alone action any learnings from the data that would improve brand experiences across systems and touchpoints.
Connectivity empowers brands, manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers to share data across organizations seamlessly, enabling them to respond to learnings with urgency with unified strategies to improve brand experiences across the entire customer journey and impact business results in a measurable way.
Rolling out changes in retail supply chains that are made up of numerous external relationships takes too long. With the volume of data increasing as well as the number of parties involved (both internal and external), the challenge becomes even more complex. A key limiting factor in retail’s response time is the speed with which organizations can distribute product data.
And when unforeseen external factors come into play, brands and retailers must deal with the fall out, often to the tune of millions. For example, In October 2018, the US Postal Service announced an increase in rates to send packages. Credit Suisse analyst, Stephen Ju, reported this hike could cost Amazon between $400M & $1.1B, which doesn’t include the cost of system-wide price and third-party site changes (CNBC). How will Amazon scale these changes?
Competing and succeeding in retail requires agility. Brands and retailers must be positioned to respond actively to consumer data and analytics.
Connectivity enables rapid delivery of information and feedback across supply networks, and intelligent content distribution supports the growing range of product information standards and facilitates compliance with numerous regulatory standards and content quality and completeness requirements set by retailers.
Retail’s data needs are growing, and reliance on manual processes prevents retailers from growing to meet consumer demand. Here are a few obvious areas where scale comes into play:
In each of the above examples, retail requires streamlined processes to manage product data. Without connectivity, retail can’t grow. Venzee offers connectivity that positions brands, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, and technology partners to manage growth in all of these areas.
Connectivity facilitates scale. Period. Replacing manual steps with connectivity removes any limits on the speed of data exchange between trading partners. Once speed is no longer an issue, enterprises can evolve to become more adept at managing data and responding to the market.
Venzee facilitates the seamless connectivity that modern retail requires. With an API-driven, intelligent content distribution platform, Venzee is the easiest way for content management systems to connect to thousands of retailer channels.
With Venzee’s API solution, organizations can benefit from the following:
Serving as the infrastructure for the seamless exchange of product information, Venzee securely connects the data management technology of retailers, brands, and distributors, and their enterprise software partners via a single API. Our intelligent distribution platform transforms and delivers product information for over 20M SKUs across hundreds of unique formats to destinations like Amazon, Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, and Overstock.