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An industry veteran’s perspective on the challenge of product content syndication and how manufacturers can uncover hidden friction in the submission process.

What really matters when it comes to efficiently syndicating product content from manufacturers to trading partners?

Having been in the digital supply chain industry for over a decade now, I have seen significant change in this industry that serves the larger retail commerce ecosystem. The ability for manufacturers to syndicate product information to trading partners (be they retailers or other channels) is slowly becoming more efficient.

That’s not to say that significant friction doesn’t still exist in this digital supply chain–far from it–but I am seeing a focus on attacking the friction that exists along the digital supply chain between manufacturer and retailer. Reducing friction here allows for improved speeds-to-site, getting generally better content to retailers, and a more efficient syndication process for manufacturers. For manufacturers, efficient content syndication saves time and money and gets their products to market more quickly and effectively.

Hidden friction in the digital supply chain

Still, there is friction in the digital supply chain that isn’t being resolved and manufacturers aren’t uncovering the issue. Why not? Because they continue to ask the wrong questions when evaluating solutions to help them syndicate their product content more effectively. When investigating content service providers (CSPs), manufacturers tend to focus more on the number of retail channels and less on the connection or distribution process. (Something to keep in mind: The mission of CSPs is to help manufacturers syndicate content more effectively on an ongoing basis. I’ll repeat that last part: on an ongoing basis.)

Here’s what I mean:

Manufacturers are still asking CSPs, “Who do you have?” looking for a list of retailers the CSP will promote that they are connected to.

Many CSPs will answer by flashing a list of retailers whose product category templates (or product category schemas) they’ve collected over several years. Or, they’ll say they have API connectivity with some of the larger retailers that have rolled out or are in the process of rolling out APIs for CSPs and larger vendors to plug into.

Both of these points are misleading, and to challenge the perceived value of retailer lists provided by CSPs and API connectivity, I have two questions:

  1. How do old, outdated templates and schemas help a manufacturer organize its content and transform it to meet current retailer rules and requirements prior to submission? The answer: They don’t.
  2. How does a CSP’s having API connectivity to a retailer help a manufacturer if that retailer’s API is incomplete and requires additional processes in order to successfully submit all above-the-fold product content (data AND images)? The answer: It doesn’t.

Gains through ongoing processes and automation are where manufacturers see real value

A CSP’s ability to establish a process with as much automation as possible is what eliminates friction. CSPs must have processes and automation built to not only ingest current product category templates or schemas from retailers as templates evolve, but also to validate a manufacturer’s product content against the latest rules and requirements within those schemas, both initially and on an ongoing basis. How a CSP solves for changing retailer requirements on an ongoing basis is key to evaluating a CSP’s long-term value. Eliminating this friction is what reduces the cost of the full content syndication process and accelerates the flow of content from a manufacturer to its trading partners.

Let’s be honest about retailer APIs

As for the current state of retailer API capabilities, it’s not great. While the larger retailers are exposing APIs (which is a great shift in improving efficiency in the digital supply chain), available APIs are incredibly limited. For example, some large retailers have APIs that can’t receive images. Image submissions are a significant portion of the content submission process, so this means manufacturers must tag on yet another manual process to handle images. The same goes for categories. For the APIs that support very limited categories, manufacturers must go through an additional process to successfully submit content. With such limited API cases being all-too-common, there needs to be a focus on automating non-API aspects of the product content syndication process to truly reduce friction.

This is how Venzee is solving the problem.

Venzee relies on API and non-API automation

Venzee is solely focused on eliminating friction from the digital supply chain. Our API allows for automated ingestion of content from any source, whether it is a manufacturer’s PIM, DAM, ERP, or other content management system. From there, content is validated against current retailer or channel requirements to ensure syndication of accurate and complete product content to a manufacturer’s trading partners. Finally, Venzee aggressively pursues integration with any and all fully-functional retailer APIs where it makes sense and employs artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and other automation in order to streamline and accelerate content syndication from any source to any retailer or channel.

About Peter Montross

Peter is the VP of Enterprise Business at Venzee. His over 20 years of experience in the retail industry and Product Information Distribution space (PIDS) includes leadership positions at Edgenet and Shotfarm (recently acquired by Syndigo).

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