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Retail by the App
Retail drives a big portion of the EDI traffic along the supply chain. Whether it’s online retail or brick and mortar retail, the issues are the same. But let’s face it… sometimes it’s just easier to find the product you’re looking for by using a search engine online rather than wandering aimlessly through the aisles of a big box store. Increasingly, retailers are supplementing the in-store experience with apps on shoppers’ mobile devices.
There is an increasing number of apps that are being used to guide shoppers to the right shelf in the right aisle based on their shopping needs. Some use a traditional search function combined with turn-by-turn walking navigation to guide buyers. More advanced apps combine this basic search with additional prompts like “More like this” and others go farther by suggesting personalized recommendations similar to how Amazon.com and Netflix use buying history to find items you might be interested in buying.
But all these advances depend on very rich item information combined with accurate item location and inventory statistics. The retailer is responsible for the location and inventory data, but shouldn’t the product supplier be responsible for providing item information? Certainly there are plenty of options for product catalog systems that integrate with supplier updates but there is still a lack of standardization in the X12 spec.
The recent update of the spec provides a raft of new and updated attributes, but they only address the apparel items. What is left out is… well, pretty much every other hard goods category. Everything from computer products to microwaves are unaddressed. Is this because there are no hard goods advocates on the X12 committee that is working on product attributes, or is it just because the apparel segment had been around longer and are able to get their agenda pushed ahead of the pack?
Whatever the problems are, it seems that both retailers and suppliers will be better off when more detailed item information is being made available to shoppers in a consistent and easily manageable fashion.