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Supporting Personalized and Customized Products

Callaway-Ft-i-Draw-DriverLast January you may have read my article regarding retailers that were traditionally distributing merchandise via Brick and mortar but are now looking at a Vendor Direct model to supply their customers. Many of these retailers appear to have realized the value of what I wrote and as such I have seen higher growth in the number of retailers having customer orders ship directly from suppliers/factories. The value to the retailer is that this allows the retailer to maintain or increase sales without the investment in maintaining inventory levels.

One area of concern for retailers adding this model of distribution was with some of their product types and the suppliers that provide these products with regard to consumers' personalization, or customization. Many retailers are not working with these suppliers on an electronic trading program because of these concerns. For those in this situation I'd like to share that there is definitely a need for some type of standards to address where and how this information should appear in the EDI data, but companies are still trading these orders through EDI even now.

In my experience -

· I've seen many use the notes segments of EDI to support this information. This would be the MSG or MTX segments. Those that use this location for the details, in many cases will provide a separator between attributes of the personalization or information on how a product is to be customized. Cabela's is one that does this with Personalized notes on auto products where they will indicate the model, year and make of a truck with each attribute separated by a colon. Since there is no standard with this method, make sure that your suppliers are aware of how you as a retailer will communicate the details.

· Others are using the item description fields in EDI; the PID segment, for this information. Depending on the version and EDI standard there are some 200 + qualifiers used to describe attributes of an item which can be used for customized products. For example, there are retailers that sell Callaway Golf Clubs, and Callaway will customize a particular club. This can be the shaft of the club, the type of head, the pitch and weight of the head, each of these attributes could be in a single PID segment.

Being that we're in the thick of the holiday purchases, many retailers support an online method of selling where a customer can now have the purchase delivered to a friend or family member as a gift through fulfillment out of their warehouses. You should also know that suppliers that support direct to consumer shipping are also supporting Gift purchases. For those not familiar with this; the difference has to do with the information that is displayed on the branded packing slips. Where a retailer would have a supplier display the retail price that the customer is paying for a product on the packing slip, that information is not indicated when the product is purchased and delivered as a gift. Amazon.com is a heavy user of gift orders to the extent that the packing slip can even have a personalized note included such as "Happy Birthday, George".

Lastly, custom orders can also include a particular delivery service. Many of the furniture retailers are now offering "white glove" delivery service where the product is not only delivered direct to the consumer from the factory, but installed as well. This information can now be included in the drop ship EDI orders.

I hope that this information has been useful for you and allows you to understand that whether the products or delivery of these products are special orders, EDI does support information that is used for these orders. I'd also suggest collaborating within an industry to establish standards or Best Practices for a more efficient and consistent method of communicating this type of information for the suppliers shipping direct to your customers.

Do Well, and Happy Holidays
Marlow
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