The more we learn, the more we want to know. The ever-escalating prevalence of digital technology is feeding consumers’ thirst for knowledge – including detailed facts about the products they buy. Buyers are often searching for specific product attributes in a very cluttered marketplace. If they can’t easily access the details they are looking for, they move on.

Providing extended product information has become an imperative for retail and e-commerce success. Just getting to market can depend on providing a richly populated data set to support product promotion and transparency. Sellers providing inconsistent or incomplete information risk rejection from retailers and marketplaces, inventory snafus, delayed profits and poorly performing product listings. It’s a recipe for failure.  

Getting technical

Information technology and standards can be leveraged today to solve those problems. The collection and exchange of up-to-date, accurate information is made possible with standardized data that all trading partners can generate, exchange and understand. GS1 Standards are being used across more than 25 industries to encode data, meet regulatory requirements where applicable (e.g., food and healthcare products), enhance systems compatibility, facilitate productive relationships between retailers and suppliers, and meet consumers’ increasing demand for product transparency. 

GS1 Standards help businesses uniquely identify companies, products, locations and assets in the supply chain and create a common language for sharing information between trading partners. The benefits of increased product and supply chain information cannot be realized without universal interoperability. You might ask, what does “interoperability” mean? In the retail world, it means that suppliers, distributors and retailers need to be all on the same page, selling the same product with the same attributes, information and images, regardless of the system or software used. Standardizing product data makes it easy for you, the seller, to manage multiple sales channels and provide consistent customer experiences. 

Product and location identification

If you are on board with the concept of standardized data, then one “must have” is a globally unique identification number for each product so it can be tracked through distribution and sale. It’s not just important for tracking – it’s essential to prevent confusion, duplication and potential sale of counterfeit products – all of which can kill a product launch. 

Every product can be uniquely identified with a GS1 Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), which is embedded in a barcode. This is the most well-known example of a GS1 Standard—10 billion barcode transactions occur daily throughout the world. The GTIN is scanned at the point of sale, warehouses, distribution centers, stores, businesses and other locations that are uniquely identified with Global Location Numbers (GLNs). GLNs make it possible to determine exactly where a product exists in transit or inventory, right down to a specific manufacturing plant, distribution center, truckload or retail shelf. 

The traditional barcode (UPC) has served industry well for over 50 years, but it was designed primarily to facilitate retail checkout; its data capacity is limited. Today retailers are transitioning to new two-dimensional (2D) barcodes with virtually unlimited data capacity – perfect for carrying extended product information that can be accessed with a simple scan, while also meeting supply chain needs.

Establishing a single source of truth

To be useful, data must be provided in a form that downstream trading partners can understand. Hence, the entire supply chain hinges on every stakeholder’s commitment to data quality and standardization. 

Sellers should proactively ensure that the data they provide is complete, accurate, and consistent across all retail platforms. The proper use of standardized data creates a single source of truth that can be trusted by all trading partners. With that, operational redundancies can be reduced, business process efficiencies improved and consumers can find reliable product information no matter how or where they shop. 

By providing a single, complete and standardized set of product images and data attributes, sellers can help reduce item set-up time and enhance speed-to-market at retail. Incorrect information can lead to out-of-stocks or worse – like delivering the wrong product to the consumer’s doorstep – compromising the reputation of both brands.

Catch up or fall behind

It’s no exaggeration to say that digital data exchange is at the center of all commerce today. The capabilities unleashed by a digitized system that unifies and verifies product and supply chain information will continue to improve, but only if the selling community commits to clean, organized data from the beginning. Coupled with a unique product and clear brand identity, sellers can build on a foundation of data to form solid, lasting relationships with retailers and consumers for the future. 

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