The Imperative to Improve Retailer POS Data
In this industry that trades in controlled beverages there are inefficiencies built into our business by regulators trying to contain the social cost of our products. Some of these regulations are being challenged in the courts and state legislatures, leading to political and legal battles that cause divisions by pitting one tier of the industry again another.
There is however another source of inefficiency that is far less controversial; that is the lack of clean product data throughout the industry. Retailers are notorious for vague record-keeping which can keep unsanctioned deals hidden from view. For different reasons distributors have in the past preferred to control the information an account sees about their products. However, electronic data integration (EDI) is starting to become a more common occurrence. While most of the discussions have been about EDI between suppliers and their distributors, big retail and restaurant chains are also requiring that pricing, shipping documents and invoices be shared electronically.
The mantra of clean data is starting to be taken up by independent retailers now too. Last year Google Shopping introduced rules for product marketing requiring that eCommerce sites include a validated UPC code with their feed. This prompted a scramble among those stores to rescan their bottles and in some cases required modifications to their POS system or new scanners. Once the data in your POS moves beyond the confines of your store an extra level of rigor is required; as eCommerce becomes as natural extension of the store’s business, clean data becomes more of a requirement.
Common issues that stores need to address include; making sure that size fields are standardized, identifying a unique field for vintage then maintaining vintages for all items, and including vendor item numbers when receiving goods into the POS. Maintaining good practice will help a developer read POS data and convert or match it in a way that it adds greater value for the store.
As mentioned above UPC is a key part of marketing feeds like Google Shopping and Amazon, but it will also be the glue that connects pos items with distributor shipping documents as deliveries arrive. The UPC can also be used to link to current pricing information, or for sharing inventory data with supply chain partners making your information easier to consume.
There are certainly challenges that stores face like how to manage UPC codes when multiple vintages carry the same UPC. Using a store generated bar code may be an imperative to avoid a mis-ring at the register but it also removes that SKU from any action on Google Shopping. Wineries are not likely to change their strategy on how they assign UPC codes for mid-range wines and yet retailers need a way to show both items with different UPC codes.
There are also wines that don’t carry UPC codes on the bottle out of concern that it lowers the image of their product. It turns out however, that many of these products do carry the SSCC code on the case. Instead of generating a random bar code in the store, the best practice is to convert the SSCC code into the UPC code equivalent. Stores that make this effort stand to benefit from improved ranking on marketing sites which leads directly to sales.
To be sure there is an investment required to clean up a store’s data, and systems need to be put in place to keep it maintained. However the benefits from better integration with trading and marketing partners are far less controversial.