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Providing rich data to downstream channel partners

Friday, November 29, 2013 - 09:00
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Last month I told the story of a longtime colleague who proudly shared the news with me that his company had become “ACES and PIES compliant.”

I burst his bubble when I explained to him that “data compliance" was not a single task to be accomplished and checked off one’s to do list. The reality is that data is only “full and rich” when your downstream channel partners have everything they require to present, market and sell your product. 

A supplier might be “PIES compliant” on a dozen or two transactional based data fields, like part type, pricing, weights and dimensions, MOQ, UPC code, basic description, etc. Yet, his average trading partner might be asking for 65 different fields. And, by the way, those 65 fields are different with every trading partner.

The reason has to do with the nature of their business. For example, a customer doing a lot of export business will need the Harmonized Tariff code, or a web seller will likely need lifestyle photos of your product. Distributors with a heavy installer customer base will want tech information like routing guides, schematics or torque tables. Basically, trading partners need the data required by their customers to sell your products.

That inevitably begs the question, how does one find out who needs what data fields for their product line? The most robust and complete answer is the SEMA Data Co-op.

Don’t be misled by the name of the performance/specialty association in their name. The SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) is the most complete standards based data service in the aftermarket. In addition to data validation and related services, the SDC maintains the most complete and up to date repository of prioritized receiver requirements in the aftermarket.

When I say “prioritized receiver requirements” I mean that the SDC asks each receiver to categorize and prioritize their data requirements into one of four “buckets.” The first is “system required,” which is data that you must have or your receiver will reject the file from the SDC. Second is “business required,” which are data fields that are required by the trading partner. Next is a category called “useful/future,” which are data fields a receiver has plans in place to utilize within the year. Finally, there is the “do not need” category that identifies fields not used by a receiver.

With this data compiled in the SDC’s standards-based system, a supplier can put together a composite of their all their receiver’s requirements across markets and customer types. The SDC’s database includes the receiver requirements for program groups, retail chains and web sellers in both the specialty and replacement parts segments. Each report is different based not only on what product line the manufacturer sells, but whom they sell to. It is a valuable service that is not yet fully appreciated across the aftermarket. 

When a supplier can see in one consolidated report which data fields his amalgamated customer base requires or wants, he has essentially his road map for the route to “full and rich” data. With a composite receivers' report in hand, a manufacturer can clearly see what data fields are most need by most customers.

With that information, they can put in place a plan to go about gathering all of the data they need and assuring that it is accurate.

Knowing what data your trading partners want is truly the best way to get bang for the data buck. 

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