Have you ever thought about what life would be like without standardization? Imagine buying a new TV only to find out that the plug doesn’t work with your standard 120-volt outlet. Or how about buying a set of tools that are only compatible with one particular brand of screws, nuts and bolts. And could you imagine the complications that would arise if every laptop had its own unique connection ports rather than the standardized USB ports that work with most popular devices like thumb drives, digital cameras, and smartphones? It’s safe to say that without global standards, life would be chaos. But thanks to human ingenuity, we have established a wide range of global standards that help everyone to save time and money.

Business Reporting Standards & EDI

In the business world, there are similar industry standards designed to reduce confusion and save companies time and resources. For instance, electronic data interchange (EDI) has transformed into one of the most commonly used B2B communication standards in the world. In fact, EDI is relied on by more than 300,000 companies worldwide. EDI was first established in the 1980’s but only really began to take off in the 90’s thanks to affordable personal computing and the widespread adoption of the Internet. Today EDI has become the ‘universal language’ for data interchange in a variety of industries including retail, banking and manufacturing.

EDI has changed the way that companies share information, ensuring that data isn’t compromised by human error. EDI has become the common language for interchanging documents and information such as: Product Activity Data (EDI 852), Purchase Orders (EDI 850 e), and Shipment and Billing Notices (EDI 857). Rather than sending tedious faxes or emails for each individual event, EDI allows computers to communicate directly with each other, ensuring greater accuracy and instantaneous notice.

New Trends Threatening Standardization

As technology has continued to advance, retailers have shifted their focus to user-friendly data sharing alternatives, such as self-service vendor portals. Along with having product data sent to vendors via EDI 852 reports, retailers are adopting web-accessible databases which allow vendors to analyze and download product data in a self-service manner. Unfortunately though, this shift has come with a variety of consequences for both the retailer and vendor alike.

By adopting proprietary retail vendor portals, retailers are now moving away from the standardization principles that brought forth greater efficiency in the retail industry. And by moving away from standardization, retailers have inadvertently introduced more work for vendors that must collect data from multiple retailers. Whereas EDI is a universal language for transmitting information like product activity data, self-service portals force vendors to become familiarized with each retailer’s unique vendor portal. Worse yet, portal data is typically formatted differently from one retailer to the next, resulting in hours of additional data management for vendors selling through more than one retailer.

Overcoming Disparate Data

To address this issue, software vendors like Askuity have developed retail analytics platforms that are data-format-agnostic. So no matter if a vendor receives their product data through EDI 852 reports, vendor portals, or even custom spreadsheets, Askuity automatically collects this data and makes it available in the cloud with powerful analytics. By standardizing data and hosting it securely online, cloud-based platforms make data – and, more importantly, the insights from that data – accessible from anywhere. Whether a vendor is in-store or on the road, retail data is now accessible by sales and marketing teams when they need it most. Cutting edge retail analytics platforms also include built-in data visualizations that help vendors to quickly spot trends and find exceptions hiding in their retail data. By ‘re-standardizing’ data, retail data solutions like Askuity are actively helping vendors to improve efficiency and gain an advantage over their bogged down competitors.