We’re taught from the time we are young that it’s more effective to work together than it is to work alone. Hence it’s no wonder that collaboration between retailers and vendors has become so important to the success of both parties. One of the key aspects of this collaborative relationship is retailers empowering their vendors by providing them with the resources they need to succeed – namely POS data.

Retailers can provide this data to vendors in several ways, such as spreadsheets or EDI 852 reports. But these methods aren’t very intuitive for the average user. Some of the largest retailers have instead chosen to provide this data through the use of Supplier Portals, also known as Vendor Portals. Vendor portals are web-based software solutions meant for the average user. These portals allow vendors to access and collect store-level metrics such as sales dollars and inventory levels from retailers.

Some of the biggest retailers in the business have adopted vendor portal solutions, including The Home Depot, Walmart, Target and Amazon. These retailers’ portals tend to be more alike than they are different. They each include the functionality for running reports and downloading data. However, there are some differences between them as well, such as the specific metrics they provide, the way it’s provided, and their general ease of use. For vendors not currently taking advantage of these platforms but intending to, this information can be useful to know ahead of time in order to smooth the learning curve. So, let’s take a look at the vendor portals from the four previously mentioned retailers to analyze any unique features and see who does it best.

The Home Depot (HomeDepotLink)

Though The Home Depot had originally provided data through EDI reports, they have recently switched over to providing data through their portal, HomeDepotLink (HDLink). However, only Home Depot US has made the switch to the portal, with data coming from Home Depot Canada still coming through EDI reports, likely due to cost-saving reasons.

The actual quality of the data that The Home Depot provides is very rich, with weekly updates of both SKU and store-level data, in addition to historical data for up to 2 years. The one disadvantage to HDLink is that the platform usually faces slow-downs due to high traffic on Mondays, the day that the weekly data is released. For vendors on a deadline who aren’t using a third party program to automatically collect the data, this can be a hassle to deal with.

 

Target (Partners Online)

Target’s portal, Partners Online, uses a technology developed by Microstrategy, the same technology used by Home Depot’s HDLink (Lowe’s uses this technology as well). Because of this, the two portals are extremely similar, which is obvious to anyone who has used both platforms. However, it’s interesting to note that despite using the same technology, the two platforms still differ in the detail of data that they provide, as well as the way the data is downloaded.

For example, Target actually provides more metrics than The Home Depot does, including cost, inventory cost, and inventory in sales dollars. Target also provides more historical data than The Home Depot does, around 3-4 years worth. The way the data is downloaded differs slightly as well. When building a report to export data on Partners Online, the user has to specify the departments of products they would like to pull data from, whereas on HDLink, the user can simply select “all products”.

These differences may be minor, but they show that even though certain retailers use the same technology for their vendor portals, they each have unique features to cater to their needs and the needs of their vendors.

 

Walmart (Retail Link)

Walmart’s Retail Link has been around for a while, and vendors selling into Walmart are no doubt familiar with the platform. Unlike HDLink, Retail Link is available for both Walmart US and Walmart Canada. The data available from Retail Link is just as detailed as the data from Partners Online, including essentially every metric you would want to see as well as 2 years of historical data. Retail Link is Walmart’s own proprietary platform, meaning it looks quite different to HDLink and Partners Online.

Walmart scores some points on the ease of use front, with the Retail Link experience being a fairly smooth one. Unlike The Home Depot, Walmart’s portal performs extremely consistently throughout the week, rarely ever facing any slow-downs. It also includes the extremely convenient functionality of scheduled reports. On most other vendor portals, to download data, the user has to access their saved reports, and re-run them manually for the new week. Retail Link allows this to be done automatically through scheduled reports which update themselves, allowing users to access the week’s data right away. This additional functionality can be a blessing to vendors who wish to pull and access their data as quickly as possible.

Amazon (Amazon Retail Analytics)

Amazon’s vendor portal, Amazon Retail Analytics (ARA) is quite unique. Like their service itself, Amazon’s portal comes in 2 “tiers”, a basic tier, and a premium tier. While the basic tier includes only 3 fairly simple sales & inventory reports, the premium tier includes more than 20 pre-formatted reports. The premium tier may include significant benefits, but it comes at a significant cost as well. While the basic tier is free, the premium tier starts at around $30k/year – a huge investment, especially for smaller vendors.

But for vendors with a desire for extremely detailed data, the premium tier justifies its price. For starters, ARA Premium includes 1 year of historical data, while ARA Basic does not include historical data at all. The premium tier also includes several metrics not available to basic users, such as sales dollars, cost, inventory cost and inventory on hand. But by far the most valuable aspect of ARA Premium is the additional insight it provides into consumer behaviour and trends. One of the additional reports included in the premium tier is Top 100 Search Terms report, which gives vendors access to the 100 most searched terms on Amazon by category – information that can help drive important decisions and increase marketing effectiveness.

The premium tier has another significant benefit over the basic tier – location data. Unlike brick-and-mortar retailers who track location data by store, Amazon tracks location data based on the region a product was purchased from. But this information is only available to premium users. For vendors hoping to receive insights into geographical performance in order to optimize their marketing efforts, this data is extremely valuable and might just make ARA premium worth the extra cost.

 

Despite how convenient and useful vendor portals are for providing valuable information, it can still be a daunting task to deal with the portals. In fact, it can be such a daunting task that there are several training classes dedicated to teaching people how to use Walmart’s Retail Link! Now imagine the amount of effort it would take to learn to use 5 or 6 different portals. For smaller companies, pulling data from portals may only take a few minutes each week, but for larger companies, this process requires hours. Thankfully, most vendor portals allow users to hand-over delegate access to third parties who manage the data for vendors.

Askuity has built a solution that automatically collects and cleans data for every SKU at every retailer, storing this information on a cloud-based platform, and presenting it in a simple and easy to understand format. This eliminates the need for dealing with vendor portals, giving you access to important insights at the click of a button.