GS1 US Aims to Ramp up Retail Grocery Initiative in 2015

By Jack Grant

Seven months after launching its Retail Grocery Initiative, GS1 US begins 2015 with plans to move the program forward with the increased help of product manufacturers, retailers and solution providers.

This collaborative industry effort aims to improve digital product information and images, supply chain visibility, and operational efficiencies. It relies on adopting and implementing GS1 Standards, the most widely used supply chain standards in the world
GS1 US, a member of the global information standards organization GS1, has brought together key industry stakeholders to tackle the challenges identified in the initiative. The major organizations involved include such CPG manufacturers as Coca-Cola and Kraft; retailers (Wegmans and Publix); solution providers (Gladson and Clavis Insight); and trade associations (Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute), among others.
“We anticipate this year to be a pivotal year in shaping the future of the retail grocery industry,” says Angela Fernandez, vice president of retail grocery and foodservice, GS1 US.

Product Information and Images
Of the three areas of focus in the initiative, only one – Product Information and Images –involves consumer-facing issues. Some manufacturers and retailers are concerned about the data density and quality to support product catalogs and e-commerce solutions. As technology continues to evolve, customers expect more product attributes and images to review online. There are also concerns about the authentication of the data.

“The need for expanded, product attributes is driven by consumer empowerment,” says Fernandez. “Reliable data and images are a necessity when communicating and marketing in today’s mobile environment. The Initiative will be focused on helping the industry better identify, capture and share the information that is important to both consumers and trading partners in a standardized, more efficient way.”

Isabel DuPont, Senior Vice President of Content Production at Gladson, agrees that it’s imperative for manufacturers and retailers to present accurate, compelling and extensive product information online.

“But that doesn’t mean it’s easy,” she is quick to add. “With shoppers traveling a digitally fueled path to purchase, brands and retailers face growing pressure to provide more detailed product information across a surging number of shopper touch points. More data means more complexity. With product information for B2B and B2C processes needing to be accurate and available to give shoppers the experience they’re looking for, retailers’ scrutiny of product information is not only justified, but necessary.”

Fortunately, manufacturers understand this imperative and are taking steps to deliver. They are partnering with third-party content providers that can offer standards-compliant, sustainable processes for creating, maintaining and distributing digital product information. For example, in the past 12 months alone, Gladson added 1,000 new manufacturer customers, largely driven by their need to provide retailers and shoppers with up-to-date brand content for e-commerce and product catalogs.

In addition to helping manufacturers and retailers with product data quality and the consistency of that information across channels, Gladson is being called upon to provide an increasing number of product attributes and images to support shoppers’ research-heavy buying journeys. As the quantity and complexity of product content increases, it’s crucial that this content is distributed in formats that are “enterprise ready,” meaning that the content is formatted to allow for fast and seamless integration into specific enterprise applications.

Supply Chain Visibility
GS1 US officials stress the critical need for improved supply chain visibility to ensure the accurate identification of products as well as the delivery and tracking of safe foods and other products.

“Supply chain visibility removes barriers and siloes, swinging the door wide open to more process improvements, such as better inventory/category management, more accurate ordering, improved on shelf availability, improved shrink management and, ultimately, efficient and accurate traceability when required,” Fernandez says. 

Operational Efficiencies
The initiative aims to reduce supply chain inefficiencies from decreasing total delivered costs (TDCs) to help companies remain competitive and successful. GS1 US is currently identifying the gaps and opportunities for operational efficiencies where leveraging the common language of GS1 Standards can lead to positive results.

There is industry consensus that a lack of confidence in data quality between trading partners in the retail grocery industry is making expected efficiencies unachievable. GS1 US is currently working with the initiative’s stakeholders on the launch of the GS1 US National Data Quality Program. The GS1 US Data Quality Discussion Group, with nearly 300 members representing 179 unique companies, first came together in 2013. These industry stakeholders agreed to focus on a clear mission – steering industry to adopt, implement and adhere to an industry-driven and defined data quality program to improve current business processes. The key to success in the realm of data quality for exchange between trading partners is creating and maintaining accurate and complete product information by leveraging GS1 Standards.

Clavis Insight, a provider of cloud-based eCommerce Intelligence and Data Quality Performance Management solutions, is participating in the initiative to keep track of data quality and data standards issues. Tom Golden, vice president of marketing at Clavis, believes that the dramatic growth of eCommerce has further increased the need for high quality data.

“High quality product information is foundational to collaborative commerce,” he says. “In a world of increased transparency, wrong product information erodes profits and consumers’ trust. And data quality is particularly important when it comes to issues such as nutrition information and product safety issues.”

Meanwhile, DuPont of Gladson points out that the increased scale, velocity and demand for product content threatens to undermine manufacturers’ abilities to maintain it efficiently. As a result, the industry is taking steps to promote consistent, repeatable, GS1-compliant processes for the capture, audit and distribution of product information.

“The hope is that, as a result of this initiative, a growing number of retailers and manufacturers understand that product information management requires a qualitative approach with a level of expertise, technology and collaboration equal to the task,” she says. 
Working with GS1, a group of leading consumer goods manufacturers, retailers and solution providers, including Gladson, came up with the best-practice process to improve data accuracy called the Data Quality Framework.

“Many of the findings and recommendations put forth in the Data Quality Framework should be taken into consideration when businesses are looking to address the challenges identified in the US Retail Grocery Initiative,” says DuPont.
In the big picture, collaboration has taken center stage as companies realize that profitable growth can result by effectively leveraging the combined strength of their trading partner network. A study by the Boston Consulting Group and the Grocery Manufacturers Association says business-to-business collaboration is a major source of untapped value in the food industry, worth up to $21 billion industrywide. The GS1 US Retail Grocery Initiative aims to identify emerging industry challenges and facilitate collaboration to develop best practices for using GS1 Standards to address key issues and drive supply chain efficiencies, creating a more powerful, singular approach by the industry.

GS1 Standards have been used by the retail grocery industry for more than 40 years. In 1973, the grocery industry came together to agree on one way of doing business by adopting the U.P.C. barcode. GS1 US has been working with industry ever since to address business process needs and drive supply chain efficiencies.

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                                                                        Early February 2015