The Walmart Wakeup Call: “High Quality Product Data is a Must”
Mark Stibbe
The National Retail Federation and The Wall Street Journal just released stories on WalmartLabs’s formal launch of their Product Content Collection System (PCCS), a tool the company will use for better collection and organization of product data from suppliers. With the launch of PCCS comes Walmart’s heightened emphasis on how important it is for their suppliers to be providing data that is not only complete and consistent, but that includes the breadth of detail required for selling products online…not just what’s required for categorization in the in-store point of sale. Walmart sees this higher quality product information as key to their ability to make better merchandising decisions, refine their price matching algorithm and offer an overall better experience for today’s information-hungry shopper.

So, why is this such a hot topic with a market-leading brand like Walmart?

As Ram Rampalli, global head of content acquisition for Walmart, says, “High-quality product data is the foundation of everything in the [omnichannel experience]. There’s a strong need to improve “consistent vocabulary” between the mobile, web and in-store experiences — not just the way the copy is written, but ensuring products are properly classified and presented with the right specifications to allow shoppers to make good comparisons.”

As GroupBy has learned from the myriad of retailers we work with, creating the high quality product data that shoppers have come to expect is no easy task. Many brands and manufacturers have the same tools and same size merchant teams they’ve had for years, but the amount of products that are being managed has expanded and the amount of product detail needed to fuel all channels has massively increased. Additionally, the hope of optimizing any of this data over time is just a pipe dream. Walmart is catching all of the inaccuracies and inconsistencies once they receive the data and attempt to sell the products on their own site, but the problem hits closer to home. This is the same data powering direct selling for these brands, negatively impacting the shopping experience and often forcing customers to take their business elsewhere.

This should be a wake-up call to both brands and suppliers.

Both sides of the retail mix are going to have to commit to resolving this long-standing issue. For retailers who may not wield the power of Walmart, it’s likely you will not be able to force your suppliers to invest in better product data creation. You need to find solutions that can get you results regardless of your suppliers. For suppliers and manufacturers, you’ve got to realize that, as Rampalli stated, your product data is your foundation. Up-leveling it to be complete, accurate, consistent and representative of your shopper’s vocabulary is going to provide a key competitive advantage across all channels.