EDI for Retail: How to Simplify a Painful Process

EDI for retail

How broken is EDI for retail?

Let me put it this way: I think that when most brands find a new retail partner to sell their goods, their first feeling may be excitement, immediately followed by a feeling of dread about the long, painful process that lies ahead of them.

Adding a new retailer to an EDI system is way more complicated than it should be. You can manually pull data from the retailer’s portal, or from their third-party provider, or you can integrate the data directly with the retailer. In all cases, you have to find a way to process data that’s unique to that retailer. Suppose you do business with 100 different retailers and perform the same three transactions with each. That’s 300 point-to-point integrations you have to build, all because each retailer structures and labels its data differently.

If you don’t maintain those 300 integration points carefully, they’ll break and you’ll end up paying for your mistakes in chargebacks. Eventually you have to hire technical EDI experts to program a great deal of unique logic and code for each retailer. Adding more retailers, then, requires you to add more IT budget, which makes your business far less scalable.

Believe me, your retailers aren’t happy about the current EDI for retail situation, either.

They have a lot of manual work to do, too. For every connection you build with a retailer, a human being on either end has to run tests and make sure the data is being transmitted correctly. This testing process is what typically adds weeks or months to the retailer onboarding process—and has probably made you wonder whether it’s all even worth it.

Does EDI for Retail Really Have to Be This Difficult?

How did things get so complicated? Wasn’t EDI supposed to be a universal standard that would make it easy for everyone to connect? How did it get corrupted to the point that adding a new retailer has become a massive headache?

Well, EDI itself is necessary for automating supply chain data. It always has been and always will be. Companies need to automate communication, and EDI has been the answer for over 30 years. But each company has its own unique needs. Companies use different ERP systems and different codes, and they represent data differently for all their most common transactions.

For example, Walmart may abbreviate “case” as CA, whereas Target abbreviates it as CS. In your ERP, case might be defined as CASE. But unless you think you can convince Walmart and Target to adopt your business practices, your IT staff will have to write translations that make it look like everyone is speaking the same language when you exchange data.

It seems like such a small thing—but it causes countless hours of extra work. Isn’t there a better way to do EDI for retail?

Can’t the Cloud Help Connect Suppliers to Retailers?

If you’re hearing a lot about cloud technology these days and wondering if it can streamline EDI for retail, you’re not alone.

The cloud is all about connectivity. So doesn’t it make sense that there should be a way for data translations for thousands of retailers to be stored centrally? And then couldn’t any supplier that wanted to connect its ERP to that retailer simply point its EDI connection to the cloud and have all of the translations done automatically?

Instead of building 300 point-to-point integrations, imagine if you could build one transaction type for the 850 (purchase order), one version version of an 810 (invoice), and one version of an 856 (advance shipping notice), and use the cloud to trade with all third parties.

The supplier would have just three connections to maintain, no matter how many new retailers they decided to work with. Adding new partners would require nothing more than the click of a button.

It makes so much sense that there must be a way to do this.

And there is. It’s our company’s mission to make trading EDI for retail easy. If you’re interested in learning more, contact us at connect@orderful.com or give us a call at +1(855) 965-1887.