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.