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Collaborating to transform product data management for today's grocery world

Gary Lynch profile Gary Lynch, CEO of GS1 UK explains why only by working together will retailers and brands finally solve the problem of poor product data in the UK grocery sector

Digital DNA is a collaborative industry programme bringing retailers and brands together to design and create a common industry approach to manage product data across the UK grocery sector. The industry recognises that managing this data has been a problem for many years. It’s often inaccurate, incomplete and inconsistent, and multiple versions of the same data create even bigger issues for retailers, brands and customers.

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A report by PA Consulting, commissioned by the Digital DNA group, highlighted not only the problem, but also how it’s only going to get worse. As people buy more products online they increasingly rely on the information they find there – like dimensions and weights, but also more vital information like ingredients, dietary and allergen advice. Which is why, the group is going to build a common dataset that defines all this information – of course, built on GS1 standards. This will help retailers and brands to analyse data more quickly and more effectively in order to serve their customers better.

The report uncovered a compelling case for change, and a compelling case for a single industry-backed common industry approach. It showed that where common industry platforms for data management exist elsewhere – in Canada, Sweden, Australia and the Netherlands for example – there are real tangible benefits for both retailers and brands.

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This is why everyone now recognises that inaccurate product data can no longer be ignored and that it’s essential that industry solves the problem once and for all. So now, leading retailers and brands have aligned behind a single vision – the Digital DNA vision – and agreed to work as a single industry group to solve the problem.

The benefits of working together are huge. At GS1 UK, we’ve seen it many times throughout our history. Collaboration creates a single way of doing things. This benefits both retailers and brands by reducing complexities and eliminating non-value added activities in their supply chains. And this leaves them more time and resources to focus on the areas where they can really differentiate, innovate and grow.

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So far we've got a group of leading retailers and brands around the table saying 'we will get behind this'. This group of early adopters are showing real commitment to working together. They’ve already begun work on creating a single data model which of course, is built on existing GS1 industry standards. And now they’re looking at how processes can be harmonised across industry – so there’s just one way of sharing data. Importantly, they are also working on a unified approach to governance and funding – which must be fair for everyone, no matter how big or small the company is.

Our role at GS1 UK is to facilitate this programme and to ensure our standards are fit for purpose. This will keep us busy in the year ahead, but we’re equally committed to making it happen. And if I allow myself a few moments to look further ahead, then it’s not difficult to see how we can take this programme beyond grocery – because the same problems exist in the wider retail industry and even in healthcare.

The Digital DNA programme is living proof that competitive retailers and brands can work together to solve important issues – for the greater good of the industry. Because it’s important to understand that sometimes it’s only by working together that we’ll be able to create a retail environment that’s fit for the future – based on accurate data and informed decisions.

Digital DNA - An industry programme to deliver high quality product data


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