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Catapulting the Curve Podcast Part Four

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In this segment, Larry Stern and Del Nickel conclude their discussion about the progress of eCommerce in the electrical industry from a senior executive’s perspective. They share their one wish related to IDEA’s mission of cutting costs from the channel and touch on why they volunteer their time on the IDEA Board.

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I think that IDEA has to devote significant resources soliciting and training constants who will work (for fees) directly with key manufacturers and distributors to analyze their current status, set realistic goals, develop comprehensive plans to quickly achieve those goals, and finally guide and assist them to successfully implement the plan.
When we laid out the plans for IDEA, we hoped that a few leading edge companies would quickly implement IDEA and serve as an example to the rest of the industry because the concept is so compelling. I started working on standards in the Electrical Industry from the late 1960’s until I left the industry in 1998. The Electrical Industry was always a leader in developing standards starting with the NAED (D.C.I.) number in the 1960’s and 1970’s, through EDI, (EDX) CD Rom catalogs (Answer Pro), U.P.C. Bar Codes and IDEA. It never ceases to amaze me why the implementation of these standards has been so abysmally slow and frustrating.

Thanks for listening and commenting Steve! It’s always great to hear feedback from the leaders who helped spearhead the industry’s eCommerce efforts. I completely agree with your suggestion; in fact, IDEA is executing much of what you outlined today. Here are some updates on our data sourcing efforts that I think help demonstrate the industry’s progress:

In 2009, the IDEA Industry Standards Committee (ISC) published the Electrical Attribute Schema which provides manufacturers with a guide to communicate a standardized set of product descriptors to their trading partners through the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW). This was the first time we’ve standardized marketing content in the electrical industry to help distributors create robust web storefronts. We transitioned from synchronizing primarily transactional product information (e.g. price, UPC, packaging info) to synchronizing information that helps differentiate the products, and organize them in a search-friendly way.

Since then, IDEA has developed a fee-based service that helps manufacturers set realistic goals and populate the Schema much faster than the time it would take internally – the Attribute Fulfillment Service.

We’ve also been keeping a close eye on the progress of all IDW manufacturers. The Board, along with IDEA, facilitate calls between manufacturers and distributors to ensure business needs are clarified and both partners work together to reach the goals they set.

Through these discussions, IDEA has identified that most distributors primarily need four key pieces of product information to sell today (in addition to transactional info): Spec sheets, Attributes (as defined in the Schema), Images, and Descriptions (short and long). We also work with manufacturers and distributors to identify the top priority items which are typically 5-10% of the total items. This helps narrow the manufacturer’s focus so that they don’t become paralyzed by the overwhelming amount of information out there.

As an example of the industry’s progress, the total number of items in the IDW with attributed content has increased by approximately 149% since June 2011.

I agree that many times it seems as if the industry is moving slow when it comes to adopting eCommerce standards and best practices, but as I allude to in this podcast series, my experience on the IDEA Board has also opened my eyes to the tremendous progress we are making. In 1998, we had a vision, and now over 10 years later, we’re living out that vision and I believe we have the right people, processes, and technology in alignment to make that vision a reality. If you’d like any more information about IDEA and/or the industry’s eCommerce progress, feel free to contact IDEA at . They’ll be able to give you more information and put you in contact with me personally.

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