7 Important Questions and Helpful Answers About GDSN Data Synchronization

by | Apr 14, 2021 | Automation, Compliance, Data Management, Suppliers

High-quality product data is critical for any business that buys or sells products. Many companies we talk to want more information about product data standards, such as GDSN data synchronization.

We recently sat down with product manager Scott Williams to discuss common questions and answers. Here’s a snapshot of our conversation.

What is GDSN Data Synchronization?

The Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) is an Internet-based product data pool. GDSN data synchronization enables companies to exchange standardized product data with their trading partners. In a nutshell, GDSN is one of the methods trading partners use to “speak the same language” about product data.

The GDSN specification was established in 2004, and is governed by GS1 standards. GS1 standards also cover other technologies such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), barcodes and RFID (radio frequency identification) tags.

Who uses GDSN Data Synchronization?

GDSN Data Synchronization is primarily used across retail industries, including food, apparel and general merchandise. Also, some healthcare and banking organizations have adopted GDSN. GDSN is most frequently adopted by large organizations. Yet, GDSN does not easily scale since adding new trading partners requires new manual mapping.

How does GDSN Data Synchronization work?

Every product has a unique identifier in the GDSN system. Sellers (suppliers) enter attributes about their products into the system, which is stored in a “data pool.” Data pools must comply with GS1 standards and certification requirements. This is where suppliers can find the most difficulty in using GDSN. Because only 33 percent of data pools work together, suppliers must decipher and use the ones that do.

Buying organizations (retailers, grocers and distributors) access sellers’ product data through these data pools.

Wouldn’t it be easier if there was one solution to send data to any retailer?

Is using GDSN Data Synchronization required?

To exchange product data in a language that works for both trading partners, both parties need to have a shared method of communication. To do this, some buying organizations require suppliers to use a GDSN certified data pool. 

Often, GDSN data synchronization is an option, but other methods of sharing product data can be used instead. GDSN data pools can require more manual effort than growing businesses can afford, and there are a variety of alternative tools available. 

What types of product attributes can be shared through GDSN Data Synchronization?

Product attributes that can be shared through GDSN include:

  • Category
  • Color
  • Size and weight
  • Packaging information

Some types of product data can generally not be shared through GDSN, including pricing and certain eCommerce attributes. Also, adding attributes through GDSN can be a long and tedious process. In today’s fast-paced retail market, businesses need to be able to adapt quickly.

Further, retailers often require attributes not supported by GDSN. This means that suppliers need to send spreadsheets in addition to sharing data via GDSN, causing additional manual processes for both buying and selling organizations.

For these reasons, many organizations use other methods in addition to GDSN to meet their product data needs. 

How much does it cost to use GDSN Data Synchronization?

Both buying and selling organizations pay a fee to access data through a GDSN-certified data pool. Some data pool providers base their pricing on a company’s total revenue. Others consider a company’s number of active SKUs or the number of data recipients. 

The pricing model can result in very high annual costs. Often brands that are new, niche or direct-to-consumer opt-out of the GDSN due to these costs. Instead, they choose to work directly with retailers.

What are some other ways that trading partners can manage and share product data?

Surprisingly, many companies still use spreadsheets to manage and share their product data. This is tedious and time-consuming, especially as businesses grow and add more products to their assortment. Other companies use PIMs, PDMs, and PCM systems to host product data. These are useful for storing data, but still require additional work to transfer product data to buying organizations. 

Assortment from SPS Commerce not only stores product data, but also handles the manual, time-consuming tasks associated with mapping to retail requirements and sharing product data. Selling organizations simply share their product data with SPS once. SPS does the heavy lifting of transforming, validating and delivering the data to each unique trading partner on their behalf. 

Looking for expert advice on GDSN Data Synchronization? Talk with our experts about your product data questions.

Scott Williams
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