Group & Industry News
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As you may know, TriMega, Independent Stationers and IOPFDA/NOPA joined forces earlier this year to create a repository of non-wholesaler supported content for the channel.  This process has been in discussion for the past few years and gained traction late last year.  As of this writing, the project has been named EPIContent, and has entered its pilot phase this month.  But a little history first . . .

Content is the foundation of eCommerce – without supplier provided content, eCommerce just won’t work.  Without the right images of product, the right descriptions, and the relevant key words to drive search engines, eCommerce becomes an anchor – a site that only your most loyal customers are going to use.  If a user can’t find an item they will go elsewhere.

As traditional office product sales contract due to the digitization of the office, a key strategy for many dealers is to focus on new product categories – like JanSan, Breakroom and Industrial.  The thought is that you have a good relationship and are already delivering to your customers -- why not broaden your offering?  Putting aside the issues surrounding different channel needs (sales, operations, culture), the concept is solid and many are deploying this strategy successfully today.

What about broadening your categories within your current areas of expertise?  Content restrictions have impacted many dealers’ ability to sell a manufacturer’s complete product line.  While the wholesalers have been tremendous aggregators and enhancers of content, they do not necessarily make an entire manufacturer’s product line available.  To that point, wholesalers only provide content for the items that they stock.  For an unnamed manufacturer, a typical dealer will have 440 items that they show on their website.  Amazon shows over 1,400 items for that same manufacturer.  While there are no statistics on what the potential lost revenue of those items could be, the problem is crystal clear.  The dealer channel needs to have available content for any item that they can provide through the wholesaler channel, or direct from the manufacturer.

With this clear opportunity on the radar, the consortium began the process of defining methodology and agreements that could facilitate the free flow of this digital content.  The most logical approach pointed to working with the wholesalers to augment their content with this “unique” content and include it in their search engines.  The alternative approach was to create another search engine specifically with the consortium which would be available as a third search option (Essendant’s SmartSearch and SP Richards eTilize).  The scope and integration complications made this option a distant second to working with the wholesalers.  The consortium reached agreement with Essendant and SP Richards to incorporate this content and provide through their normal content syndication process, closing the loop on how the information will flow.

During this process, the consortium reached agreement with Codifyd, a Chicago based content aggregator to work with the manufacturers to aggregate, normalize and syndicate this unique data into the formats that the wholesalers required.  This agreement was reached in early 2016. Codifyd (http://www.codifyd.com) provides services for firms such as Grainger, Stanley and Cardinal Health to name a few.  They provide cloud services and talented, seasoned expertise to partner with the consortium.  They were chosen after an extensive search of possible partners as the best combination of technical capabilities and seasoned teams.

With the agreements in place, we’ve selected 4 suppliers to partner with to provide a proof of concept.  These manufacturers are Smead, HSM, PM Co and Eurotech.  As of today, these manufacturers have provided test content to Codifyd and the initial aggregation and normalization process has begun.  Discussions with the wholesalers on syndication and testing of the provided content have begun.  We hope to have test cases to explore in the next 45 days.

Once we have completed the pilot, we will go into production and start loading the full line of our pilot manufacturers.  During this process we will identify the first production manufacturers and begin indoctrinating and training them on the process.  

As this process gains momentum, we will provide updates on the NOPA blog as well as through your partners.  Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.