Retailers can save £1 billion by ‘synching their data’

UK grocery retailers and suppliers could save at least 1 billion over the next five years, just by pooling their data and ironing out inconsistencies, according to new research.

The "Data Crunch" report from supply chain standards body GS1 compared the product data held by suppliers stored on supermarket systems, finding there were inconsistencies in what should have been identical information in 80 per cent of cases.

Using IBM technology, over a million records were analysed from the four largest supermarkets in the UK - Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons - as well as product suppliers Nestle, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and Mars.

Mike Coupe, a product director at Sainsbury's, said that the retailer was looking at the implications of the report with a view to putting systems in place, to keep its data more accurately and more in "real-time" than it had done in the past.

"Customer demand for information will increase hugely and having a common data set which will work will make a big difference to the efficiency of the industry," he said.

The report concluded that retailers and suppliers needed to consider adopting Global Data Synchronisation (GDS) techniques already in use in countries elsewhere in Europe, the US and Australia.

However, this would mean retailers would need to follow a new industry standard for managing product data, with one single master source used by all businesses.

A single source of data would make new retail initiatives such as mobile commerce, mobile barcode reading and RFID tagging much easier to put in place.

"The world is moving into a place where mobile technology is ubiquitous and the challenge for all of us is to pick out the right bits that customers will be interested in," Coupe said.