From the Blog

An icon for a calendar

2015-08-05

Everything Is Going Fine With EDI Mapping And Then Along Comes Walmart

How do you do business with an 800 pound gorilla? How can you talk to him? What words does he understand? Maybe if you exaggerate your body language and facial expressions, he’ll be able to grasp your puny attempt at communication. Or maybe not… 

How do you do business with Walmart? Or Target? Or Sears? Huge retail suppliers like these are 800 Pound Gorillas who only speak one language: Their unique implementation of EDI.  

Since EDI-based transactions (messages) are basically the same as traditional paper documents — except that EDI documents are sent and received in electronic form formatted according to EDI standards — it doesn’t sound like supporting EDI would be all that difficult. Especially since EDI is a “standard”, which implies that if implemented for one retailer, it should be the same for all the others. Not so… 

Using EDI is simply a requirement of doing business with most large retailers. Big retailers force small suppliers to follow their rules and penalize them if they don’t comply. Or, they simply won’t do business with the supplier. 

Larger retailers have their own sets of rules and preferences for EDI. Even though EDI is a standard, every retailer implements it differently. EDI Mapping is the process of organizing data according to both the EDI standard and the specific requirements of each trading partner (e.g., retailer)…and every retailer has multiple implementation guides that suppliers must follow.

For example, Target’s Message Implementation Guide for Purchase Orders and Advance Ship Notices is 22 and 41 pages respectively. And if you’re looking to also do business with Walmart, Meijer, Costco, and Kohl’s, you’re going to need to study several hundred pages of unique EDI messaging in order sell product to them. 

If you’re supplying 30 retailers, and each one sends you 100 pages of EDI mapping requirements, then you’re looking at 3,000 pages of unique message specifications. At this point, your choice is twofold: hire in-house staff to manage retailer-specific EDI formats, or outsource to a managed EDI services provider to handle it for you. Many companies don’t like outsourcing business-critical activities like EDI to service providers, however — they are notorious for charging a lot of money in exchange for offering poor customer service.

But there is a way out of this… To do business with a company like Walmart, you need EDI mapping that comes preconfigured for giant retailers and allows non-technical users to make changes quickly and easily. And you need a vendor that you can trust who will take on heavy lifting in a cost-effective manner without you having to get lost in all the implementation guides. You don’t have to be intimidated by working with 800 pound gorillas. With the right EDI data mapping software, you can get a good dialogue going with all of them without any primal roaring or chest-pounding.

Have questions about EDI mapping? Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].