NEW ORLEANS -- Ambassador Cards says it will maintain its "explosive growth" in electronic data interchange. "Our EDI activity in the past five years has increased 200% to 300% every year. This is going to continue to happen. There's so much potential here and we're seeing so many benefits," said Susan Chambers, director of information systems and retail development for the Kansas City, Mo.-based marketer of greeting cards and accessory merchandise. Chambers outlined Ambassador's plans here at the annual MarkeTechnics convention, sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute, Washington. She pointed out three areas for growth:
More Retailers: Ambassador partners with five supermarket chains that collectively operate 1,000 stores. Chambers said Ambassador is now in tests with two more major chains that operate 700 stores.
Item Maintenance: This is Transaction Set 888 that allows the vendor or broker to transmit information about new or additional items and changes to existing items. Ambassador is now testing this with a couple of retailers, and plans to invest lot of time and money in this area this year. "I think it's the most important thing that trading partners can do for each other," she said.
Closing the Loop: This involves a transaction coming back either from a carrier with the shipping status, or the retailer with the delivery acknowledgement, which is a form of confirmation. The former is the Transportation Carrier Shipment Status Message (Transaction Set 214). It is used by a transportation carrier to provide shippers, consignees and their agents with the status of shipments in terms of dates, times, locations, route and identifying numbers. The latter is the Delivery/Return Acknowledgement and/or Adjustment (Transaction Set 895). It is used to communicate adjustments to a direct-store-delivery shipment or to acknowledge the completion of a delivery. "Philosophically, I'm a huge believer in data integrity. It's constant sharing of information between the two partners. If we can get the loop closed, if we can get the data integrity so the data actually reflects what's happening at retail, we truly will be positioned for some of the exciting things that are yet to come," she said. Ambassador supports NEX (network exchange) of transferring DSD information, Chambers said, because it yields several benefits. Since all of the products are presold, the company can NEX the delivery record prior to delivery, which allows it to do third-party deliveries and use part-time merchandisers. This results in an efficient, focused use of the service force, she added. NEX also benefits the retailer with labor, time and cost savings, she said. "With NEX, retailers trust the accuracy of our deliveries and often bypass a detailed check-in. This results in about a 67% reduction in their receiving cost for our cards," she said.