story by Kim Souza
Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of The City Wire focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by The City Wire and sponsored by Propak Logistics.
Drive Medical, a New York-based durable medical equipment manufacturer, said it continues to see robust demand for its growing catalog of products from retailers like Walmart.com, CVS, Target and Walgreen.
Wal-Mart’s Dr. John Agwunobi recently shared that the durable medical equipment category is one area of the more fertile opportunities for the retailer’s over-the-counter, pharmacy sales.
Keeping up with retailer demand can be challenging and cumbersome, according to Seth Diamond, vice president of e-commerce at Drive Medical. He said each online retailer has its unique set of requirements for uploading products to the portals available on their sites.
“Take Walmart.com for instance. They have specific image size and description requirements for each individual product that must be formatted according to protocol before it can be uploaded to the server site,” Diamond said.
He said Drive Medical recently began using the Salsify software to streamline and manage its growing product catalog database. In the throes of the hurried holiday season, Diamond said his company added 900 products to Walmart.com’s online product catalog in a single day.
“This would have normally have taken one or two people days to weeks to complete,” he said. “We have been pleased with how well the Salsify system is helping us manage the day-to-day business with each of our retail partners.”
Rob Gonzalez, co-founder of Salsify, said with such a large product offering and aggressive new product introduction schedule, the item set up process proved to be a significant challenge for Drive Medical. Even though the company has a product information management system (PIM) in place, it didn’t have the ability to organize and prepare product content that was appropriate to each retail partner.
To solve this problem, the marketing team created numerous spreadsheets for each online retail partner containing product information tailored to their individual requirements, copying and pasting product information from the PIM system by hand. Gonzales said this cumbersome system also led to numerous errors including sending incorrect UPC codes to Walmart, a mistake that is difficult to correct. The old system also created problems finding all the latest product information on any given item. It was also troublesome to update and correct errors across multiple channels since the information was decentralized.
Salsify worked to centralize all unique product information into a database repository. Gonzales said the software also structures the workflow so the marketing team can quickly review product content and create new product content in a fraction of the time it took using the old system. Drive Medical also specified the required image dimensions for each retail partner so Salsify could automatically resize product images as needed.
“This was a real time saver,” Diamond said. “We have several images for each of the thousands of products and we continually update and add new items all the time.”
Lastly, Gonzalez said the Salsify software allows for automated template generation. Drive Medical uploaded Walmart.com’s template spreadsheet and mapped the Salsify fields to the specific columns in the spreadsheets.
“This was all that was needed to automatically distribute item setup spreadsheets,” Gonzalez said. “At this point, Drive Medical had Salsify publish all the product content to Walmart.com’s FTP drop location, and set up automatic publication to these destinations every week.”
Diamond said this one-day upload of 900 items to Walmart.com, quadrupled the total number of products it sells on the retailer site.
While Drive Medical actively sells its products to physical and online retailers, Diamond said it’s easier today to get online retailers to give suppliers an entry point.
“Our niche market is supplier manufacturers who sell to multiple online retailers, because that’s where our experience has been – the e-commerce channel,” Gonzalez said.
He sees ripe opportunities for the Salsify applications that increase uploading efficiencies, such as suppliers with one- or two-person marketing teams responsible for the day-to-day management of retail product uploads and sales monitoring. Even large manufacturers like Drive Medical (1,000 employees) that sell through online retailers can use the help software automation systems like Salsify, he said.
Boston-based Salsify, a start-up just now two years old, said it continues to add new clients, domestic and abroad. Gonzalez said the firm has grown to 12 employees and has just had a product to sell since launching the software platform about six months ago.
Salsify’s three founders: Jason Purcell, Jeremy Redburn and Gonzalez are software engineers. Prior to the formation of Salsify, Purcell ran Endeca’s e-commerce business, while Redburn headed up Endeca’s product management marketing areas. Gonzalez worked for IBM in research and ran inbound marketing for Cambridge Semantics, another Boston-area startup.