Rival B2B exchanges push common data standards

The two business-to-business exchanges duelling for predominance in the retail industry are calling a truce to encourage content providers representing more than 12,000 manufacturers to adopt a common set of data standards.

San Francisco-based GlobalNetXchange LLC and Alexandria, Va.-based WorldWide Retail Exchange LLC last week jointly announced a proposed timetable calling on online catalogue developers and other aggregators of product information to support the Global Commerce Initiative’s (GCI) business-to-business standards by mid-2003.

The GCI, a group of large companies and trade associations in the manufacturing and retail industries, last year released a protocol setting basic rules for data access and security, message content and the flow of information between trading partners. The two retail exchanges said they surveyed content providers that do work for manufacturers and found that many are already migrating toward compliance with the GCI’s standards, including the use of XML messaging and the data schema defined by the group.

The Broader, the Better

The product data maintained by content and catalogue developers is used by retailers in their internal systems, and the exchanges said wider adoption of the GCI standards would help improve data synchronization between companies and make it easier to share information electronically.

Bharat Popat, vice-president of product development at GlobalNetXchange, said he expects product ordering and payment activities using the common standards to begin taking off late next year. Officials at the two retail exchanges are aware of e-commerce standardization efforts for different industries, Popat said. But he deemed those secondary to the retail-specific joint effort.

Gale Daikoku, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.’s G2 unit, said the retail exchanges “are having a tough time getting members to adopt [their] services, so the broader they can make the standards, the better.”