As we know, today's retailers face all kinds of challenges and competition from many directions and channels. In my previous blog post (10 Powerful Guidelines For Choosing The Best Retail Pricing Intelligence Software), I talked about what competitive pricing intelligence software should do. Today, I'll discuss what to look for from your competitive pricing intelligence solution provider. Choosing the best vendor for your pricing intelligence solution is an incredibly important strategic move -- one of the most important business decisions a retailer will make. As the use of pricing intelligence tools by retailers becomes more and more ascendant, the question you hear over and over again is, "How do I choose the best pricing intelligence tool vendor?"
Here are 7 of the most important questions to ask when selecting a pricing intelligence solution vendor:
1. What Is Your Tool's Specific Matching Capability?
The better the pricing intelligence software vendor's matching engine (the part that matches your products to your competitors’) the more accurately you will be able to track competitors' products and prices. Be sure that the tool provides the highest level of coverage possible. Otherwise you could miss out on very important data without even knowing it.
2. What Is Your Tool's Scalability (Expansion) Capability?
Some retailers may wish to start out by tracking a smaller set of products and competitors, and then scale up, i.e. add more products to be matched and compared, without compromising quality and performance. When you’re talking about tracking hundreds of thousands -- millions, or even billions -- of products or price points, maintaining peak performance and quality is something retailers should NEVER take for granted!
3. What Can You Tell Me About Quality Assurance Of Data Accuracy?
When it comes to pricing data, accuracy is paramount. Make sure there is a strict Quality Assurance (QA) process in place, because any mistake, mismatch, or error will take you off your game. Noise or source of the data directly affects access and accuracy, and, most important, it affects bottom line, so it's not enough to count on automated systems alone to verify themselves. Human-based, quality assurance checks, performed on a regular basis are imperative to ensure that your data is 100% accurate.
4. What Is Your Company's Technological Expertise And Experience?
Pricing intelligence is not simple website 'scraping' as some people may think. It’s vital that you work with a strong, dedicated, experienced technical team that can meet all the challenges inherent in providing good pricing intelligence. Websites vary dramatically in the way they are structured and the product information they provide, which present a formidable challenge to doing crawling, extraction, and data analysis well. And not all matching-engines are the same. The result of a poor matching-engine is incomplete and inaccurate data. You need retail technology experts behind-the-software to make your pricing intelligence information flow easily and accurately.
5. Is Your Pricing Intelligence System Integratable?
Many retailers will eventually integrate their pricing intelligence with their back-end systems, and so should consider this carefully when selecting a vendor. A good set of APIs (Application Programming Interface programming code that your IT department can use, provided by the vendor) is critical to allow IT to easily stream all the data collected by the pricing intelligence tool to your back-end systems. Make sure you thoroughly check out the APIs the vendor offers before making any decisions.
6. What Should I Expect To Pay For These Services?
Cost is an obvious and important consideration when choosing the best pricing intelligence solution. In the past, retailers would pay thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for competitive pricing data collected manually or using primitive data scraping tools combined with manual data handling. The advent of cutting-edge pricing intelligence technology and analytics has made the collection of competitive pricing data much easier, and, through automation, has reduced costs dramatically. It’s now possible to find great pricing intelligence tools from as low as hundreds of dollars to several thousand dollars a month.
7. What Kind Of Contractual Flexibility Might I Expect?
Many pricing intelligence software providers allow you to pay for the tool on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis. This means retailers can subscribe to the service and pay on a monthly basis. This way, retailers can start small, say, with a few thousand products and several competitors to track, and then they can grow and add as they become more comfortable with the tool. There is often no complicated contract, and there may be a discount for paying upfront.
Bottom Line For Your Bottom Line:
Having the highest-quality competitive pricing data and vendor will make your pricing easier, more manageable, more actionable, and more profitable. Having poor quality data that you think is good can be disastrous. Choose the best pricing intelligence solution provider that is an industry leader who is flexible, technologically-fast-forward, easy to work with, and who meticulously fulfills the data gathering and analytic needs of your company.