LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. — The Business to Consumer (B2C) Alliance, a new effort addressing the growing need for accurate product information accessed via mobile devices and the Internet, was announced Tuesday by GS1 US here and GS1 Canada.
The alliance is composed of representatives from retailers, brand manufacturers and technology providers, including Kroger Co., Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, J.M. Smucker, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Group, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Premier healthcare alliance, AT&T, Cisco, IBM, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Auto-ID Lab, Microsoft, NeoMedia Technologies and Scanbuy.
"Kroger supports the work of the alliance because we believe it is good for our customers, associates and business," said Chris Hjelm, chief information officer, Kroger Co., in a statement.
Alliance participants have split into working groups to develop the most significant scenarios, or “use cases,” in order to define the logistical requirements, with GS1 standards as a foundational element. The scenarios include a parent searching for allergen information; a shopper checking on whether a product has been recalled; a buyer who needs further instructions on product usage; and an eco-conscious person checking on a product’s origins.
“Providing accurate information about our products is a critical part of building trust with our consumers,” said Werner Geissler, vice chairman, global operations, Procter & Gamble. “Leveraging GS1 standards, like the bar code, will allow this information to be delivered to consumers via Internet and smartphone applications when and how they want it. Brand owners are the best source for this information, and we support the B2C Alliance in this important initiative to improve the shopping experience.”
Search results for product data may be inaccurate due to several factors. One is the large number of possible data sources, including unauthorized “crowd-sourcing.” In research done by the Auto-ID Lab on behalf of the B2C Alliance, more than 10% of searches for information about allergens, nutritional characteristics or other data returned incorrect or incomplete results.
“The number of people searching and shopping with smartphones is growing in the triple digits with no signs of slowing,” said Sanjay Sarma, professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and co-founder of the Auto-ID Lab. “At the same time, sources are proliferating. It’s essential that any shortcomings in this area are addressed today.”
The National Retail Federation is also participating in the alliance, contributing its knowledge of retail operations, including global retail-specific standards, to the group.
Work done by NRF’s Mobile Retail Initiative will be factored into additional scenarios related to mobile shopping and payments. These rely on NRF retail standards, which complement GS1 standards and can be integrated into systems that coordinate inventory, financial and customer-relationship data.
The alliance is also developing a product data framework that technology providers could use as a pre-approved route to help ensure the source of data is trustworthy. Technology and service providers are working closely with brand owners and retailers on the framework to develop an operational proof-of-concept model that will demonstrate how the framework would serve consumers.
“This alliance is a great step forward in giving the consumer verified content for the products they are interested in,” said Mike Wehrs, president of Scanbuy. “We see scans from virtually every product category, so clearly the consumer is interested in getting easy access to valuable information right from their mobile device.”
Alliance participants first convened in March 2010 to discuss the state of publicly available product data, and decided to form the alliance and work together to improve it. The alliance is actively pursuing additional participants; companies interested in joining can visit www.GS1US.org/B2CAlliance.