BTB Search Engine Will Track SKUs

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Targeting manufacturers and retailers, 1-800-Database Ltd. next month will launch SKUfinder.com, a business-to-business search engine for high-resolution product images and comprehensive data.


Intended to serve as an online clearinghouse in the supply chain, SKUfinder will digitize product images, collect and archive data, and manage and distribute that information to manufacturers, online and offline retailers and other marketers.


"It's like being the Yahoo of BTB business, in terms of helping manufacturers give the correct information to the retailer, reduce the redundancy, reduce headaches and errors, and reduce the number of [FedEx shipments] and the number of people handling that data," said Freda Counceller, spokeswoman at 1-800-Database.


Beta testers include Petco; Tools America; and online grocers Webvan.com, Streamline.com and Royal Ahold's Peapod.com.


Paying visitors to the site at www.skufinder.com can search for product images and information by universal product code, brand name, category, manufacturer item number, keyword and description.


Such image and product data can be used for online stores, Web pages, Internet and print catalogs, point-of-purchase and signage, kiosks, data mining, sales automation, in-home shopping programs, shelf displays and category management.


The need for clear images and pertinent product information becomes more critical as online shopping and buying become more prevalent. Online retailers, in particular, have to match the clarity and variety of images offered in catalogs, said Bradley Geilfuss, president of New York start-up Liquidsite Inc.


Geilfuss, whose company produces pictures embedded with transaction-enabling data that pop up as the computer mouse scans over them, said the larger issue is trust.


"I think that people are a little more willing to believe when they see a picture of something, especially in an online retail situation," Geilfuss said, "because then it's the real thing."


Counceller said 1-800-Database, Norcross, GA, has collected data on categories such as housewares, stationery, wine and spirits, pet supplies, hardware, lawn and garden, health and beauty care, groceries and automotive accessories.


Coverage is in-depth. In the grocery category, for example, 1-800-Database collects up to 275 data fields per product. And products are photographed from seven angles.


A team at the manufacturer's end with private access to SKUfinder constantly updates the product images and information.


"If the product is sponsored and supplied by the manufacturer, there is no fee involved," Counceller said. "If the products are not sponsored, retailers pay a fee through the credit card, and they can download the image or they can search SKUfinder.com and come to us to subscribe annually. Or they can do a la carte for access as they need it."
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