Buying syndicate, marketing association, expert network: for around 4,000 trade partners in Europe, EK Servicegroup takes on a wide range of tasks. As an associated group with around 800 employees, EK Servicegroup is committed to shaping the digital future of mid-sized, owner-run retailers.
More information: www.ek-servicegroup.de
As a purchasing association, EK Service Group with its headquarters in Bielefeld offers one-of-a-kind service and a wide range of products to more than 4,000 retailers in 17 countries. With 800 employees, the group assists its trade partners along their entire value chain. Starting with optimal purchase conditions, an intelligent logistics and ordering process, a broad network for service providers all the way to a comprehensive marketing concept for online and offline activities, the services offered by EK Servicegroup demonstrate its position as a valuable business partner for retail companies.
For the design of its product ranges, the group collaborates with a variety of suppliers. In order to provide retail partners with high-quality and above all complete information about their products, the principal challenge is to optimally harmonise a wide range of data sources. The core range currently comprises more than 30,000 products that are maintained in 7 languages. As a modern company, EK Servicegroup has relied on a clear omnichannel strategy for some time now, smoothly combining classical print channels with digital channels to achieve customer-oriented communication. For this reason, product information has to be readily available not only consistently across all channels but also in channel-specific formats. This is a particularly important factor when it comes to the creation of extensive print catalogues that form the basis of retailer orders.
For the maintenance and distribution of product data, EK Servicegroup relies on prodexa Cloud PIM. The platform assists companies with automated processes such as the regular import of ERP master data. In addition, manual adjustments can be made flexibly. In the PIM system, all data flows come together along with consolidated product information from a range of sources. All information is compiled here, whether master data from the ERP system, electronically communicated data from suppliers, manually researched information from manufacturer sites or product data from data pools such as IceCat and the like. The efficient planning and product of print catalogues is the key application for EK Servicegroup and thus also the focus of their projects. Using the tools of prodexa Cloud, process-relevant data are prepared, planned and added to the entry set. With the help of layout templates and section structures, this is prepared to enable partially automated catalogue creation.
Partial automation in catalogue creation poses several challenges. Since some manual operations are involved that have not been fully automated in the past, a total of 12 cross-department process steps are needed to create a catalogue. Not only does this cost resources in the form of financial assets and human capital, it also considerably lengthens lead times. To ensure that they can continue to react quickly to short-term market requirements and meet consumer demands for personalised content in the future, EK Servicegroup is now taking an innovative step in a joint project with our partner AutLay. This company develops pioneering solutions for AI-based creation of print-ready catalogues without relying on classical templates. The technology behind AutLay builds on years of research and has proven highly effective and efficient in practical application. The software draws on product data from prodexa Cloud PIM and generates the individual pages in a fully automated process. The underlying algorithm composes the pages using pre-set parameters and automatically determines the optimal version among different variants with regard to aesthetics and economic parameters. Initially launched as a pilot, the advantages of the solution quickly became clear: reduced lead times resulted in considerably lower costs, and above all more up-to-date product information.