Inconsistent and incompatible databases between vendors, shippers and retailers are slowing down the retail supply chain, but blockchain technology could potentially change the game. eMarketer’s Yory Wurmser spoke with Kate Hiscox, founder and CEO of Venzee—a cloud-based platform that lets the various participants in the supply chain sync their data—about the inefficiencies in the supply chain and how blockchain can overcome them.
eMarketer: What makes the retail supply chain so inefficient right now?
Kate Hiscox: One of the biggest challenges for retail is the fact that 90% of the industry still uses spreadsheets. If you think about supply chains today, the world has hundreds of thousands of databases, which are built by different solutions inherently with different data structures. But in order for supply chain data to move, those databases and solutions need to talk to each other.
Right now, there’s an enormous cost associated with the labor-intensive task of taking what comes out of a vendor’s system and making it compatible with a retailer’s system, and in that process, also enriching it and removing errors.
eMarketer: Is it just a matter of simplifying the way databases connect with each other?
Hiscox: We’ve got two issues. First, we’ve got problems in system connectivity. The next piece is, if you put two systems together, there will be format differences. For example, if you and I manufacture furniture, you might call the color of a table “color” and I might call it “finish.” You’ve got collision there at the data level.
eMarketer: How does blockchain get around this?
Hiscox: Instead of having these hundreds and thousands of databases around the world, we view blockchain as one single distributed database. You suddenly remove a lot of those incompatibility issues and that data collision. From a very high level, that’s what we see blockchain being able to do for the supply chain.
eMarketer: How are all the different parties within blockchain authenticated in a way that’s more secure than what exists prior to blockchain?