Online retail standards may help search across vendors

Evan Schuman writes about a new standard from the Association for Retail Technical Standards (ARTS) that will help online retailers interoperate on the semantic web, making it much easier for Search engines to return results that include accurate and timely information on current retail offerings. ARTS is a part of the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Most of the big players had some role, from Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL to Target, Penney’s, and REI.

It’s an early step, but definitely one in the right direction. Schuman mentions that Circuit City and AOL have been in trial for three weeks with the data formats, which use XML to communicate with Search engines. For example, one format allows retailers to submit updates about product information including product name, price, URL, image, description, color, size, in-stock status, and shipping fees.

When the bugs are worked out, this (or an alternative) will prove a critical component in any Vendor Relationship Management system.

Good work. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

It’s already being discussed on the microformats list, which could extend the reach of the standard beyond big retailers with well-honed IT departments, allowing smaller operators to use standard semantic XHTML to present the same data. Expect that process to take some time, but it should definitely be helped by the prior work done by ARTS.

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