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How this Company Built the Retail Industry’s “Bloomberg Terminal”

Years of work and refinement on Surefront have yielded a platform that automates communications, collaborations, and purchases for all retail stakeholders on a single platform.

Written by Angela Scott-Briggs


Since debuting in 1982, the Bloomberg Terminal has evolved into the financial services sector’s single most important piece of technology. Rolling up financial information, communication, and the ability to execute trades into one point of entry, an entire industry has been rebuilt around this foundational tool.

Rarely do technologies emerge that disrupt entrenched industries by rewriting norms and reshaping fundamental practices. But a rising star has entered the retail fray intent on making serious waves. 

The birth of a retail revolution

Surefront is a retail technology platform spearheaded by Dr. Luke Wang, a seasoned venture capitalist and entrepreneur who achieved success with multiple ventures. The platform traces its roots back to the struggles of its founder, who observed that his wholesale business was mired in collaborative bottlenecks brought about by outdated tools like emails and spreadsheets.

Luke and his team spent months searching for a technology solution to their operational challenges. They hoped to find a Bloomberg Terminal equivalent for retailers and suppliers, but their search yielded only a few simplistic solutions. It was then that Wang transformed his search for the perfect retail collaboration platform into a vision for a groundbreaking technology solution.

The problem with existing solutions

Luke and his team wanted a SaaS solution that unified the complex product lifecycle operations between retailers and suppliers. The existing solutions they found were geared toward internal inefficiencies within one company—like managing product data and enabling product development. 

These solutions ignored the ongoing complex collaborations between external suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, and merchandisers in the supply chain. In failing to address this hyper-collaborative reality, many solutions created new bottlenecks. 

For example, retailers would adopt a product information management (PIM) system to manage product data. But, product data would often need to be sent to external collaborators. When this data was sent, it had to be ripped out of the PIM system, popped into a spreadsheet, and sent over email. Then, the external party would make its changes to the data, pop it into a spreadsheet, and send it back. Once received, the original retailer would manually re-enter the data into the PIM system. 

What Luke Wang decided to build with Surefront was a system that would allow internal and external parties to collaborate on product data on a unified platform. This platform would serve as a single source of truth and a communication tool for item-oriented discussions. Every stakeholder would be able to work together on a shared workspace instead of in separate silos.

Making complex product data collaborative

One of the challenges Luke and his team faced in building Surefront was helping retailers manage thousands of products at once. Retailers needed to bundle similar products into categories to optimize sourcing, increase margins, and improve efficiency. These products also needed to be funneled to the correct stakeholders on the company’s vendor and buyer sides.

On the vendor side, Retailers needed to collaborate with suppliers and manufacturers to develop products. This required a rich feature set of vendor management tools to enable streamlined communication and collaboration.

On the buyer side, Retailers needed to work with merchandisers to meet specific product demands. A merchandiser, for example, may ask for a line of swimsuits for summer. This prompts the retailer to sort through its vast catalog and share the appropriate items with the merchandiser. 

Most retailers still store product data on spreadsheets and PDF files, so finding the right items in a sea of documents can take a lot of time. This affects both vendors and buyers, causing major inefficiencies and delays. Surefront’s goal was to make product data access instantaneous. Retailers could sort their catalog with specific fields, click the appropriate items, and send them off.

The speed of this new process would enable retailers to send product lines to hundreds of merchandisers. Those merchandisers would then be able to communicate on Surefront’s platform about the items they wanted to buy. And finally, after the sales discussion ended, the merchandiser could purchase products directly on the Surefront platform. 

Automating the merchandising process

Building a platform that could automate supply chain collaboration wasn’t a simple task. It took Luke and his team five years to build a working prototype after several attempts. This was due to the complex technical systems that needed to be linked together. 

Surefront needed to synchronize a fully-featured messaging infrastructure with product information management and payment processing. It also required a data access hierarchy that let retailers connect discreet product sets with specific collaborators. This is why Surefront’s founder decided to partner with Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Institute (HCI) in 2016. 

Luke wanted the best and brightest upcoming minds to work on his Surefront project, so he partnered with CMU to allow students to gain real-life experience researching, evaluating, and prototyping technology solutions for the Surefront platform. This partnership yielded great success for both Surefront and the students. Some students went from participating in the program to working at Surefront full-time.

Years of work and refinement have yielded a platform that automates communications, collaborations, and purchases for all retail stakeholders on a single platform. Luke intended to design Surefront to accomplish PLM, PIM, and CRM tasks simultaneously. “The combination of PLM, PIM, and CRM functions was not an attempt to tack on unnecessary features,” Luke says, “we just wanted to build a complete solution.”

Looking to the future

Today, Surefront is well on its way to revolutionizing the retail industry. Its innovative platform burst onto the scene intent on disrupting the retail world. It has already gained traction among retailers like BaubleBar and Bony Levy.

Its robust features allow companies to manage product catalogs, streamline communication, collaborate on merchandising decisions in real time, and track key performance metrics. Early adopters have observed enhanced efficiency, reduced costs, and increased sales. 

If this current trajectory continues, Surefront is positioned to be a driving force in retail innovation for years to come. “Our sights are set on continuously building new features to answer market needs,” says Wang, “we’re enabling the future of retail collaboration one innovation at a time.” 

Read the Original Article at TechBullion