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The Backbone of Competitive Intelligence: Linking

By December 28, 2022July 25th, 2023No Comments

Product linking is the backbone of a good competitive intelligence program. Product linking allows a retailer to link their product catalogue to equivalent items at their competitors to give them item level pricing visibility. Without a high-quality scalable linking capability, a retailer would have mountains of competitive data with no insights.

Why Product Linking Matters

Retailers have turned to additional data sources like web scraping to collect large amounts of competitive data. The increase in competitive data is powerful when the data is linked to the retailer’s product catalogue. Product linking matches a retailer’s items to equivalent items at competition to solve for key visibility challenges:

  1. Competitors without UPCs: Some retailers post UPCs on their websites which makes it easier to link branded items. Many retailers and delivery services like Instacart however don’t post UPCs. Without UPCs product linking is a necessity even for core items like Coca-Cola 12pks, etc.
  2. Private Label & Unique Items: Many retailers generate more than a fifth of their sales from exclusive Private Label items. UPC matching isn’t possible on these critical items so linking is required for a retailer to be able to track their price position on Private Label and exclusive items.
  3. Perishables & Random Weight: Similar to Private Label, linking is required for pricing visibility on Perishables and Random Weight items. For the majority of retailers their known value item (KVI) list is heavily populated with Perishables and Random Weight items.

Challenges with Current Product Linking Approaches

Linking has historically been a manual time-consuming effort. Given that the average retailer carries tens of thousands, sometimes even hundreds of thousands of products, manual linking won’t get the job done. Retailers leveraging manual linking are only able to track prices on a handful of items and benchmarked against select competitors. This limited competitive visibility means that retailers are missing key insights on competitor prices that are hurting their Price Image and costing them traffic, revenue and margin.

While many data providers claim scalable linking, in reality it is nothing more than low-cost off-shore labor manually linking items. This cheap source of linking on face-value creates wins but in reality under the surface many of the links are inaccurate. What inevitably happens is category managers and merchants begin to leverage the data and see discrepancies in their price index driven by bad linking. Once this happens the organization begins to lose trust in the data and they stop using it to optimize pricing. In the end users return to “optimizing” prices by hand and time and money has been wasted due to bad linking.

Engage3 Advancements

Given the importance of product linking we have continued to invest in enhancing our linking science. Leveraging funding from our $35M Series D we have accelerated these investments. Engage3’s linking science enables highly scalable, reliable and automated linking. Our advanced linking science is able to process over 800 links per hour with an accuracy rate of >99.2%. Utilizing our product attribute database of over 18M products we have created over 50M links for clients in 2022.

Unlike low-cost labor driven linking Engage3 leverages true Machine Learning and advanced science to create links at scale. Engage3 deploys advanced capabilities as outlined below:

In addition to advanced science the Engage3 Lighthouse module allows clients to integrate the art with the science of linking. Within Lighthouse users can provide training data, approve ML created links, create their own new links, updated links and product attributes and help drive change management adoption by allowing full access to all created links.

For a demo of the Engage3 linking science and Lighthouse module please reach out to a representative.