From Tesla and Edison to Jobs and Gates, innovators have always known that when you sit still, the world goes around you. We know just how crucial it is to stay ahead of the game, which is why we saw the PromoStandards’ first-ever annual hackathon as our chance to prove it.
Hold up, what is PromoStandards?
Picture this: a universe where distributors, suppliers, and decorators are all on the same page to work together more efficiently. Sounds like a dream come true, right? Well, that’s precisely the magic that PromoStandards brings to life! By creating a set of industry-wide standards and guidelines, PromoStandards is transforming the way we communicate, collaborate, and innovate.
PromoStandards isn’t just about getting everyone on the same wavelength. It’s also about pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and embracing technology to ensure the world doesn’t go around the promo industry.
What was the PromoStandards event in Tampa about?
Following The Adaptor’s winning entry at the PromoStandards Hackathon, members of the team convened at the PromoStandards award ceremony. Talks were given on everything from leveraging artificial intelligence to harnessing the power of blockchain.
We caught up with our very own Phoomparin (Poom) Mano, who attended the event, to find out more about what went on behind the scenes.
Give us an overview of the PromoStandards event; how did it go and who attended? Also, which plushie did you take with you and why? Did the other plushies show any resentment towards your chosen plushie?
Sure, there were various industry professionals in attendance, including distributors and suppliers. It was great to meet people who face similar challenges, such as issues with data quality, and to recommend services or establish partnerships.
As for the plushies, I brought my pink one, Bubblegum, which I usually take to events where I’m feeling excited, such as a hackathon. I think it went well, and there were no signs of resentment from the other plushies.
That's great to hear! In your opinion, what are the most critical aspects of PromoStandards for the industry?
I believe that the most crucial aspect is the connection and collaboration between distributors, suppliers, and creators. In the past, there was a lot of friction between these parties, and most communication was done via email. For example, the flow from distributors to suppliers was manual, making tracking difficult. Another common issue was with catalogs. Previously, suppliers would provide a published PDF file, but each person had a different format, making it impossible for our platform to integrate with them. However, with PromoStandards, we’ll address these issues.
That sounds promising. How do you think PromoStandards have impacted the industry so far?
PromoStandards has significantly reduced friction in the industry, particularly in terms of distributing product data, inventory, and pricing information. This helps ensure that distributors and suppliers are in sync with what products are available, and it has been a great start in providing standards that everyone can use. While there are still limitations in terms of technology, it’s a good beginning to get suppliers and distributors to communicate more effectively.
That makes sense. Do you think there is a readiness for change to progress things even further when it comes to technology?
There is a growing sense of readiness for change in the industry. Many people recognize the challenges, such as data quality and manual processes, and are looking for solutions to these issues.
The emergence of PromoStandards shows that the industry is willing to embrace change and adopt new technologies to streamline processes and improve collaboration. However, there is still a long way to go, and we need to continue working together to overcome these challenges and build a more efficient and transparent industry.
The industry is currently using XML as the standard, which is quite old and not anyone’s favorite. Additionally, data quality is a significant problem. Everyone wants to find a solution quickly, but each person has a different idea of what the perfect technology should be.
I remember Jason [Brikl’s Chief Commercial Officer] mentioning SOAP technology last week and how it's still considered the industry standard. Is everyone now pushing towards REST, or is there a different technology that everyone's favoring?
Yes, REST is currently the gold standard adopted by everyone. Once we have a solid REST standard, it will pave the way for future technologies like GraphQL. However, we have to take the first step before we can move forward.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the promo products industry in terms of adopting new technologies, and how does PromoStandards help address these challenges? Also, how does GraphQL feeding into PromoStandards address these challenges?
The biggest challenge facing the promo products industry in adopting new technologies is the lack of standardization and the absence of a common language for exchanging data. PromoStandards helps address these challenges by providing a set of guidelines and best practices for data exchange between suppliers, distributors, and creators. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can communicate effectively.
PromoStandards are a set of XML fields that provide a rough standard, but the clear problem that arises is the format itself. When PromoStandards was created, every supplier rushed to become standards compliant, but there was no best practice document to follow.
As a result, each supplier had their own inventory and warehouse systems, and they exposed data with standards, but everyone represented things differently, making it challenging for e-Commerce platforms to be interoperable.
Is that what the PromoStandards were meant to do, standardize the industry so that everyone was working off the same hymn sheet, so to speak? How have they gone about doing that?
PromoStandards was created to standardize the industry and bring everyone onto the same page. They recently put together a best practice document that provides guidelines for suppliers on how to format data. However, there is no automatic validation, and most suppliers don’t have the IT resources to read through a big list of documents to follow these guidelines. This is where service providers like Brickell come in to clean the data. The PromoStandards are now focusing on other aspects, such as order management and workflow between distributors and suppliers, to help improve communication and solve challenges like split orders.
That makes sense. And moving on to emerging technologies, you spoke at length about AI and blockchain and their potential to improve the industry. How do you see these technologies being implemented in the promotional industry?
I believe AI has great potential to help with product research and automated inventory management. For example, AI-powered tools can help companies identify trending products and predict demand, which can improve their overall efficiency.
As for blockchain, it can help improve supply chain transparency and traceability, which can be especially important in the promo industry where product authenticity is a concern. Overall, I think emerging technologies have a lot of potential to improve the industry, but it’s important for companies to approach them with caution and make sure they have the proper resources and expertise to implement them effectively.
So, AI and blockchain are definitely going to play a big role in the promotional industry, then?
Yes, definitely. In my conference, I discussed at length how AI and tools like Chat GPT can help with product research and automated storage setup, which will be a game-changer in the next five to ten years.
AI can automate the process of setting up a new store, from suggesting what products to put in the store to creating a template store based on emails or text messages. This will be particularly useful for athletes or school teams setting up a micro store, as AI can give product recommendations based on their needs.
Nice. Does the AI tool pull branding, logos, and imagery from emails? For example, if it detects a brand name, will it pull up the logos and upload them for you?
Yes, I think that can certainly be done through email, but the cooler part is how AI can gather information about the outside world. For example, if I say, “I want a store for Miami Heat,” Chat GPT already has the context that Miami Heat is probably associated with certain colors. It can use that information to suggest things that you may not have even specified.
In terms of blockchain, data validation is certainly important, but I think one of the more interesting use cases for the promo industry would be on the decorator and factory floor side of things.
You need proof of work, where you are tracking the quality of the work you’re doing. This idea has been raised as part of the conference as well. How can blockchain be used with logistics, I think that incorporating proper standards will be quite interesting.
Is the world of logistics quite advanced? It seems to be a field that is rapidly advancing, especially with supply chain issues, and trying to ensure productivity is enhanced.
I would say the industry is quite different for bigger suppliers and distributors versus smaller ones. The bigger suppliers, who are also the creators, have invested in robotics and hardware technologies. For example, many companies have been using robots that can communicate with each other. However, for smaller suppliers, there is still a long way to go.
Great insights there. And finally, what trends do you see emerging in the promotional industry in the near future?
I think there are going to be a lot of exciting developments in the near future, especially with the increased use of AI and blockchain. We’re going to see more personalized product recommendations and faster customer experiences.
Another trend is the increasing use of virtual and augmented reality in the promotional industry. This technology allows customers to visualize products in a more realistic way and can lead to increased engagement and sales. Overall, I think we’re going to see a lot of exciting developments in the promotional industry in the next few years.
And one final question, what do you see as the future of the promotional products industry in terms of technology and innovation?
I think the future of the promotional products industry is going to be all about data, automation, and personalization. As we continue to collect more data and use AI to analyze it, we’ll be able to provide more personalized product recommendations and experiences for customers. Additionally, automation will continue to streamline the production and logistics processes, allowing for faster and more efficient order fulfillment.
Overall, I think the industry will continue to evolve and embrace new technologies to better serve customers and stay competitive.
Our thanks to Poom for his incredible insights and for taking the time to talk to us! If you liked reading this, you’ll love the other articles in our blog – check some recommendations out below. And if you want to talk about anything you’ve read here in greater detail with our team, book some time with them now.