What’s the history of the Icecat Toy Data Model? In the summer of 2015, I start at Icecat. And join the Benelux team as responsible for the account bol.com. Bol.com uses Icecat’s product information for many years. At the time it used only Icecat’s core-categories. For example, Consumer Electronics, Computers, Telecom, Lighting, and Office supplies. At the time, Marco de Vries is responsible for bol.com’s product content. In a conversation with him, I ask: “Icecat likes to add more categories to its catalog. What additional category would bol.com like to receive from Icecat?” Marco’s answer is immediate: “Toys”. Together with bol.com and Belgian toy retailer “FUN”, we agree to develop a toy data model.
Icecat develops a data model for toy brands. It is based on the input from bol.com and FUN, and the expertise of our taxonomy team. In short, in this data model, first, all toy categories are defined. Second, also the specifications and values associated with them. Currently, the data model supports 60+ languages. To be able to expand it to other markets.
In September 2016, the data model is complete. And, the mapping with bol.com. In other words, the data models of Icecat and bol.com understand and talk to each other. As soon as a toy brand adds its product information to Icecat, it automatically appears on bol.com.
Why is it a challenge to activate a new data model in the market? Because it’s a classic chicken-egg problem. Brands ask me which retailers already use Icecat. And, on the other hand, retailers ask me which toy brands already support Icecat. But, after convincing brands, with the help of bol.com and FUN, we are able to welcome most mainstream toy brands to Icecat’s Open Catalog.
Brands such as VTech, Bestway, Crayola, Spin Master, and MGA Entertainment are among the first brands to use Open Icecat. In short, Open Icecat is an open catalog that is free for the channel partners of a participating brand. By offering the product information for free via Open Icecat, it is very easy to convince more retailers to connect as well. This leads to retailers such as Carrefour, Toychamp, and Wehkamp adopting the data. Therefore the toy network grows faster and faster. Especially since LEGO uses Icecat. LEGO actively introduces the solution to all its retail partners. And, not just in the Benelux.
As the Toy Data Model is a joint initiative with Bol.com and FUN, we have succeeded to become a market leader in the Benelux. First, we have optimized the data model for local partners. Second, we make it available in now 60+ languages. Third, we introduce the data model in other countries. Icecat notices an increasing demand from other markets to receive standardized toy product information as well. Furthermore, global toy brands want to adopt a generic, multilingual content syndication solution in all their markets. Therefore, after several training sessions and international fairs, we are ready to roll-out the Toy Data Model.Meanwhile, the first successes in other countries show up. This gives me a very satisfying feeling after so many years of hard work. For example, our Italian colleagues have welcomed the Italian Prenatal Retail Group, including the well-known toy retailer Toyscenter. In addition to Toyscenter, more Italian retailers are on-boarded. They adopt the Toy Data Model as a consequence. Other country managers also add new retailers and brands to the network. Now, we see that the Toy Data Model is fully embraced internationally.
Amazon is much sought for by toy brands. Normally, a retailer goes to Icecat to retrieve its product information. But, Amazon does this only to a limited extent, which makes it difficult to check whether Amazon uses the toy data or not. But, the new Amazon service – the AFS solution – changes this. Suppliers with a Vendor Central account can use AFS, which replaces the New Item Setup templates via a CSP (content service provider) like Icecat. Through AFS a CSP pushes product information directly into an Amazon Vendor Central account. AFS is now live for the UK, the US, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Singapore, UAE, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, and India.
During the introduction of the toy data model, it is the brands that sponsor Open Icecat. They make product information available in Icecat for all their retail partners. Recently, we have introduced a new service – Icecat’s free Vendor Central. This is a supplier portal for key retail clients where invited brands can manually enter their product information which is subsequently published on the retailer’s website.
A growing selection of key Icecat users is now pushing their brand suppliers to use the free Vendor Central. It helps brands to get acquainted with the Toy Data Model. Furthermore, it also saves a brand representative a lot of valuable time as product information is entered once instead of many times via separate web interfaces of connected users. Affiliated Icecat Vendor Central users include Intertoys, FUN, Carrefour, and Bol.com.
At the New York Toy Fair, I came across ASTRA, the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association. ASTRA is a non-profit trade association that represents around 1,800 individual retailers, manufacturers, and sales representatives in the toy industry. After several conversations with the ASTRA board, Icecat joins as a member.
What are the benefits that Icecat offers ASTRA members? Any ASTRA toy brand gets free access to Icecat’s Vendor Central whether they are invited by an Icecat retail client or not, and of course, any ASTRA retailer can use free Open Icecat. That includes access to the information which is entered by the brands in free Vendor Central.
Shopify is a popular all-in-one platform that is growing very fast worldwide. In the United States, many ASTRA members use this webshop platform. Therefore, our subsidiary Iceshop has deployed an Icecat Shopify connector. With this connector, Shopify users easily download the available toy product information into their store.
The American toy retailer “Legacy Toys”, an ASTRA member, is the first US toy retailer to use Icecat’s Free Vendor Central. As Legacy Toys uses Shopify, it requires the Icecat Shopify connector. As soon as the connector is live, we expect many more ASTRA members to use it.
At the beginning of 2020, Intertoys completes its integration with Icecat. Intertoys is a leading omnichannel toy retailer in the Netherlands. Now, Intertoys uses the Open Icecat catalog actively. And, it asks its brands to deliver product information directly via Icecat’s Free Vendor Central if they don’t have a budget to invest in automated feeds.
On March 2, 2020, Icecat announces its acquisition of French toy and video games data specialist Cedemo. Cedemo – based in Monaco – focuses primarily on the French market. Cedemo works with major retailers such as Cdiscount, Amazon France, and Cultura. And also with global brands such as Mattel, Playmobil, EA, and Ubisoft. On April 1, 2020, Icecat completes the acquisition. Currently, we work hard on the integration of both platforms. In the meantime, we already offer brands and retailers the opportunity to exchange data between both platforms. For example, Sylvanian Families and Aquabeads make use of this exchange.
Due to the growth, developments, and acquisitions like Cedemo, we further optimize the Toy Data Model V3. We add new categories to the data model and support retailer-specific requirements such as technical specifications.
Icecat monitors which toy brands are the most popular in the market. This popularity is measured on the basis of searches, downloads, and data requests. VTech is the most popular toy brand of 2019. And, Bestway is the best brand in Sports & Recreation. At the Spielwarenmesse in early 2020, I personally handed VTech and Bestway their Icecat awards over. Icecat continues with these awards next year.
During conversations with brands, they ask me why Icecat does not do anything with brand owners who are in the licensing business. Surely it must be very attractive for brand licensors to use the global toy data model to control their e-channel? To enrich the products of their licensees for a better presentation and searchability of their licensed products? Now, we have an agreement with a global brand licensor and implement this idea. Nice challenge!
Due to its growth, the toy team expands. With the takeover of Cedemo, passionate and specialized people have joined. And, the team is also recently expanded with an Icecat toy account manager to further the network.
Icecat organizes toy events in the Benelux. The idea is to repeat this kind of meeting after COVID-19. By then we want to organize it in other countries as well. Or should we go virtual? Our toy team hopes to meet you at one of our toy events in the near future.
If you would like more information about the Toy Data Model or our connected services, please contact us directly.
Read further: News, amazon, brands monitor, cedemo, intertoys, Open Icecat, Shopify, toys, toys industry, Vendor Central
Business Development Manager Icecat -
Initiator of the Icecat toys data model together with the toy industry
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