The 21st Century Silk Road is Paved with… Data

The Silk Road’s Impact

For ages, people have found ways to transport goods, and perhaps more importantly, share ideas. Whether it was by foot or on the backs of camels, humans have been on the move since the beginning of time. And perhaps there is no route more famous than the Silk Road.

The Silk Road was a network of trade routes that linked different regions of the ancient world. It was formally established during the Han Dynasty of China and was regularly used from 130 BCE.

As the name implies, a large amount of silk was transported and traded on the route. But many other goods were exchanged back and forth between the East and West, including carpets, curtains, blankets, rugs, camels, glass, dishes, spices, dyes, ivory, jewels, rice, cotton, and more.

The exchanges between the East and the West were equally beneficial when it came to technological progress. The four great inventions of ancient China (paper making, printing, gunpowder and the compass) as well as the skills of silkworm breeding and silk spinning were transmitted via the Silk Road (Travel China, 2017).

However, past just a route for the moving goods, the movement and mixing of populations also brought about trades of ideas, knowledge, and beliefs. This mixing of peoples had a profound impact on the civilizations involved. Cities along the Silk Road grew into hubs of culture, where ideas on Science, Art, Literature, and technology were shared. Unavoidably, cultures came into existence, grew, and influenced one anoother. The Silk Road was more than a goods exchange, it also served as a fulcrum of democratization. It made goods, ideas, and technologies available to all.

The Modern-Day Silk Road

Flash forward to 2017 and it is technology that democratizes information across cultures. Modern technology means the sharing of ideas, services, and content can be done from every corner of the world. And what is the most impactful thing we share via modern technology? Data.

Believe it or not, Data is today’s most valuable commodity. Thousands of years ago, perhaps then it was silk, gold, or jewels. A century ago, the answer was oil. But today, Data and those who have it yield unstoppable abilities.

Just look at some of the most valuable companies around. Companies like Facebook have a market valuation of $412 billion. Google, $581 billion. Even Yelp, a company focused mainly on providing user reviews, is valued at $2.5 billion. What commodity do all these companies have in common?  Data. They have collected an insurmountable amount of user information, everything from basic demographics to hyper-specific behavioral data.

When it comes to E-commerce (think Amazon, Wayfair, and so on) user data like this is an output of these platforms. Anyone who shops these sites unavoidably provides some form of data that dot-coms can use to guide their business decisions. This is one type of data, but what actually fuels these platforms? Again, the answer is data— just a different type.

Now we’re talking about product data. Product data is extremely valuable because it provides unlimited possibilities for retailers. Physical products are limiting due to a variety of factors, but selling digital products online means the hurdles of location, time, and cost are eliminated. It doesn’t matter if your brick-and-mortar store closes at 6pm— digital products can be sold anywhere, anytime, to anyone.

How Can Local Retailers Leverage Product Data?

how retailers can leverage product dataThe benefits are clear, but what do smaller retailers need to make digital products work for them? They need standardized, accessible product data from vendors. And they need a way to easily put this product data to use online in their promotions and catalog. Unfortunately, this is where the problem comes in.

Vendors provide retailers with product data in various formats, often unstandardized and fragmented. There’s no way a local retailer has time to consistently update product information in a web store, create online promotions, or keep up with constant inventory changes. Up until now only giant dot-coms had the resources and infrastructure in place to standardize product data and feed it into their online platforms. But luckily, Datalink has changed that.

The World of Datalink

Datalink is a revolutionary technology that provides retailers with real-time, standardized product data from any vendor. Connect Datalink to your in-store POS or let it power your e-commerce site with fresh, accurate information 24/7. Now all retailers can harness the power of digital products.  Retailers no longer have to worry about updating their online inventory– Datalink does it for them.

Merchants of antiquity needed a network in order to share commodities, and thus the Silk Road was born. Modern-day retailers needed their own network in order to share and use data effectively… so we built Datalink.