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The name of WhyteSpyder's new software tool came to co-founder Alex Ahmad in a dream.

Ahmad said his business partner, Eric Howerton, has typically been the go-to guy when it comes to imagining catchy names or unique ideas for the retail marketing firm in Fayetteville. But Ahmad -- a University of Arkansas graduate with a master's degree in computer science -- managed to put his stamp on their latest project when he awoke one morning last March.

"I called Eric at 6:30 in the morning and just shouted, 'SKU Ninja,'" Ahmad said.

A stock keeping unit, or SKU, is a unique code number assigned to identify a product.

The name stuck and WhyteSpyder now hopes the product resonates with retail suppliers, releasing the software a few weeks ago as a tool to help them manage, monitor and publish their online content pages for items listed on websites like Walmart.com and Amazon.com.

SKU Ninja enters the market as e-commerce sales continue to grow and retailers emphasize services like Walmart Inc.'s grocery pickup, where customers order items online and collect them at the store. Those types of offerings require relevant data and content -- like detailed item descriptions, photos, videos and customer reviews -- for shoppers who are increasingly turning to mobile devices to research products before buying them either online or in stores.

Howerton, who started WhyteSpyder with Ahmad around 2010, said keeping up with constant changes can be daunting for suppliers who may have hundreds or thousands of products. So WhyteSpyder has presented SKU Ninja as a solution, offering a tool that will monitor the strength of content pages for suppliers who will pay an annual fee for the service.

"We have known and know what we're doing," Howerton said. "We created a software that helps us to make us even faster, better and more beneficial."

WhyteSpyder has built its business around working with suppliers to improve their online data and content after noticing a lack of quality on Walmart.com product pages a few years ago.

The company has since become one of Walmart's approved content service providers.

With SKU Ninja, suppliers can assess their online product pages for retailers like Walmart, Sam's Club, Amazon, Target and Lowe's. Daily reports notify users of problems like products being out of stock, an inadequate amount of pictures, or a low number of customer reviews.

Suppliers can resolve problems, change page content and be alerted when competitors make changes to their content pages. It also can determine if any items are falling in search engine rankings.

WhyteSpyder still works closely with Walmart, which continued to emphasize data and content compliance during its Supplier Growth Summit in Rogers. Walmart representatives told suppliers that U.S. e-commerce sales are projected to reach $700 billion by 2022 and the company stressed that good content can have a significant impact on performance, according to slides of the presentation obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Scott Benedict, who is the chief executive officer of consulting firm Benedict and Associates LLC, said Walmart's emphasis ties in with the investments it is making in areas like store pickup.

He said every component of omnichannel retail -- which provides seamless shopping for customers whether they're online or in a store -- must be in place to drive sales.

"This ability to have online content not just drive traditional transaction, but also drive a physical store transaction, is one that really has become a bigger factor here in the last few years," Benedict said. "So the role and the prominence of quality content has gone from nice-to-have to a necessity."

Benedict, who has an extensive e-commerce background and spent most of his career in numerous roles at Walmart, said WhyteSpyder has carved out a niche in the market as it attempts to position itself as a go-to source for suppliers seeking data and content help.

He was given access to the company's SKU Ninja and, after spending hours with it, believes it's a helpful tool in helping suppliers monitor and manage content for consumers.

"If you don't have optimized content, your likelihood of showing up in those search results goes way down and you end up way down the search results page," Benedict said. "Most consumers won't scroll that far quite frankly. So this is an important front in the broader war so to speak for the mind and the pocketbook of the consumer going forward."

Howerton and Ahmad said the response to the software tool has been strong from early clients as well and there's potential for additional functions to be introduced over time.

For now, Ahmad described SKU Ninja as the "missing piece" WhyteSpyder didn't previously have to offer customers as it tried to build its business. It's available now and Howerton believes SKU Ninja can be part of a "complete strategy" for suppliers trying to keep pace with the rapid changes in retail.

"We're just coming to the table with a solution to help people grow sales and to stay relevant and dominant in this new world of retail," Howerton said.

SundayMonday Business on 02/18/2018

Print Headline: Software helps retailers perfect internet data

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