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    What Is a Walled Garden?

    June 2, 2022
    5 minute read
    What Is a Walled Garden?

    A walled garden is an exclusive relationship between a retailer and a third party that intentionally blocks a brand’s own ability to work directly with the retailer. These exclusive third parties impede the transfer of data and agility in the market — ultimately degrading the consumer experience.

    By collaborating more closely, brands and retailers can avoid these often restrictive and expensive walled gardens, enabling them to expand their reach on the digital shelf.

    What’s the Difference Between a Walled Garden and a Toll Road?

    In the broader sense, a walled garden can be defined as “any closed platform or closed ecosystem where the technology provider has significant control over the hardware, applications, or content,” according to Blockthrough.

    Within the ecommerce space specifically, walled gardens are exclusive third-party content onboarding portals in which retailers work with third parties to obtain data — thereby intentionally blocking brand connections.

    Toll roads take the walled garden concept a step further: In these cases, not only does the brand manufacturer have to use a third-party onboarding portal to get product information to a particular retailer, but they also have to pay a fee to create, enhance, and send product information to a particular endpoint. As these fees are charged on a per-SKU basis, a brand could end up paying upwards of $100,000 to deliver their product information to a single retailer’s website.

    What Are the Cons of Walled Gardens?

    Walled gardens introduce a variety of challenges for both brands and retailers — ultimately hindering them from creating the most impactful digital shelf experiences.

    This outdated model was built for a world in which brand manufacturers didn’t have access to high-quality product data, which is no longer the case.

    In today’s ecommerce marketplace, the added complexity of walled gardens disincentivizes frequent updates of product content — while introducing the following challenges:

    • Siloed data;
    • Lack of transparency; and
    • Duplicative costs.

    How Do Brands and Retailers Benefit From Building Relationships That Allow for Free Data Exchange?

    Walled gardens may have been a logical approach back when most assets were physical, but today’s digital-first, omnichannel marketplace offers other models that empower brands and retailers to improve efficiency — while also reducing costs.

    Both brands and retailers stand to benefit from an open method of data exchange that makes content collaboration faster, easier, and more accurate.

    Removing Walled Gardens Has Benefits for Retailers

    By eliminating walled gardens and embracing other options, such as a peer-to-peer networking model that establishes direct connections and data sharing, retailers can:

    • Provide better consumer experiences: Ensure product pages are accurate and up to date by sourcing information directly from brands.
    • Improve supplier collaboration: Eliminate manual back-and-forth communications by collecting data from multiple brands in a faster and easier way.
    • Move faster: Increase speed to market — ultimately driving higher sales — by streamlining the process for updating existing listings with the latest information.

    Removing Walled Gardens Has Benefits for Brands

    On the brand side, embracing an open method of data exchange enables manufacturers to:

    • Eliminate manual processes: Distribute accurate, up-to-date product content quickly and easily.
    • Capture new audiences: Syndicate product content to a variety of new and evolving retail platforms.
    • Maintain control of brand identity: Ensure a consistent product experience across every touch point.

    Break Down Barriers To Deliver the Digital Shelf Experiences Customers Demand

    Restrictive, expensive walled gardens no longer make sense in today’s evolving, digital-first marketplace. Both brands and retailers can drive measurable growth by moving toward a model of seamless commerce experience collaboration — while also improving the customer experience.

    Want to learn more about overcoming market challenges to deliver winning digital shelf experiences? Check out the Salsify report, “Breaking Down the Barriers to Winning Commerce.”


    Written by: Sibel Bagcilar

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