First, you need to know that EDI is nothing more than a format for a specific record type such as a PO, Acknowledgement, Ship Notice, Invoice, etc. Depending on the retailer, there may be other non-EDI record formats, such as XML, CSV, etc. in which you can communicate with them.
So, the real question is do you need a 3rd party EDI Company or VAN (Value Added Network) to send and receive this data for you. With a very small number of exceptions, the answer is NO. No matter what the retailer’s help line says when you request information about setting up as a vendor.
Unfortunately most suppliers are just unaware of the alternatives. As a case in point, an OPAL user recently approached Houzz about getting connected and was told that they needed to connect through SPS Commerce. Of course, this would require the traditional monthly fees and data transmission costs of an EDI provider to do business with them.
However, the OPAL team was aware that there were other options available: Houzz also offers API (Application Program Interface) connectivity and we were able to complete the connection without the use and cost of SPS Commerce.
Of the nearly 90 major retailers that OPAL is currently connected with or in the process of connecting with for its customers, less than 10% actually REQUIRE the use of a 3rd party EDI Company in order to communicate with them – and this number is decreasing all the time as retailers add new connectivity options. All others have alternative connections available such as API, FTP or AS2 which allows you to communicate with them directly. These are the methods that OPAL employs whenever a retailer allows it, and OPAL does not charge for this data translation and transmission which eliminates these 3rd party charges for Order Processing and Fulfillment.