How to Get the Most Out of AS2

Applicability Statement 2 (AS2) is a universal communications specification that has become widespread across many industries. 

It can securely transport any type of file but is used mostly in the B2B world for electronic data interchange (EDI) documents, or in healthcare where privacy compliance is of the utmost importance. 

AS2’s effectiveness and security have been especially recognised in the retail sector, where giants like Walmart and Amazon utilise its features to support their transfer of important data, from shipment information to invoices.

If you’ve been asked to adopt AS2 – or have already adopted it – it’s important to assess your system and ensure its implementation is as effective as possible. 

In this article, we’re going to explore how retailers can get the most out of AS2 and how a third-party provider might be the thing you need to maximise business value. 

The history of AS2

AS1 was the first AS protocol created in the early 1990s to facilitate the transfer of data using email technologies like SMTPS and S/MIME. 

The second-generation EDI protocol, AS2, was created by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to replace AS1. AS2 transports data over HTTP/S instead of email, making it instantly more accessible to a wider range of businesses.

US retailer Walmart, for example, was the first major retailer to require its suppliers to use AS2 file transfers instead of dial-up modems.1 This encouraged other retailers to follow suit including Amazon, Target, Lowe’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and thousands more.

The EDI protocol has also been widely adopted in other areas such as healthcare, as AS2 is able to meet the stringent compliance and privacy standards that these industries require.

Suggested reading: If you’ve been mandated to use AS2, then you might need to know more about EDI in general. Check out our quick guide, What Is EDI: The History and Future of EDI, here. 

The benefits of AS2

AS2 offers a host of great benefits for businesses looking to simplify and optimise their point-to-point EDI transactions.


Retailers store large amounts of customer data which means they have always been attractive targets for cybercriminals. In fact, recent statistics reveal that 24% of cyberattacks target retailers — more than any other industry.2

Trust is essential in the retail sector and companies must take steps to protect their customers’ data and privacy. AS2 focuses on data security and is one of the most secure methods for transporting data.

  • SSL & S/MIME protection: Sensitive data is protected via SSL in the transport layer, or by S/MIME in the payload layer. The S/MIME protocol is used to wrap data in a secure “envelope” before sending it over the web.
  • Digital certificates & encryption: AS2 uses digital certificates and encryption, ensuring only the correct party receives EDI messages and they cannot be intercepted. Mandatory digital signatures also protect the identity of the sender and the integrity of the payload.

IBM reported in 2022 that the average cost of a data breach in retail was $3.28 million.3 It’s therefore clear that cybersecurity is intrinsically linked with a business’s bottom line, which makes the adoption of secure protocols such as AS2 even more important.


While it’s true that one needs to get the proper identification and software in order to run AS2, the actual use of the specification is far cheaper than indirect alternatives such as VANs (value-added networks).

Since AS2 messages are transmitted over the internet, businesses don’t need to build any separate physical infrastructure to exchange EDI. AS2 servers can also be managed internally, giving companies full control over their implementation and maintenance.

This makes AS2 extremely affordable and accessible, meaning it’s a great investment for trading partners of all sizes. Switching to AS2 file transfers can help retailers speed up delivery, scale faster, and improve the overall reach and efficiency of their supply chains.


  • If your business is still using a VAN, you may benefit from an affordable solution like DiNet which is easy to scale as your business needs change. 
  • You can also maximise your returns by opting for an EDI Managed Service and leaving the maintenance of your system in the hands of an expert third-party. 

Synchronous responses to transmissions

AS2 enables the sending of both a synchronous and an asynchronous message disposition notification (MDN) – an MDN being a delivery notification that says whether data has been successfully received.

  1. Asynchronous MDNs: The receipt is returned to the sender over a separate HTTPS connection.
  2. Synchronous MDNS: The receipt is returned to the sender using the same HTTPS connection.

This allows files to be transferred in real time which improves efficiency and reduces the time it takes to engage with a trading partner or customer. This is yet another reason why AS2 file transfers have become the preferred protocol in the retail sector.

Usable anywhere

More retailers are trading overseas and global e-commerce sales are expected to reach over £6.5 billion in 2026.4 Global e-commerce gives retailers access to foreign markets, helping them to build brand awareness and increase sales and profits. 

Modern businesses need to have a flexible protocol that simplifies communications with trading partners, suppliers, and customers around the world. Unlike some protocols that are restricted due to access to servers/software/VANs, AS2 can be accessed anywhere — making it ideal for global businesses. 

In addition, global businesses require a scalable EDI solution that can evolve with their changing business needs. AS2 is built with scalability in mind and supports numerous standards and protocols, helping retailers expand and achieve their business goals. 

An AS2 message is also payload-agnostic and can handle almost any file type (EDI X12, EDIFACT, XML) as long as it’s been decided between trading partners. Since AS2 is the go-to EDI protocol in the retail sector, this means it’s easy for companies to adopt and maintain.

Suggested reading: If you’d like to learn how to overcome disruption with EDI, take a look at our eBook – Agile Supply Chain

Data Interchange: Helping you get the most out of AS2

AS2 offers a secure, flexible, and cost-effective way for retailers to transfer data securely and reliably over the internet and engage with trading partners. This makes the AS2 protocol a valuable investment for most businesses. 

If there’s one drawback of AS2, however, it’s that it can take a lot of expertise and manpower to manage. The good news is that you can outsource this responsibility to EDI experts, saving valuable time and effort.

Not only do EDI experts like Data Interchange help in identifying the right EDI solution for you, but they also offer services like Managed EDI to ensure you’re continually getting the most out of your processes and systems. 

Partnering with a fully managed service provider can reduce the EDI skills gap and help you avoid hiring and training new staff. You will also benefit from 24/7 support and a scalable system that will help you mitigate supply chain risk. 
Want to see how Data Interchange can increase your business growth by over 500%?Talk to an expert today – we’re always happy to answer any questions!

1  Wal-Mart Chooses Internet Protocol for Data Exchange  | ComputerWorld

2  Retail Cybersecurity: Threats, Statistics and Best Practices | Threat Intelligence

3  Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022 | IBM Security 

4  Retail e-commerce sales worldwide from 2014 to 2026 | Statista

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