Feedonomics Expert Interview: Kelly Dougherty of Rakuten

Kelly is a Senior Product Feed Strategist at Rakuten Marketing. Her day to day duties consist of creating, manipulating, and managing product data feeds for all shopping engines. She takes pride in ensuring client feeds are of utmost quality and meet each channels specific requirements. Her keen eye and creative nature allows her to easily detect data discrepancies and find quick solutions to resolve feed problems.

What are some of the most common feed issues you encounter?

Kelly: Commonly, the feed issues we encounter stem from a mismatch of product data. This relates to price and availability, as what is present on the landing page differs from what is contained within the feed. Google has recently launched automatic product updates that help combat this and cut down the number of product disapprovals. Google is able to crawl the landing pages to detect the correct price and then update our listings accordingly in real time. Outside of those I can’t emphasize how important global trade item numbers (GTINs) are, and how many clients lack this data in their feeds.

Brian: Those are definitely the same kind of feed issues we’ve seen clients face. Usually it’s messy data, but also could stem from irregular updates to the feed, causing price and availability mismatches. Oftentimes errors can result in products that cannot be advertised, which can cost you large amounts of revenue when they aren’t resolved. That was the impetus behind FeedAlerts, which notifies you when specific Google Merchant Center errors happen.


What are important optimizations you find retailers often lack?

Kelly: Outside of titles, the number one hurdle is GTINs. Clients do not have GTINs in their feed and often do not know where to find them. In my experience, if clients have GTINs, then all the other optimizations take care of themselves –  Google will reference the GTIN to provide rich product data that is not present in the feed, but feed but was registered by the manufacturer. Don’t get me wrong having a fully optimized feed is needed, but lately I have seen that any data submitted in a feed is normalized by the GTIN, and all advertisers selling that one product get assigned the same title and description that was originally set by the brand owner.

Brian: Couldn’t agree more about how important GTINs are! GTINs have been a thorny issue ever since Google required them for many products, which is why we built an automated GTIN finder. If you’re the manufacturer or the brand, it’s especially important to take control of your Google Manufacturer Center, which lets you control product data like titles, images, and descriptions of your products.

What major changes have you seen across the eCommerce digital marketing landscape in the last few years?

Kelly: I have seen a greater emphasis on the visual aspects of ads, more so than text. Google Shopping has changed the search results page and really taken over the landscape. As a result, ads have adopted larger images and now serve as a showroom, in a sense, where customers can browse multiple products at once. Also, ads have become more customized and can dynamically update to represent an individual customer’s past behavior or interests.

Brian: Visual search has definitely taken over. Not only are Google Shopping ads far more attractive, but they most likely also convert better because users “see” what they are clicking on. It’s interesting to see Google add Shopping results in image and YouTube results as well, and Facebook obviously leverages rich content for Dynamic Product Ads.


What advice would you have for brands advertising on Google Shopping or Amazon?

Kelly: I would emphasize the importance of owning your brand terms and ensuring you remain competitive in the market. Brands often lose sales to third parties due to price. Brands need a way to differentiate themselves and offer a compelling reason for customers to buy from them.

Brian: Great advice – I’ve seen many brands moving away from the traditional distributor/reseller model to direct to consumer. It cuts out a middleman that was often necessary in the past, but not so much with online shopping. That said, it’s important to be where shoppers are, and sometimes it makes sense to have resellers focus on particular channels to give you bandwidth to focus on your strongest channels.


What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Kelly: I really like the book Shoedog by the founder of Nike. It shows perseverance pays off and the path to success is often full of obstacles.

Brian: Shoedog sounds like a really interesting read!


In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Kelly: I used to wing everything, and thought I worked better ‘on the fly.’ I have learned that practice pays off, and having a few rounds of rehearsal before presentations or speeches will help fine-tune content, and deliver more value to your audience. Taking time to prepare is crucial.

Brian: Couldn’t agree more – By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail is one of my favorite Benjamin Franklin quotes. The same is very true for shopping feeds, campaigns, and life in general.


What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter digital marketing? What advice should they ignore?

Kelly: I would say to always stay curious and always question the status quo. Form relationships with fellow co-workers and people from other departments. Try to volunteer for work projects outside of your scope to learn other areas of your company. This is a great way to grow your skill set and determine if you are in the right role.

Brian: Great advice. These days digital marketing is evolving very rapidly and it’s critical to have a perspective of the marketing world outside your purview.