Today’s online shopping experience encompasses everything from targeted ads to using augmented reality to “try on” outfits. Online shopping destinations continue to innovate to make shopping easier and more immersive, introducing customers to greater conveniences and customization.
As a merchant, having a strong ecommerce presence is no longer optional, but it requires a solid command of technology such using as data feed optimization services to make it work. The ecommerce landscape is vast and complicated, and data is what ties it all together.
Data feed management is the process by which you distribute and manage the digital listings of your products. This can include using online tools to help optimize listings to perform better on different channels, sending and receiving accurate retail feed data from each channel, and updating inventory on external sites.
There are different kinds of eCommerce data feeds. News stories can be aggregated in a news feed, and stock traders can use finance feeds to track market data. In ecommerce, we use product data feed tools to move product data around. In this article about ecommerce, we’re using “data feeds” and “product feeds” interchangeably.
But wait—what is a product feed, exactly? A product feed is a file that contains all of the product data for creating product listings.
Product data can include:
- Title: the name of the product
- Images: the main image and additional angles of the product
- Description: what the product is
- Price: how much the product costs
- Categorization: the department or category the product falls under
- Availability: whether the product is in stock
- Quantity: how much of the product there is
- Bullet Points: important features or selling points
- Pixel ID: for tracking and remarketing purposes
- Other key attributes: material, size, color, age, gender, special features, etc.
To recap, data feed management or product feed management is the process of moving and formatting product data from one source to a new destination. Seems pretty simple, right? In theory, yes, but data feed management is more difficult when you have hundreds or thousands of SKUs to manage, or are selling on multiple channels.
Why is Data Feed Management Important?
Merchants need product data to list products or create ads on search channels like Google, social commerce sites like Facebook, and marketplaces like Amazon or Target Plus.
Each channel has specific requirements for listing products and best practices that affect the performance of your listings. If there’s an error in your data or the listing isn’t optimized properly, it can affect conversion rates and whether your products are shown to customers at all.
Before customers feel comfortable making purchases, they need information. Every detail in a product listing helps customers decide if they want to purchase the product. Data also tells the shopping channel what the product is and determines which search queries trigger the listing to appear in the search results.
Product data is added to shopping destinations in various ways. It’s possible to create and update listings on the channel manually by keying in product data or uploading a spreadsheet with your listings in bulk. This method makes sense for merchants who don’t have many products to manage.
For merchants with bigger product catalogs or product data that changes frequently, an automated integration between your data source and the channels you’re listing on is more scalable and less error-prone.
Integrations allow you to send your product feeds to different types of channels and keep them up-to-date. The synchronization of product data across different systems, platforms, and channels is the glue that holds a successful ecommerce operation together.
At its core, data feed management connects your data across different channels, optimizes your product listings for each one, and keeps them synchronized with frequent updates.
This means data feed management is an essential part of any online retail strategy. Knowing how to optimize your data not only helps improve how you do business, it also improves the customer experience. Data feed management drives more effective ad campaigns, helps a business reach new customers, and streamlines ecommerce operations.
When Do You Need a Data Feed Management Solution?
Not every company needs outside help with data feed management. It often depends on the size of your product catalog, your in-house resources, and the channels you want to sell products on. But for many merchants, a data feed management solution significantly improves their ecommerce business.
Say you’re a merchant with a catalog of hundreds of products that you want to sell on multiple channels. You have a brick-and-mortar storefront, a shop on your website, and you use a popular ecommerce platform, like BigCommerce or Shopify, to house your product data.
You want to advertise your products on Google and Facebook to drive traffic to your website, plus sell products directly on major marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart. How do you promote your online store the most efficient and effective way possible?
Without a data feed management solution, you must overcome several challenges on your own:
- Each channel has its own requirements and policies that you must adhere to in order to sell or list products.
- You have a large catalog, but you don’t have an existing integration with each channel, so listing your products one-by-one will take forever.
- Your ecommerce platform may have an integration with certain channels, but there are limitations to how you can change or format your product data.
- You don’t have sufficient resources, expertise, and time to categorize all your products accurately and optimize your listings for better ad campaigns and search relevancy.
- You need to make sure your inventory is accurately displayed on each channel to avoid overselling and cancelling customer orders.
- Logging into the seller portal of each marketplace to process and fulfill orders is inefficient, especially if you have a high volume of orders.
- Issues in your raw data can cause your product listings to be disapproved and delisted from each channel.
How does a comprehensive data feed management solution benefit me?
List and optimize your product data to reach more valuable customers.
There are numerous challenges associated with listing products on one channel, so some companies avoid listing products on additional channels, effectively closing them off to a larger customer reach.
Every marketplace and advertising channel has its own minimum requirements for listing products. Merchants must supply the right information and attributes in a product catalog and correctly format the data to meet the channel’s standards for uniform listings across the site. Even simple problems with punctuation, syntax, spacing, and capitalization can prevent a product from being accepted.
Optimizing your product feed to generate clean and consistent product titles, descriptions, bullet points, and more helps improve search relevance and conversion. Including the required and recommended attributes in your product data results in high-quality listings that perform better across multiple channels.
The right data feed management solution automates product listing to different channels with a dynamic integration tool that optimizes your listings according to each channel’s requirements and best practices. The right solution would also categorize the products correctly so that the channel displays your items where they belong. Shopping channels allow customers to filter products by different attributes, so accurate and granular categorization also helps you reach the customers who are more likely to buy what you’re offering.
Automatically sync order data between your ecommerce system and the channels you list on.
When customers buy products from a marketplace, the data has to be transferred back to the merchant’s order management system. This can be done manually, by logging into the seller channel of the marketplace to gather the data, but with lots of orders on multiple channels, this becomes tedious quickly.
The best data feed management solutions have a two-way integration that allows you to easily sync order data between different channels and your ecommerce system. This ensures the data transferring process is accurate, efficient, and up-to-date.
Inconsistencies with data synchronization often cause delays in order fulfillment, open the door for user errors and incorrect data processing, and lead to missed shipping windows and cancelled orders. If this occurs frequently, your business may face consequences like decreased seller metrics, limited ability to sell on a marketplace, and decreased prioritization of your company’s products. Not to mention poor customer experiences and potentially negative reviews.
If you have a high volume of orders, or hope to have a high volume of orders, it’s important to streamline the fulfillment process as much as possible and reduce the potential for errors or delays. Merchants who list products on multiple marketplaces also need to be organized and have the flexibility to process orders with different formats.
For a multichannel or omnichannel strategy that includes selling products on marketplaces, order management is a must. Nine out of 10 online consumers desire a uniform and consistent omnichannel experience. With the right technology, the order fulfillment process becomes automated so you can trust that your data is properly and efficiently transferred between sites.
Enact data governance rules to safeguard your data and protect your business.
First, what is data governance? Data governance describes the general system for quality control that ensures there are checks in place to preserve the integrity of your data.
Data governance proactively addresses problems before they become headaches for you. For example, if there are problems with your raw data, data governance triggers will stop exports and send alerts when these issues are detected. The channel may alert you of errors in your listings after the catalog has already been updated, but reactive problem solving isn’t conducive to a successful ecommerce strategy and usually results in lost sales.
Data governance helps you identify when products are missing critical attributes, if an alarming number of products are out of stock, or if different data optimizations aren’t being applied automatically.
Find out why the world’s most prolific brands and online retailers choose Feedonomics
What are Some Examples of Data Feed Management?
Data feed management encompasses a wide range of tasks and processes.
1. Product Listing
Product listing involves a number of operations. The ultimate goal is to take product data from one source (or multiple) and use that data to create product listings somewhere else.
Imagine that you’re a merchant who is invited to sell products on Target Plus. You use Magento for ecommerce to house thousands of SKUs, but up until now, you’ve only sold products on your own website.
You need to find a way to get your products onto Target Plus. Because you don’t have an existing integration between your Magento store and Target Plus, you can either hire developers to build a custom integration in order to use Target’s API, or you can work with one of Target’s product listing partners.
To list products on any channel, you need to categorize the products correctly so that the channel displays your items where they belong. For example, you wouldn’t want a spatula to appear among athletic gear. Shopping channels allow customers to filter products by different attributes, so accurate and granular categorization also helps you reach the customers who are more likely to buy what you’re offering.
A product listing partner like Feedonomics formats your data to meet all of Target’s specific requirements for categorization and listing. It’s even possible to combine data from multiple sources, such as Magento and a supplemental spreadsheet, to create a robust catalog for the marketplace.
2. Product Feed Optimization
The goal of product feed optimization is to help your product listings reach their full potential with robust, consistent, and accurate product data.
For example, you might prepare your product titles for a Google Shopping campaign by making sure they all include the brand name, product name, relevant product nouns, colors, sizes, material, age, gender, availability, and more. Adding relevant product nouns like “running shoes” or “rain jacket” to listings is one way to improve search relevance.
You can’t bid on keywords with a Google Shopping campaign; instead, Google uses your product data to determine when and where your products appear in the search results, so optimizing your listings is crucial.
Optimizing your product feed also means assigning the correct product types to your products. This allows you to segment your ad campaigns more effectively. This is true even for Smart Shopping campaigns.
You can also apply custom labels to your products based on how well they sell, how much they cost, seasonality, and other criteria. When you use your product feed to create an ad campaign, you have the ability to segment products by these custom labels and bid more strategically on your ads.
3. Data Synchronization
Once your data is uploaded to a shopping channel or marketplace, it needs to be continually updated. Whether you’re adding or removing products, refreshing your stock, changing prices, replacing old images, trying out new descriptions, or making other changes, data feed management allows you to provide accurate data to customers on an ongoing basis.
Imagine the following scenario:
- You list products for sale on your website, advertise them on Pinterest, and sell products on Walmart Marketplace.
- You have five units in stock for a particular SKU. You only update your product feeds once in the morning, and once at night.
- You sell three units of a SKU on your website in the afternoon, bringing the total available stock down to two units.
- The product data on Walmart still shows five units in stock. Within two hours, a customer on Walmart’s site successfully places an order for three units of that SKU.
- Your inventory wasn’t updated in time. You only had two units available, so you now have to cancel that customer’s order. This hurts your seller rating on Walmart and is a negative experience for the customer.
A robust data feed management solution allows for automated and frequent updates of your inventory. You can also prevent overselling issues by putting buffers in place to reserve inventory when stock gets low.
Data synchronization is also helpful for keeping your prices competitive. For example, merchants who sell precious metals need to update their prices as often as possible to account for fluctuations in the market. Other merchants can generally update their prices and inventory feeds every hour to avoid issues on marketplaces and other channels.
4. Order Management
Data feed management solutions streamline the order fulfillment process by automating the transfer of order data from different channels to your ecommerce systems and back. This helps reduce the chance for shipping errors, data inconsistencies, and poor customer experiences.
This applies to marketplaces specifically and not advertising channels.
For example, a merchant who connects their Shopify store to eBay needs to fulfill any orders placed on eBay. One option would be to log into eBay’s Seller Hub and process the orders manually. This would include updating tracking information or cancelling orders. This process is tedious and could result in missed delivery windows, especially with a high volume of orders.
With an effective order management solution, new orders from eBay are automatically picked up and inserted into Shopify as if they are native orders. The merchant can fulfill (or cancel) the orders using the typical workflow for Shopify orders, and then pass the tracking information back to eBay automatically. eBay then notifies the customer of the order’s status.
5. Data Governance
Data governance safeguards your data to prevent major issues. Different actions are triggered by certain criteria, like guard rails that define the boundaries of abnormal and acceptable fluctuations in your data.
For example, imagine a scenario where your warehouse system crashes, and suddenly your raw data is inaccurate and all of your products are marked out of stock.
With data governance, a trigger could prevent your product feed from being sent to any channels when over 25% (or any other percentage you designate) of your products are out of stock. You could also choose to receive an email alert but not prevent the export.
Data governance rules are often used to alert you of pricing issues, missing images, or any other data concern.
Data Feed Management at Feedonomics
There are numerous ways to manage your data feeds. Apps that send your product listings to other channels without any optimization or data transformation are out there, and manually creating all of the optimization rules yourself is always an option. But apps are typically unreliable, offer limited customization, and have few channel integrations. They’re also known to have slow or almost non-existent technical support. Manual feed management often leads to a host of user errors, so you spend more time troubleshooting and less time selling products.
Feedonomics’ full-service data feed management solutions:
At Feedonomics, our solutions for marketplaces and advertising channels include full-service feed management and 24/7 support. Our experienced feed specialists are well-acquainted with different channel requirements and proactively identify ways to improve your listings. Rather than forcing merchants to set up their own channel integrations and feed optimizations, our feed managers are Feedonomics power users who do all the heavy-lifting for you.
We continue to add new channel integrations, features, and improvements to our feed management platform. For example, our FeedAi™ technology automatically categorizes products quickly and with a high degree of accuracy.
Having accurate and consistent data sets you apart from your competitors. In the ever-changing commerce market, companies that are ill-equipped to execute their ecommerce strategy struggle to differentiate themselves from and outpace their competitors. With the right data feed management solution, you can trust that your data is being properly handled and that your company continues to grow its customer reach and online presence.
With Feedonomics, the burden of managing listings, synching data, and ensuring the safety and accuracy of your product data is taken off of your internal teams that don’t have the resources, time, and expertise needed to remedy these issues. Our feed specialists handle complex integrations, optimize product listings, resolve errors, and much more, leaving you free to handle the everyday challenges of running a business. Book a demo today to find out which of our full-service feed management solutions is right for you.