Many retailers will know the complexities that running a retail business in today’s technology-led world brings. As customers’ expectations rise, savvy retailers are growing and enhancing their purchasing channels. The opportunity is vast; online revenues are growing in nearly every market around the world. Annual global retail sales topped $22trillion in 2014 with $1.3 trillion or 6% coming from ecommerce. This represents a 22% year-on-year increase and is predicted to almost double to $2.5trillion by 2018.

Maintaining quality across sales channels

Despite many retailers today having greatly improved their websites for both desktop and mobile devices, with creative images and colourful descriptions, it is often difficult for the retailer to fully manage that efficiency across all of their sales channels.

With hundreds, if not thousands, of publishers forming part of a retailer’s sales channel, keeping a grip on quality is getting harder and harder. However, the value of these publishers to the retailer is immense, not only in monetary terms but in brand values. Keeping control of product data feed quality is an essential ingredient in any successful ecommerce strategy.

Value of product feeds and innovative technologies

Product data feeds help distribute a retailer’s products across the web to many different customer touchpoints, including search engines, price comparators and affiliate marketers, to increase overall sales. They should be straightforward, easy to integrate, frequently updated, contain accurate product information and images. Technology exists that allows for the easy transfer of product data to any part of the internet. But the reality is that many retailers are failing to maintain quality across their channels, due mainly to dated product feed technology.

Broken links, poor quality or missing images and inaccurate pricing are just a few factors that lead to lost revenue and poor brand experiences. Good product feeds help optimise online presence and allow retailers to sell more. As new channels open up, creating ever more complexity, the problem is further compounded.

Investing in product feed technology that is robust, easy to integrate and is constantly upgrading its feature set will be help retailers to provide a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints.

Here are a few ways in which product feeds can enhance your ecommerce strategy:

1. Search

Feeds should have all products categorised correctly with accurate metadata. Poor feeds, where users are shown incorrect items due to poor categorisation, result in reduced conversion rates. A comprehensive feed allows the right products to be found quickly and easily, and increase the chances of conversion.

2. Relevancy

If the product feed is faulty it can lead to a prospective customer being shown an irrelevant advert, reducing the chances of conversion significantly. With an industry average click through rate of just 0.1%, it pays to show a relevant ad.

3. Tracking

Good product feed technology should provide insight into where a feed performs the best, what sells, what doesn’t and where there are errors or broken links. With thousands of products listed by some retailers, finding data errors in-house is almost impossible. Up to date reporting that enables broken links, images or product descriptions to be flagged and fixed quickly results in more sales. Additionally, insights into what is driving traffic to a site are equally important, knowing what channels are creating more sales allows for a smarter approach to marketing campaigns. Generating increased intelligence from the data is key to optimising any ecommerce strategy.

4. Optimised for device

If visitors to a retail site are viewing a product on a mobile device, their browsing experience is often very different to that of a desktop computer user. A product feed should adapt to the nuances of the differing devices and provide solutions for both.

5. Dynamic feeds and accuracy

The travel sector, with its rapidly changing inventory, needs as near to real-time feeds as possible. If product data is fed to a banner ad promoting a flight at £200 when the actual price has changed to £250 then the resulting lack of trust could have a detrimental effect on the customer relationship. Publishers must have the most up to date feeds, with alerts flagging when prices have changed, or companies risk them turning to competitor brands.

Product data feeds and the issues surrounding them may not be front of mind for most marketers, but they should be. As online revenues continue to grow and distribution channels continue to be more complex – there’s never been a more important time to review this essential part of the ecommerce toolkit.


By Cormac Cahill, Product Development at Bright North. 

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