What is a product feed?
A Product Feed is a batched submission of product content from your eCommerce system to other eCommerce websites, aggregators, etc. Product feeds are used to enable the presentation of your product content across the other sites, resulting in either links back to your eCommerce site (a.k.a. new visitor) or submission of completed order from a partner site (a.k.a. order injection).
Should you be taking advantage of product feeds?
Aggregated shopping comparison websites are becoming ubiquitous; from the well-known e-commerce pillars like Amazon.com and eBay to Shopzilla, Google Shopping, and Yahoo! Shopping. More and more online shoppers are going directly to these sites to search for products and to comparison shop and others are getting directed to these retail hubs via directories, search terms and sponsored/paid links. Either way, you’re missing a growing chunk of the marketplace if you aren’t submitting your products to these e-shopping meccas. So how do you get a piece of the action? You need to set up a Product Feed for those products that you want populated on particular sites.
Getting started with product feeds
Pick the site(s) you want to have your products feed to. Find out where your competitors are peddling and peddle alongside of them (or ahead of them). Capitalize on the sites your competitors are not yet on also! Do a little research on these prospective sites: ROI, traffic numbers, cost/fees (%), rules & restrictions, etc. Though there may be a similar premise, not all of these sites operate the same way.
For example, some sites will let you have a link to your website from theirs. So a shopper could find a product on Google Shopping and see that you are the retailer and click through to your website to learn and shop more on your site, taking them out of Google. This is in your favor. Amazon’s business model is different. There is not as much opportunity for cross promotion/linking, because while they will let you list your company name and information, they do not allow people to easily escape to another retail site. You may have more cross marketing opportunities with Google Shopping, but get much more visibility and in turn, conversions with Amazon. You have to weigh the pros and cons; including:
Pros: Product feeds can help you stay competitive; get you in front of people who otherwise might not make it to your site; your product(s) can become an ancillary sale to shoppers who were looking for something else; become ever-present – name/brand recognition; show up in more places under more searches; increase revenue; it’s like having multiple storefronts without the overhead; direct people to your website; a potentially new introduction to a new buyer; receive product reviews and ratings; automate product feeds…
Cons: Requires more involvement and more resources; these places are the middle man and they need to get paid; portrays less exclusivity; your products are among more competition; you’re competing against Amazon/wholesale prices; have to deal with stringent rules and restrictions…
Setting up product feeds
Setting up product feeds requires some technical know-how and because each site is unique, with its different particulars, it is best to research and get familiar with each sites’ technical requirements. Some are more complex than others and require more advanced skills. Here is a quick overview of feed formats:
- Google Base supports tab-delimited text format and various XML formats including RSS1.0, RSS2.0, and Atom feed format.
- Other product listing sites use proprietary formats that are either plain text or XML format.
- Emerging RDF format: Semantic web standards such as RDF are taking root. It is expected product feed will soon adopt this new web standard.
Do your research. Weigh the pros and cons, and if you decide you want to play in the massive field of product feeds, allocate the resources to make the endeavor worth your while and watch sales flourish.