First things first, and we should start with a definition. What is an product feed, or data feed?
Any data feed is essentially a file (.CSV, .XML, .XLS or any other type) that lists all your product information, such as product ID, product name, description, price, stock availability, etc. The format of the affiliate data feed is normally such that the affiliate can interpret and understand it, be it with or without the help of any additional piece of software.
Why may they need one? This is exactly the question that I have just received from a merchant who has just started an affiliate program. The e-mail read:
I’m curious as to how and when this will be used. In the past we have used data feeds on online shopping sites, such as BizRate, SortPrice, etc. Why does an affiliate need a product feed?
By supplying affiliates with data feeds, you are enabling them to feature your products right at the affiliate websites. For this purpose, besides the above-quoted pieces of information, your data feed should also include URL paths to thumbnail and larger product images, URLs leading to the pages where the individual products are featured, product categorization, and even product- and niche-specific keywords. Affiliates will then be able to import your data feed into their website(s). Some will use such software applications as WebMerge, others will work with online-based solutions such as PopShops, GoldenCAN and DatafeedR.com, yet others will code themselves. The final goal is to present either the whole merchant’s product line (or a part of it) on the affiliate website, giving the visitors of the latter a chance to browse, search, and view the products right on the affiliate website. The affiliate does their pre-sell job, and when the customer is ready to place their order, they click a button (it can say “Buy”, “More Info”, “Further Details”, “Purchase”, “Place Order”, etc) and get transferred to the merchant website to place their order.
Merchant product feeds have a powerful potential to enhance most any affiliate website, and if you are operating in a retail sector, and run an affiliate program, you must offer an affiliate data feed.