What is a Product Data Feed?

In e-Commerce, product feeds or data feeds are used regularly especially when you are exchanging large amounts of information or data. But what exactly is a product feed? Why do you need it? And what are some best practices when it comes to creating and using them?

What is a Product or Data Feed?

A product feed is a file that contains a list of all your products and its attributes. Attributes can include:

  • Product Name
  • Product ID
  • Price
  • Description
  • Landing Page
  • UPC Codes
  • Category
  • Stock Availability
  • Weight Size and dimensions
  • Technical Specification
  • Keywords

The most commonly used file formats are XML, CSV and TXT. While they can sound intimidating, think of them as a fancy excel spreadsheet with all your products information nicely organized.

Product feeds are used to provide information from your store to sales channels so buyers can easily find your products. So for example, if you are a manufacturer and you want to get your products listed on marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon, a product feed enables your products to be added to their site quickly.

In the world of affiliate when we talk about data feeds we are referring to product feeds that merchants provide to affiliates to better list and promote their products. The affiliate can take the information in the feed and manipulate it in any manner they want to use on their own websites.

They can display all the products, maybe they just want to list some categories, list by price or offer a curated selection of products. Affiliates love to work with merchants that have data feeds so if you currently don’t have one, you should make this a high priority. Providing a detailed and up to date feed to your affiliates is sure to help them better promote your products, helps with your long-term relationship and ensure you have a more successful affiliate program.

Why do affiliates need a data feed:

  • Price Comparison Sites – feeds are required to run sites that compare pricing.
  • Paid Search Affiliates – Affiliates use the attributes in feeds to determine campaign keywords and bidding.
  • Content sites – product feeds ensure that the information is up to date and correct.
  • Loyalty Sites – pages with voucher codes also include information about the products. To do this, they must use a product feed.

Data Feed Requirements

Each affiliate network will have different requirements. It’s important to format the data feed to each networks specifications. While this can be time-consuming to format for each one, it really offers you the best chance for success in each network.

For example, ShareASale has 6 mandatory fields that are required:

  • SKU (column A) – must be unique, duplicate SKUs will be removed
  • URL to product (column C)
  • Price (column D)
  • Category (column I) – must correspond to the ShareASale numeric options listed below the data feed specifications table under Creatives >> Datafeed
  • Subcategory (column J) – must correspond to the ShareASale numeric options listed below the data feed specifications table under Creatives >> Datafeed
  • Merchant ID (column N)

The file must be saved as a zipped.CSV and can be uploaded under Creatives >> Datafeed.

There are helpful documents available within each network to help you format the feed to their specification. Once your feed is ready, upload to your account. Affiliates can then import your data feed to your website.

Several networks have created some tools to help affiliates get the most out of data feeds. ShareASale has their Make-A-Page tool which helps bloggers create a storefront so that readers can shop from a list that they have curated. There are also several software applications, for example, datafeedstudio and datafeedr. These make it easy to import products from feeds and build your own stores.

Here is an extensive list that we compiled and is available on our blog: https://www.amnavigator.com/blog/2012/04/13/20-affiliate-tools-for-working-with-product-data-feeds/

So know that you know what a Data Feed is and how to use it, what are some best practices?

  • Make sure you include all fields, even including those that are not compulsory.
  • Follow the specification and guidelines carefully.
  • Check URL links and make sure they go to the correct page.
  • Make sure your link is mobile friendly. The landing page may look good on a desktop but not so great on a mobile device.
  • Keep out of stock products out of the feed. It will hurt you if an affiliate finds a product they want to promote only to learn it is no longer available.
  • Make sure your titles are search friendly.
  • Create compelling descriptions that are optimized for SEO and give as much info as possible.
  • Affiliates don’t want to write product descriptions and will rely on what is provided.
  • Ensure you use high-quality images. Images are the only way customers can get a feel for your product. Providing multiple images that show your product at different angles and maybe some lifestyle images.
  • Update your data feed regularly. This is a great way to keep affiliate promoting your product. If you don’t update regularly, affiliates don’t trust that the data is accurate and they can move on to a competitors brand.
  • Use unique SKUs for each product.
  • Verify that your products are categorized correctly.

As the world of e-commerce continues to grow, it’s more important than ever to have a well planned and updated feed. This will help set you apart from your competitors, encourage affiliates to promote your products and hopefully lead to increased sales.

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