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Product feeds, the backbone of your e-commerce strategy, by Group M’s Hicham Auajjar

Product feeds may not be the first thing you think of when planning e-commerce, but they are the fuel to its success, writes Hicham Auajjar, head of services, M Platform, MENA, Group M.

Product feeds are the fuel of your e-commerce marketing. They are invisible to your visitors, sit behind your e-commerce presence but are key to your e-commerce success. Although they are often underestimated by marketers, seen as a technical element under the remit of their technical teams, they can make or break campaigns.

So, what exactly is a product feed?

A product feed, also known as product data or shopping feed, is a structured data file (CSV, TXT or XML) that contains product information. In its simplest form, a product feed contains this information about your product: its unique ID; title; detailed description; URL; price; a link to your product’s image; category; stock availability.

The above is a simplified list of fields available on a product feed. Advanced product feeds contain dozens of fields.

Product feeds can be used in verticals beyond e-commerce, such as travel and entertainment if you can structure data around the products that you are selling.

How are product feeds used?

Product feeds are used to distribute your product information to external shopping and advertising channels. Product feeds help you sell on more channels at scale, leveraging automation.

Below are some of the key channels where you can leverage product feeds:

E-COMMERCE MARKETING/ADVERTISING:

  • Google shopping: Google uses information on your product feed (via the Google Merchant Center) to display your products on the search engine result page in the form of a shopping ad.
  • Facebook Dynamic Product Ads: Facebook offers catalogue sales to promote your products either to new audiences via Broad Audiences or to existing audiences, serving ads of the products they have visited on your website across Facebook’s family of apps.
  • Snapchat Dynamic Ads: Snapchat launched dynamic ads earlier this year. The platform now lets you leverage your feed to personalise your ads for your customers.
  • Tiktok is also launching Dynamic Ads in beta and will enable advertisers to promote their product catalogue dynamically.
  • Paid search: You can use your product feed to dynamically create product-centric paid search campaigns aligned with your inventory.
  • Dynamic remarketing: You can leverage your product feed to dynamically retarget users through programmatic advertising.

MARKETPLACES AND SHOPPING

COMPARISON ENGINES:

  • Marketplaces such as Amazon: You can leverage your product feed to list products on Amazon and similar marketplaces.
  • Shopping comparison engines: Comparison engines (such as Pricena in the UAE) use product feeds to compare product prices across stores.

Why are product feeds important?

Product feeds power your omnichannel e-commerce strategy. The data is used by platforms to showcase your products, and below are some reasons you should make optimised product feeds a priority:

  • Media platforms rely on the information in your product feeds to display the right products to the right audience. If your product feed isn’t optimised, you are leaving sales on the table.
  • Prospective buyers want to see accurate data about the products they’re buying. If they don’t, they’ll probably shop elsewhere where they are provided with the information they’re seeking.
  • An updated product feed ensures minimum e-commerce marketing wastage. You don’t want to be promoting products that are out of stock. Your product feed hosts availability information, and keeping it updated ensures that you minimise wastage.

Which steps should I take to optimise my product feed?

Now that we’ve established the importance of product feeds, let’s look at some practical steps to help you optimise your product feed.

  • Cover your basics: Make sure that you have all the required information across the basic fields on your product feed.
  • Customise your product feed per channel: Each distribution channel has different requirements, so make sure to create an optimised product feed to cater to the different channels’ requirements.
  • Leverage advertising data to optimise your product feed text fields. Search terms, for example, are a great way to optimise your titles and descriptions.
  • Enrich your feed with additional fields and data points. Why stick to the basics when you can provide different platforms with enriched data? Leverage additional images, custom labels and any additional information that will help.
  • Keep it updated. This is an obvious one, but keeping your feed updated is the key to success in e-commerce marketing.
  • Use your product feed to uncover product-level insights. Which products are selling? Why? High-traffic products but low conversions? A product feed provides you with great insights at a product level that can help you take your e-commerce approach to the next level.
  • Incorporate business data points into your feed. Not all products are created equal; you can add margin data to your feed to activate campaigns based on business inputs, for example. Stock-level data, business priority, exclusive products – your business information can be incorporated into your feed to align your e-commerce activation with business imperatives.

An optimised feed is not a “good to have”; it’s a necessity. Optimising your feed can seem daunting, but with the right tools and approach it is achievable and it’s well worth the effort and investment.

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