As performance marketing matures, merchants and affiliates are seeking the most efficient ways to drive traffic, conversion rates and profitability.Yet product feed technology is not well understood and there is a growing list of potential online marketing applications that require feeds in different formats 

With more e-commerce sites than ever before, it is vital that any product promoted online via a third party website can be found quickly and easily. The consumer wants the information they are looking for to be delivered in one simple, clean hit. To achieve this, a merchant can build a product data feed for a specific online marketing application, comprising product information such as product attributes, promotional text, pricing and availability. 

However, product data feeds must often be supplied and structured in different formats for different third-party online marketing applications. Applying a product feed across multiple channels (e.g. affiliates, PPC search, email marketing) and potentially hundreds or thousands of third-party sites increases complexity by an order of magnitude. 

In the past, merchants have also struggled to ensure pricing and availability information included within the feed accurately reflects their inventory on a daily basis. In addition, the product data feed can become unwieldy if it contains too many combinations of different products. All too often, it was left to the affiliate to extract product information in the format required to convert it into consumer-facing content. The result was inaccurate product information resulting in a poor consumer experience that can be damaging to the merchant’s brand. 

Data feed technology has therefore evolved, with advanced data extraction, feed creation tools and platforms being developed. This has enabled merchants, affiliates and other agencies to use product level data across a wide range of online applications to drive up conversion rates and incremental revenue.

Getting tooled up – the power of the data feed

Next-generation data feed solutions allow feeds to be generated and deployed quickly and at low cost by extracting the ‘front end’ product-related HTML code from the website, with no requirement for any ‘back end’ data – or expertise on the part of the merchant. By harvesting elements such as pricing, availability and product attributes directly from the merchant’s website, it is possible to ensure that the extracted data feed is comprehensive and accurate. A merchant can then deliver this to its network affiliates, third-parties or into web based applications, such as advertising widgets. In fact, all of the product elements can be delivered into content that their online audience may be engaged with. 

At the same time, affiliates also need feed creation and management tools to quickly and accurately convert information carried within a merchant’s product feed into consumer-facing content. They also require controls for ensuring consistency in ad/brand messaging, and to present special offers or engaging content relevant to their target audience.

Interactive and engaging content is critical in the conversion of the online consumer. Ad and widget creation tools, for example, can allow affiliates to generate dynamic adverts that go beyond the simple ‘banner advertising’ concept and enable consumers to interact with products via the banner. Furthermore, Facebook Commerce (f-commerce) and social media widgets also provide an effective way of engaging customers with brand-relevant, fun and potentially viral media. 

Delivering mutual benefit

The complex nature of affiliate marketing can certainly bamboozle all but the most tech-savvy. There needs to be investment of time and resource from both merchants and affiliates to make it work long term. 

Product data feeds that are accurate, well structured and rich in information simplify the affiliate proposition by making distribution of the product feed much easier. When feeds are combined with ‘easy to use’ deployment tools that enable the customisation of feeds and the production of dynamic advertising units, they provide a platform for powering the best online product marketing performance.