Lee Brignell-Cash

Member Article

Power your product marketing with data feed technology

The UK is one of the world’s leading e-commerce economies but as online channels continue to diversify and multiply, it’s now more important than ever for advertisers to make accurate product information available to consumers and advertising partners alike.

Advances in mobile and web technology, combined with the power of social media and a tough economy have altered the way in which consumers engage with brands online. The number of consumer ‘touch points’ have also increased. Merchants are responding by adopting a multichannel approach, building-out their e-commerce capabilities, seeking wider distribution of their products and new ways to engage and interact with consumers.

However, online marketing tools have in the past been hard to find, difficult to use and often based on inaccurate product information. This is why data feed technology has become so critical to retail e-commerce. Comprising elements of product level data such as; promotional text, pricing, product images, availability and product SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) the information is extracted from the front end of the merchant’s e-commerce website. High-quality data feeds allow merchants to create a single unified platform of distribution to maximise both brand consistency and product visibility.

Technology drives fundamental shift

Digital marketing today embraces a wide range of online channels and applications. Established options such as affiliate or ‘performance’ marketing, email marketing and pay per click (PPC) search have diversified and become more sophisticated. At the same time, comparison shopping engines (CSEs), dynamic advertising (widgets, interactive banners), Facebook Commerce (f-commerce) and mobile commerce (m-commerce) are all of growing importance to merchants looking to promote their products online.

However, this proliferation of streams within the online channel makes it much harder for merchants to work successfully across them all. This is why the development and impact of rich product data feeds and innovative tools for their creation, distribution and management has been so important. In the past, merchants have struggled to ensure that pricing and availability information included within the feed accurately reflected their inventory on a daily basis, while feeds can quickly become unwieldy if they include too many combinations of different products.

But it’s not just the quality of the data itself that is critical; there must also be consistency in the formatting and this is where a lot of unstructured data feeds can struggle. Online marketing partners often find key fields/attributes are missing from feeds, making integration across, for example, CSE’s extremely difficult. Another fundamental issue is where deep links and thumbnails are either broken or fail to take the consumer through to the correct page on the merchant’s website, meaning the opportunity to convert a consumer online is lost.

Powering performance in digital marketing

By extracting product data directly from the merchant’s e-commerce website (front end), it is possible to create a comprehensive and accurate feed encompassing the merchant’s entire inventory. This feed can then be used to power rich product information into a number of online marketing applications. Tools are also necessary to trim the feed at a granular level to meet the specific requirements of the third-party application, as well as to build ‘creative’ such as banners and widgets and provide deep links back to the merchant site.

For example, savvy content affiliates are using data feeds to match embedded links within blogs, news, recommendations and reviews to relevant products on merchants’ websites. Loyalty affiliates incorporate product information into their voucher code and cash back offers, while product comparison and paid search affiliates use a range of attributes within data feeds to determine pay-per-click (PPC) campaign keywords and create copy.

Data feeds are proving just as powerful in many other online marketing applications. For example, companies like ExactTarget are using data feed technology to give merchants the ability to send an email offering a discount to a consumer who has previously put a product into their basket but didn’t finish the sales process. Typically, ExactTarget reports that this type of email activity drives a conversion rate of 8-12 per cent. Using product feed data to populate the email with details and images of the product the consumer had viewed previously, the conversion rate can rise to around 18-22 per cent

Similarly, advertising widgets can be created using data feeds and embedded within social media sites. For example, a Facebook widget can be posted to a wall and if ‘liked’ by someone, it is automatically ‘shared’ to their friend’s wall, thus ensuring a viral media effect. Meanwhile, data feeds compiled with the right filters and interface can be used to create m-commerce sites offering a better mobile browsing experience than conventional sites. This approach has successfully been adopted by m-commerce site developers such as ShopStyle and O2.

Keeping UK businesses ahead amidst e-commerce boom

Retailers on UK high-streets may be feeling the squeeze as consumers reign-in spending, but the e-commerce sector continues to reap the benefits of growth in the web economy. Some 250,000 people are now employed by e-commerce companies in the UK, with many of those jobs created by small and medium-size businesses.

According to research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and sponsored by Google, the UK is the world’s leading e-commerce economy, which accounts for more than 7.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and this is expected to rise to 10-13 per cent by 2015.

Continued innovation is therefore critical for UK SMEs if they are to build on their strong reputation in the e-commerce market and embrace the opportunities presented by this vast untapped potential in the sector. Likewise, business leaders must continue to harness technological breakthroughs – whether adapting business models to benefit from the success of social media, or joining the revolution in mobile shopping.

FusePump is a living, breathing example of British innovation and a successful technology business. Launched as a privately-funded business in March 2009, FusePump is a pioneer in data feed technology and defied the recession to become profitable within just six months. The company has established a customer base that now includes a host of major household brands – including lastminute.com, Nokia and Sky. FusePump is also working with a number of major clients in the US, including JC Penney and Macy’s.

Visit: www.fusepump.com

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Lee Brignell-Cash .

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