What is a product feed and why is it important in eCommerce?

If you have an online shop and want to sell your products, your goal is certainly to have your offer displayed with the right information and in the best possible way.

 

No matter where you sell, your potential customers expect to receive product information that is accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date. That's why building and optimizing product feeds is crucial for online retailers.

 

markus-spiske-KeFyYzxqmH0-unsplash

 

 

What is a data feed?

Before we start going into what a product feed is, let's first explain what a feed is in general. You've probably come across them many times in your life. 

 

A feed is a stream of content. You can scroll through this content, which is displayed in blocks that look the same and are repeated one after another.

 

Computers can read feeds and use the information in them for a lot of different purposes. In addition, various feeds are used to provide users with fresh and regularly updated information.

 

 

There may be the following types of feeds:

  • Editorial feeds: various feeds on a web page. For example, we are talking about lists of news (a so-called news feed) or articles on a home page. An editorial feed is by default created in the RSS format.
     

editorial_feed

 

  • Listings: miscellaneous feeds that are lists of products or services (product feeds). They are most often used for advertising on various e-commerce platforms, such as Google or Instagram. The format of a directory is XML or CSV by default.

data_feed_listing


 

What is product feed anyway?

A product feed is a file that consists of a list of products or services, as well as attributes and product information. Product feeds are also called data feeds or product data feeds and they can be found in different formats:

 

  • XML (Extensible Markup Language)
  • CSV (Comma Separated Values)
  • TSV (Tab Separated Values)
  • JSON (JavaScript Object Notation)

 

 

Data feeds can contain product data on millions of products and there are different subtypes of them.

 


 

It's all about product data

Product data is all the information you have about the products you sell.

 

 

Your online store product data

Let’s imagine your online store. The products on your shop's website are displayed with various titles, descriptions, and images. There are different sizes of text and the images can be zoomed in.

 

adidas_data_feed

 

Sometimes you can use a dropdown menu to see several variants of the same product. The prices of your products are listed in a specific place next to or below specific products. 

 

If your product is not in stock, this information is displayed on your homepage.

data_feed_out_of_stock

The same in case of a sale - a new price appears on the homepage (e.g. it is presented in a new color) and the old price is displayed with a line above it, for example.

 

Where does all product information on your webshop come from?

All data related to your products comes from a primary database, which can be exported in the form of a product file.

 

product_feed_custom_label_spreadsheet_example-1

 

How do you create a product feed from your product data?

  1. You can do it manually.
  2. If you use a shop system then there is often the option to simply generate and import a product feed. However, it could usually use a little tweaking.
  3. You can use a feed creation tool.

 


 

Handling your product feed

The way you handle your product feed depends on the requirements of the particular sales platform. You’ll need to optimize your product feed according to the specific rules for each shopping channel.

 

Manual creation of product feed

You can build your product feed manually and submit it yourself to every sales platform you want to sell your products on. This will be in the form of a product file/spreadsheet.

 

basic-data-feed-optimization-format

 

The problem is that product data is not static. Every time you want to make a change to your feed, you have to import the feed and resubmit it to every sales channel. This will become very time-consuming.

 

There also isn’t a way for your data to be updated regularly on all sales channels. The only case where it pays to manage a feed manually is if you have very few products in your data feed.

 

Automated product feeds

The more products you sell, the more you need the automated product feeds that are constantly optimized and updated. You can also choose to use a feed optimization tool, such as DataFeedWatch, which does almost everything for you.

 

datafeedwatch-demo

 

You’ll just need to upload your feed to DataFeedWatch, which has templates for over 2000 shopping channels. By using one tool you’ll get a perfectly optimized product feed that meets the requirements of all platforms.

 


 

Why should you use product feeds?

If you are an online retailer and want to sell your products wherever your customers are, creating a product feed is a must.

 

Data on your webshop is not static: prices change, products are sold out, new products appear. If you also sell your products on other sales channels than your own webshop, all these changes can cause problems.

 

It is almost impossible to export a product file from your online store every time your stock status changes and upload it to specific sales platforms.

 

Therefore, the best solution is to create a product feed! A feed is typically accessed via a URL and you can easily make changes to it.

 


 

What does a product feed look like?

In a product feed there can be many columns and each of them contains some data about the product. These include:

 

  • Name
  • ID
  • Colour
  • Price
  • Size
  • Gender
  • Stock status

 

In the vast majority of cases, data feeds also contain images. Of course, you do not insert the images directly into your product feed. Instead, you insert the link addresses to product images, which are read by computers as text.

automate_data_feed

How many and what kind of columns (fields) you should have in your product feed depends on the requirements specified by the particular sales platform.

 


 

Types of product data fields in your product data feed

 

Mandatory fields in your feed

These are fields that you will need to include and fill in your product feed because it is the requirement of the particular shopping platform. If your feed does not contain all of them, it will be rejected by the platform and your products will not be transferred.

 

Different shopping channels require different fields to be included in your product feed. For example, Google requires your feed to contain the field "google_product_category", while Facebook and Instagram do not require this field. It is only recommended.

 

Recommended fields in your feed

You don't necessarily need to include these fields in your product feed. But the various platforms still recommend that you do. The more product data you include in your data feed, the better the chances that your products will be shown to the right audience. Because these fields are not mandatory, your product feed will not be rejected by the platform, but you should include them for the success of your campaign. 

 

 

As an example, think about Facebook, where the "gender" field is recommended but not mandatory. If you sell t-shirts for women, then it’s good to indicate the products are dedicated for women by filling this field in your feed. You don't want your ads to appear for men because you risk wasting a lot of ad spend.

 

 

Custom fields in your feed (custom labels)

Sometimes you want to create ads that show only specific products, but there is no field in your feed that includes all of them. If you use a feed management tool then it is very easy to do. You’ll just need to add an extra field in your product data feed. 

 

Imagine that you only want to advertise products that are on sale. In this case, you’d just add a field in your product feed called "on sale" and then fill all rows with "true" or "false". This way you can filter all your products and create a custom group of products that you want to advertise.

 

An even faster way of doing this is creating a new rule in an optimization tool: "On sale" if sale_price is "is not blank". You can see what the rule looks like below:

 

custom_feed

 


 

Product feeds in eCommerce

Product feeds are most often used in eCommerce. Various sales channels and marketplaces use them to retrieve product data from your online store. Shopping channels then use the data from your product feed to display your products on their marketing and sales platforms.

 

 

Each channel has its own specific requirements about which fields and product features your feed should contain. Shopping platforms examine the data in your product feed and thus assess the quality of your campaigns. They decide whether your products or your competitors' products should be displayed for search queries from your potential customers.

 

Therefore, it is super important that your product feed contains:

  • the right and up-to-date product information
  • all product data required by a given sales channel
  • the highest quality content
  • relevant keywords

 

Only if you have everything in your product feed, will you have a great chance of succeeding with your campaign. Without a well-optimized product feed, you risk wasting your campaign spend.

 


 

The benefits of using a well optimized data feed

 

Better quality and greater visibility 

The product feed is the only source of data that you provide to sales platforms. Therefore, it is crucial for your campaigns that your data feed is perfectly optimised.

 

If your feed contains complete and detailed product data of the highest quality then Google and other platforms will recognize that. Because of this, they will show your products to more recipients and you'll outperform the competition.

 

Check this Case Study and see the results! 

 

Data accuracy 

You can’t have any discrepancies between your web shop and the products listed on the sales channels you use. Your customers should always have up-to-date data about your products. If one of your products is sold out or new products appear on your webshop then it should be reflected immediately on the sales channels.

 

If a discrepancy occurs, your prospects may be disappointed and this may eventually lead to the suspension of your account on a particular sales platform. With a well-optimised data feed, your product data on different platforms is always up-to-date.

 

Saving on ad costs

By using an optimized product feed, you make sure that you don't waste too much money on advertising. Your detailed product data ensures that your product ads are shown to the right audience (men/women, older/younger, etc.) without paying for irrelevant clicks. You’ll have a better chance of attracting traffic that converts.

 

You may also find interesting: [Case Study] With CSS ads, our CPC dropped 33% and ROI grew by 61%

 

 


 

How do you optimize your product feed?

Aside from including all the fields required by each platform, you also need to make sure that your product data is optimised. Below are some tips on how to improve the quality of your product feeds.

 

 

Optimise your product images 

Images are the first thing people notice when they see your ad. Every product in your feed should have an image. To choose the right images of your products, pay attention to image size and format. Images should not be misleading and they should show the product in such a way that customers know what to expect. You can read more about optimising Google images in our guide.

 

yellow_umbrella

Optimise your product titles

Product titles are the second most important element. That's why you need to make sure it's well optimised. Your product titles should contain keywords that match your potential customers' search intent. The most important information should be placed first. It should contain product specifications such as colour, size, material, brand, etc.

 

infographic_products_feed_ENG

 

The order of them depends on the item’s category. These are just a few tips. We have written a whole article on optimizing product titles because this topic is inexhaustible.

 

 

Category mapping

Most sales platforms have their own categorization system. This can be the problem. In your feed, you certainly have some categories assigned to your products already. But on different channels, they may be named completely differently. Thanks to a data management tool, you can assign the right categories to the right products according to the platform you sell on. 

google_product_category_taxonomy

On some platforms, mapping categories is not mandatory, but we highly recommend that you do it. You can significantly increase your sales results if your products are categorised correctly and your ad traffic becomes more relevant.

 

Recommended next read: Google Product Category: How to get it right without going crazy?

 

 

Exclude products from your feed

Sometimes products that you sell and advertise on different platforms just aren't profitable. When analyzing your sales results, pay attention to which products you are making the most profit on and which products you should stop selling/advertising.

 

If you have millions of products in your product feed, it can be cumbersome to exclude certain products. However, this is again very easy if you use a feed optimization tool.

 

In addition, such a tool allows you to exclude products that are not profitable on one sales platform while continuing to sell them on other sales platforms where they are profitable. In this way, it is much easier to run your multichannel strategy.

 

Learn how to exclude products from your feed!

 


 

In which cases should you use the help of a feed optimization tool?

 

If you are not experienced in e-commerce and need support

Are you just starting to sell online? Not sure how your product data should be handled? Don't know what the product feed requirements are for different sales channels? A feed optimization tool can help you get it all sorted.

  

If you sell a lot of products 

Unless you have very few products in your feed then it pays to use a feed management tool. The more you expand your product catalog, the harder it becomes to keep control of your assortment.

 

  

If your product data changes frequently

A feed optimization tool can help you a lot if your product properties change frequently. It's about price, amount of sales you have, size, colour, inventory all play a role. If you don't use a feed optimization tool, it will be very difficult to make changes, import and export new product feeds regularly.

 

If you want to sell on many sales channels 

There are lots of options when it comes to sales channels where you can offer your products. Many online retailers want to run a multichannel strategy nowadays. It's absolutely normal to not have the product feed requirements memorized for each channel.

 

A good feed optimization tool has feed templates for almost every platform, and you don't have to worry if your feed meets them all. With a feed optimization tool, you won't make any mistakes in your feed.

 


 

Conclusion

In this article, we have given the answer to what a product feed is and why it is important in eCommerce. Product feeds are a crucial element if you are an online retailer. It is definitely worth investing your time and other resources in it, and thus optimizing your sales campaigns. Building and optimizing your product feed can make a big difference across your campaigns. 

 

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Written by Jagoda Adamik

Jagoda is a content creator and specialist in the Scandinavian region, especially in Denmark. She loves writing, travelling and reading non-fiction books.

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