E-commerce: A Solution to the Comparison Shopping Engine Hassle
Does your company market products through comparison shopping engines? Comparison shopping engines (CSEs) are sites such as Yahoo! Shopping, Shopping.com, Gifts.com, Pricegrabber, NexTag, MSN Shopping, Google Base and Shopzilla. CSEs aggregate SKU data from retailers for online shoppers.
Some retailers avoid CSEs due the technical hassle of sending product data to the engines and retrieving corresponding advertising cost reports. But today, the National Retail Federation (NRF) announced a new data format intended to simplify communication between retailers, agencies and CSEs.
The beta test of the standard took place last week when engineers at Channel Intelligence used the format to submit product data for electronics retailer Circuit City to the AOL Shopping platform.
The format consists of three XML specifications. The first provides a common format for retailers to describe their products to CSEs. The second gives a common format for CSEs to acknowledge correct and incorrect rows in a retailer’s feed submission. The third provides a common format for CSEs to report cost data back to the retailer – daily clicks and costs at the URL level.
The formats were developed by a committee of NRF’s Association for Retail Technical Standards (ARTS). Committee members included representatives from search engines including Yahoo!, AOL and Microsoft; from such multichannel marketers as Target, J.C. Penney and Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI); and from online marketing agencies including Mercent, Channel Intelligence, MARS and my firm, The Rimm-Kaufman Group.
Standards Help Everyone
“The situation is a digital tower-of-Babel, where different online shopping search and shopping engines take SKU data in different formats,” said MARS partner Jay Heavilon, who chaired the committee. “These new specs allow advertisers, engines and agencies to exchange product data more efficiently.”
With 9,000 consumer electronics products offered online, Circuit City stands to gain from the standards. “Standard data formats will help us get our product information out to our search engine partners with more speed, accuracy, and consistency,” said David Mathews, President of Circuit City Direct. “Our goal is to help online shoppers get better information when researching and buying consumer electronics.”