Product Data Feed Standards Sought
While comparison shopping sites such as Froogle, Shop.com and Shopzilla can provide an opportunity for multichannel marketers to reach new customer universes, they also present a unique set of challenges.
Because there are myriad formats of product data feeds (the information you provide to the sites), this creates problems if you want to sell products on more than one site, says Alan Rimm-Kaufman, CEO of interactive marketing firm The Rimm-Kaufman Group.
In a move to combat these dilemmas, merchants, search agencies and search engines met at Shop.org’s FirstLook 2006 in Atlanta in January to discuss the need for a common standard for describing merchandise via product data feeds on comparison shopping sites.
In the current system, each search engine has a slightly different set of data requirements for merchants who advertise products using the feeds. At the January meeting, merchants said that working with more than one engine meant presenting the same product data in varying formats. Meanwhile, search engine executives at the meeting said this practice often leads to faulty or imperfect data that require more work on their behalf to interpret, according to Rimm-Kaufman who organized the meeting. For their part, search agencies stressed the need for a common platform to receive machine-readable advertising reports from the engines.
The meeting’s participants agreed to move toward a common standard with the assistance of The National Retail Federation’s Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS). Rimm-Kaufman says ARTS’ experience with establishing standards will smooth the process, possibly allowing a standard to be put in place by year’s end.
Companies in attendance included merchants Sierra Trading Post, RedEnvelope and REI; marketing agencies Performics and Mercent; and search engines Yahoo, MSN and Shop.com.
MSN Shopping officials told Catalog Success they’re looking for ways to make it easier for buyers and sellers to find each other online. “If an industry standard for data exchange between online portals and merchants gets us closer to that goal, then we’ll support it,” said an MSN spokesperson.
Eileen Schlagenhaft, catalog marketing director at Cushman’s, a multichannel fruit merchant, has provided product feeds to Amazon and Shop.com and notes that a standard would reduce the setup time with each search engine. “With a product feed standard in place, if other engines approached me, it would be much easier to test those sites, rather than figuring out how to get all of our products loaded,” she says.