Feed management generally refers to the supply (“feeding”) of target systems with data. This supply occurs through so-called data feeds, which are files that contain structured information and are adapted to the requirements of the respective target system.
In the context of ecommerce and online marketing, this involves supplying the target systems with high-quality data on products or services for improved performance and effectiveness. Product data feeds enable organizations to display, compare, and strategically advertise any product online. While the content and structure may vary based on the target system, the goal is the same: deliver high-quality, up-to-date, relevant, accurate, and comprehensive information to facilitate informed online purchasing decisions.
Typical target systems for product data feeds:
- General marketplaces (“everything stores” such as Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba)
- Specialized marketplaces (“multi-category marketplaces,” e.g., Zalando, Limango, and “vertical marketplaces,” e.g., Manomano, Douglas)
- Comparison portals (e.g., idealo, Check24)
- Search engines
- Social media
- Data pools
- E-procurement platforms of large corporations and purchasing organizations
- Shopping ads (e.g., Google, Bing)
- Website tools (e.g., for website search functions, ratings and reviews, buyer confidence, shopping cart abandonment services, and post-purchase campaigns).
Although the list may suggest that product data feeds are mainly relevant in the B2C sector, they're just as valuable for B2B. This is because when resellers have access to up-to-date, high-quality product data that seamlessly integrates into their websites, they can significantly shorten time to market and increase sales.
These target systems, including various platforms such as marketplaces and search engines, have a commonality — they operate independently and are beyond direct control. As a result, there is limited influence over the presentation style and technical requirements for delivering data on these platforms.
At the same time, marketplaces, in particular, offer companies the opportunity to reach new markets and target groups within a short period of time. Large providers such as Amazon and eBay have a global presence and can quickly boost your reach and visibility.
Why is feed management increasingly important?
The reasons why feed management has developed into an independent discipline of growing importance are as follows:
- The number of online marketplaces has developed rapidly in recent years. From 2015 to 2022 alone, the number of marketplaces in the DACH region tripled.
- The share of online marketplaces in global ecommerce sales is growing at an above-average rate and is expected to rise to over 40% by 2024, doubling the market share within a short span of time. Since the coronavirus pandemic, marketplaces have become an increasingly important medium for customers to research products, decide what to buy, or even make a purchase there directly.
- Online marketplaces offer companies the opportunity to expand their global reach quickly. However, it’s important to note that each country has its unique marketplace topography and its own top players in each sector.
Source: ecom consulting GmbH + gominga eServices GmbH: “The Marketplace World 2022”
As a result, the number of channels companies need to manage has grown significantly and is expected to continue to rise. Consequently, there will be a notable rise in the demand for efficient management of product data feeds. In addition, every platform or system receiving product data feeds has specific structural and content requirements. And these specifications evolve over time, prompting feed creators to make regular adjustments.
Therefore, businesses are increasingly tasked with producing high-quality and complete product data feeds for numerous platforms, aiming to keep information up-to-date and deliver the latest updates as quickly as possible. This challenges organizations to find innovative ways to efficiently manage feeds and swiftly adapt to evolving platform requirements.
How can product data feeds be created?
There are three ways to create a product data feed:
- Manually: Based on a data export from a previous system, content and formal adjustments are made to meet the requirements of the target system. This process must be repeated for each target system and each update, making it error-prone and labor-intensive.
- Individual integration: By creating an individual interface between the source system(s) and the target system, an attempt is made to eliminate the above-mentioned problems (error-prone and labor-intensive). The problem here, however, is that an increasing number of target systems leads to considerable effort for the creation of the interfaces. Additionally, due to changing channel requirements, adjustments to the interfaces must be made reactively and regularly.
- Feed management solutions: In recent years, an independent class of functions has emerged that can be used to create and manage product data feeds and position themselves as middleware between delivery systems (such as PIM or MDM systems) and the target systems. These functional classes are sometimes developed as a module within an overall solution but sometimes also as an independent system.
The core aspects of such feed management solutions include:
- Turnkey integrations: Feed management solution providers have a varying number of standard integrations to target systems. With some of these, over 1,000 target systems can be connected “out of the box.” This means that users no longer need customized (and therefore lengthy and expensive) integrations, and additional platforms can be connected “at the touch of a button.”
- Automated connection: Channel managers can set up an initial product data feed for each target channel without any technical knowledge and then benefit from an automated connection. Changes to the product data, the onboarding of new product ranges and products, as well as new data requirements from the platforms can be implemented quickly and easily by updating the product data feeds.
- Quick adaptation to specification changes: Different platforms have varying technical and structural requirements for data feeds. Effective feed management solutions, therefore, adapt the feeds to meet the technical specifications of each channel. Ideally, the providers of feed management solutions are in close contact with the platform operators to learn about and anticipate specification changes at an early stage.
- Product data optimization: Tailoring electronic product catalogs for different platforms is key for seamless integration. Each platform has its unique requirements for attributes, images, and data hierarchies. For instance, the length of product titles, product descriptions, or image formats, as well as the availability of individual items, must be adapted to each case. The system should guide users on specific platform needs during data feed setup. This ensures an optimized presentation of product information. Additionally, storing knowledge within the feed management system reduces reliance on individual expertise, minimizing risks.
- Updating information: Product features, prices, and availability are constantly changing. Effective feed management, therefore, ensures that data feeds are regularly updated to provide accurate and up-to-date information on the platforms.
- Price optimization: Feed management systems support channel managers in determining the optimal sales price based on price analyses on the marketplaces. This type of "dynamic pricing" makes it possible to determine the best price at all times based on freely adjustable rules, available stock levels, and comparisons with competitor products. For price-sensitive products, this can even be done automatically according to predefined rules and without manual intervention.
- Further analyses: Feed management solutions also offer, at least in part, the option of transferring, evaluating, and visualizing key figures (such as reach, conversion rate, and turnover) from the connected platforms in the feedback channel. This enables channel managers to identify areas where action is required and, if necessary, initiate improvements. They can also see how their products are positioned on various marketplaces compared to competitor products and can react accordingly. This helps achieve what is often referred to today as “digital shelf analytics.”
The main advantages of a feed management solution include:
- Reduced effort: The effort required for the initial creation and ongoing updating of product data feeds for the desired target systems is significantly reduced.
- Shorter time to market: Thanks to the high degree of automation, changes to products and new products can be transferred to the target systems much faster and made available for sale there.
- Easier access to new channels: The use of standard integrations makes it possible to present and sell products very quickly on other marketplaces.
- Improved data quality: Both the knowledge of the individual specifications of the various marketplaces and the opportunities for improvement based on analytics findings help to improve the quality of product information. This, in turn, improves findability, presentation, and ranking on the platforms.
- Ultimately, all these benefits contribute to higher sales tracking and greater returns.
Product data feeds are a proven and effective means of providing product data to target systems. By using feed management, companies can work more efficiently and, at the same time, increase their online sales success.
To ensure the effective use of a feed management system, it’s essential to integrate it with a data-supplying system that can provide structured, granular product information — i.e., a PIM system.
Integrating the “Feed Management” function class into a PIM system is a strategic move for any company that wants to showcase and sell its products on an increasing number of platforms. Deep integration enables seamless end-to-end processes with a high degree of automation. Discover more insights in our upcoming blog articles covering “Digital Shelf Analytics” and “PIM + Feed Management + Digital Shelf Analytics – the dream team.”
Managing Director SIMIO