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    How to Set Up Retail Product Feeds

    January 22, 2024
    11 minute read
    How to Set Up Retail Product Feeds

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    Streamlining internal communication makes up only half the equation for growing a robust ecommerce presence. 

    You also need to seamlessly communicate with external partners, be it your downstream distribution channels or your upstream suppliers, to effectively exchange product data.

    There are many different types of technologies and companies helping companies exchange data with each other. 

    They solve headaches associated with:

    • Exchanging logistics data for purchasing and shipping;
    • Publishing content to retailers and marketplaces; and
    • Receiving content from suppliers. 

    Here’s how to look beyond a company’s internal ecommerce systems and focus on how companies communicate with each other. 

    Standards for Exchanging Logistical Data Feeds

    For years, companies have been experimenting with ways to efficiently share dataWhen it comes to standards for this shared data, the area that’s made the most progress is logistics.

    Electronic data interchange (EDI) is one such example. It’s a standard format for transmitting product content as strings of “data segments,” as opposed to fields of data in a spreadsheet.

    Before businesses start trading EDI content, they agree upon the type of EDI standard to follow, usually based on the EDI translators they have available (much like picking a language based on the translators installed on your computer). Then they start transmitting content by stringing together “data elements” – price, size, weight, etc. – with a delimiter separating them.

    If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is. Companies that use EDI to communicate with each other tend to be bigger, well-established corporations on both sides of the exchange, and have relatively robust IT resources to draw upon. If you’re a smaller retailer or brand you are almost certainly not using this.

    The Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN) is another example. Brands and retailers who are part of GDSN exchange information formatted in the GS1 “common language” of product content. With one format of product content recognized across all of these channels, retailers spend less time chasing after suppliers to submit complete, properly formatted data, and suppliers spend less time customizing data for each unique retailer.

    GDSN and EDI both are heavily weighed towards information like UPC, weight, and other attributes that are geared for logistics. So while these standards help companies get better data to load into their ERP systems and create POs, they don’t do a great job with the marketing copy and assets that populate the front-facing pages of ecommerce sites.

    Content Aggregators for Receiving Data Feeds

    Another player in this space is the content aggregator. Content aggregators build databases of product information and then sell retailers access to this data. 

    So while they aren’t directly involved in the communication between suppliers and retailers, content aggregators do attempt to make direct business-to-business (B2B) exchange of data unnecessary by creating a pool of data from suppliers in a given market.

    As a retailer, the upside to using a content aggregator is that you get data for all the products you carry in a single, consistent, unified format without having to spend time chasing down updates from every single supplier.

    The downside is that you have zero ability to get rich content NOT provided by the aggregator, so your shopping experience will appear almost the same as any other retailer using data from the same source. Another major downside is that you're using the same content as everyone else.

    Content Syndicators for Publishing Data Feeds

    On the other side of the equation lie content syndicators. As with content aggregators, these companies attempt to make direct B2B exchange of data unnecessary by acting as a middleman and translator of the unique requirements of each channel.

    Simply put, content syndicators will publish your product data — and any updates — to large downstream marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, or Google Products. Oftentimes they’ll also provide (paid-for) services that will even map your content to the requirements of the downstream targets for you.

    Content syndicators are the structural opposite of content aggregators: one publishes data to multiple channels, and one aggregates data from multiple sources.

    Direct Business-to-Business (B2B) Exchange

    The major advantages of doing direct B2B data exchange instead of using middlemen like content aggregators and syndicators are two-fold.

    On the brand side of the exchange, significantly more control is made possible since the brand itself, and not a content aggregator, is producing the descriptions, benefits, images, and other marketing copy that is shown on retailer websites. This helps a brand control its image of everyone online.

    On the retailer side, it enables retailers to differentiate themselves from other retailers by providing a richer ecommerce experience including videos, retina-friendly images, and other content that is likely not available from a content aggregator.

    Find the Right Systems for Your Needs

    Understanding how your product's content moves internally is important, but also understanding how to effectively distribute your product content externally rounds out the picture for a successful ecommerce strategy. 

    Whether you’re looking at just exchanging logistical data or finding and publishing detailed marketing content, there are multiple systems to fit each need. 

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    Tag(s): GDSN Data Pool

    Written by: Emily Saka

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