Feed management in e-commerce: optimising the presentation and sale of your products on marketplaces

Author: Jürgen Burger

published on: 12.12.2023

Feed management generally refers to the supply ("feeding") of target systems with data. This supply takes place via so-called data feeds; these are files that contain structured information and are customised to the requirements of the respective target system. 

In the above-mentioned context of e-commerce and online marketing in particular, this involves supplying the target systems with data on products or services with the aim of using these in the target systems for presentation and sales. Specifically, we are talking about so-called product data feeds, which can be used to display, compare and advertise any product on the Internet. Product data feeds differ in content and structure depending on the target system, but the goal is always the same - namely to provide high-quality information (up-to-date, relevant, accurate, comprehensive) so that buyers can make purchasing decisions on the Internet.

Typical target systems for (and therefore customers of) product data feeds are

  • general marketplaces ("everything stores" such as Amazon, eBay, Alibaba)
  • specialised marketplaces ("multi-category marketplaces" e.g. Zalando, Limango and "specialist marketplaces" such as Manomano, Douglas)
  • Comparison portals (e.g. idealo, Check24)
  • Search engines
  • Social media
  • Teleshopping
  • Data pools
  • E-procurement platforms of large corporations and purchasing organisations
  • Shopping adverts (e.g. Google, Bing)
  • Website tools (e.g. for website search functions, ratings and reviews, buyer confidence, services for shopping basket cancellations and post-purchase campaigns).

This list seems to suggest that product data feeds are only relevant in the B2C business segment. But they are also highly relevant in the B2B business segment - because resellers can certainly sell more of a company's products if the company provides them with up-to-date, high-quality product data that can be easily transferred to the resellers' website(s).
All of these target systems have one thing in common: they are not owned and therefore not controlled by the company itself. Therefore, the type of product presentation and the technical specification for data delivery cannot be influenced.
At the same time, marketplaces in particular offer companies the opportunity to reach new markets and target groups within a short space of time. Large providers such as Amazon and eBay have an international presence and quickly help their own brand to achieve greater reach and awareness.

Feed management has developed into an independent discipline of growing importance for the following reasons:

  • 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 e-commerce sales is growing at an above-average rate and is expected to rise to over 40% by 2024; this corresponds to a doubling of market share within just a few years. Since the coronavirus era, marketplaces have therefore become an increasingly important medium for customers to research products, prepare purchase decisions or even make a purchase there directly.
  • Online marketplaces offer companies the opportunity to internationalise quickly. However, it is important to note that each country has its own marketplace topography and its own top players in each industry (see also the following graphic).
  • As a result, from the perspective of the individual companies, the number of target systems to be "fed" has already grown considerably and will continue to increase.
  • This in turn means that the number of product data feeds required is increasing significantly, so that the need to manage them efficiently is growing.
  • In addition, each recipient of product data feeds has their own unique requirements in terms of structure and content. These individual requirements change more or less frequently over time, forcing feed creators to make regular adjustments.

All of this has led to more and more companies being required to create high-quality and different product data feeds for an increasing number of platforms, to keep them up to date and to provide recipients with up-to-date information regularly and as quickly as possible. This results in an exponentially growing effort for companies.

How can you create product data feeds?
There are basically 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 fulfil the requirements of the target system. This process has to be repeated for each target system and each update and is therefore error-prone and labour-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 labour-intensive). The problem here, however, is that with an increasing number of target systems this leads to considerable effort for the creation of the interfaces; on the other hand, the requirements of the target systems change again and again, so that the interfaces have to be adapted reactively.
  • Utilisation of 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. You can find an overview of the best-known of these solutions in our Navigator.

The core aspects of such feed management solutions are

  • 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 to carry out individual (and therefore lengthy and expensive) integration, 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 realised quickly and easily by updating the product data feeds.
  • Quick adaptation to specification changes: The individual platforms have different technical and structural requirements for data feeds. Good feed management solutions therefore also take into account the possibility of customising feeds to meet the technical specifications and requirements of different target systems. Ideally, the providers of feed management solutions are in close contact with the platform operators in order to learn about and anticipate specification changes at an early stage.
  • Product data optimisation: The use of platforms requires individually prepared electronic product catalogues, as each platform has different requirements for the necessary attributes, image formats and data hierarchies; for example, the length of the product titles, the product descriptions or image formats as well as the availability of individual items must be prepared differently in each case. When setting up a specific data feed, the system ideally provides information on the requirements and content guidelines of the respective platform. In this way, feed management systems contribute to the optimised provision of product information. Knowledge is also documented in the feed management system, which avoids personal expertise and the associated 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 optimisation: Feed management systems support channel managers in determining the optimum sales price based on price analyses on the marketplaces. This type of "dynamic pricing" makes it possible to determine the best price at any time 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 rules and without manual intervention.
  • Further analyses: Feed management solutions also offer, at least in part, the option of transferring, evaluating and visualising key figures (such as reach, conversion rate, turnover) from the connected platforms in the feedback channel. This enables channel managers to recognise the need for action and, if necessary, initiate improvements. They can also see how their products are positioned on various marketplaces compared to competitor products and are able to react accordingly. This enables a part of what is usually addressed today with the term "digital shelf analytics".

The main advantages of a feed management solution are therefore

  • Less 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 one's products on additional marketplaces very quickly.
  • 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 increase the quality of product information. This in turn improves findability, presentation and ranking on the platforms.

Ultimately, all of these benefits contribute to higher sales tracking and greater returns.

The quintessence:

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.
A prerequisite for the efficient use of a feed management system is integration with a data-supplying system that can provide structured, granular product information - i.e. a PIM system.
The addition of the "Feed Management" function class to a PIM system makes sense for all companies that want to present and sell their products on an increasing number of platforms. Deep integration enables seamless end-to-end processes with a high degree of automation. More on this in our upcoming blog articles on the topics of "Digital Shelf Analytics" and "PIM + Feed Management + Digital Shelf Analytics - the dream team".

The Navigator

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