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Data Feed Basics for Comparison Shopping Engines

Getting Into Comparison Shopping: Step 1, The Data Feed

Is your business ready expand into comparison shopping engines (CSEs)?  You’ll need to get your hands on a product data feed to start!

Follow the Vertical Rail blog for our upcoming series of posts focused specifically on data feeds.  Today we begin with a basic introduction and in following weeks, will delve deep into each CSE’s data feed specs and unique requirements.

What is a product data feed?

In its simplest form, a data feed is a structured spreadsheet listing all of your products. In a data feed, each numbered row represents a single product and each letter column contains one characteristic of that particular product.

An example of a product data feed

A product data feed can be created in Excel or other spreadsheet software and then either uploaded directly to comparison shopping engines through their respective dashboards or through FTP.

Comparison shopping engines use the data provided in your product feed to identify, classify and catalog your products. They then employ that information to match products to shoppers’ search queries and display the products when they are most relevant.

Where can I get one?

Most shopping carts have modules developed to export a base data feed of all your products.  In other cases, a data feed is hosted on a URL.  If your cart does not have the functionality to produce a product data feed, you may need to build out your data feed by hand.

What format should my data feed be in for X comparison shopping engine?

The most commonly accepted file format is a simple tab delimited text file – below is a chart of a few CSEs and their file supported file formats as well as general upload information.

A few accepted feed formats for comparison shopping engines
Click to enlarge!

What product attributes and values should I include in my data feed?

Most comparison shopping engines require a core set of attributes such as a product title, description, price, link, and image link.  The header values, however, will vary by engine.  For example, Google will require your header to state “link” and “image_link” where Shopping.com will require “Product URL” and “Image URL”.

Each individual engine will provide merchants with a list of required and recommended attributes to include in their data feed.  Providing information for all applicable attributes will allow engines to better categorize your products and will allow shoppers to filter through your products.

Some of these attributes fields only accept standardized values; for example, Google Shopping will accept “in stock” or “out of stock”, but not “available” or “not available”. Other fields are open to any value provided by the merchant. Titles, descriptions, IDs and prices are all examples of this type of open attribute.

As for what specific product attributes you should include for each CSE, stay tuned in the following weeks for detailed posts about each individual engine!

 

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Please post below!

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