What Makes A Good Data Feed Tips For Merchants - Slides for eComXpo - 28.Jan 2009

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This are the slides for my presentation at eComXpo.com Virtual Internet Marketing Trade Show (Jan 28-29, 2009). My presentation is the last presentation on the first day of the show, on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 8:20 pm EST.

The presentation (with audio) is about 50 minutes in length and has 43 slides, which you can download here.

Note: If my voice in the actual presentation sounds a bit odd, sorry for that. I recorded the presentation while I had a bronchitis and barely any voice at all :(

I will publish the video recording on the presentation on Google Video after my presentation was first presented at eComXpo.

... and don't forget to check out the datafeed resources at my site Cumbrowski.com/datafeeds
and Cumbrowski.com/datafeeds101

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What Makes A Good Data Feed Tips For Merchants - Slides for eComXpo - 28.Jan 2009

  1. 1. What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Presented by Carsten Cumbrowski <ul><li>Each type of affiliate has different needs and requirements to be able to leverage your product feed and integrate it into their web sites. </li></ul><ul><li>What are those different types, what are their individual needs and why? </li></ul><ul><li>Technical best practices and specific actionable tips for how you can make your data feed easily accessible and to work with. </li></ul><ul><li>How to make them work across different platforms to avoid losing big chunks of affiliates for mere technical reasons. </li></ul>The ingredients for a data feed that is actually useful for your affiliates. Internet Marketing Resources Portal Presentation is available at Slideshare.net/Cumbrowski.com
  2. 2. Carsten Cumbrowski - Short Intro What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Born in (East) Berlin/Germany </li></ul><ul><li>Came to the United States in May 2000 </li></ul><ul><li>Affiliate marketer since early 2001 </li></ul><ul><li>Affiliate manager for BevMo.com 2002-2006 (via CJ) </li></ul><ul><li>Operated a price-comparison site for several years, where I worked with hundreds of product data feeds; from networks and custom </li></ul><ul><li>Blogger at ReveNews.com and SearchEngineJournal.com </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing resources collection at Cumbrowski.com especially http://www.Cumbrowski.com/datafeeds </li></ul>
  3. 3. The Structure of this Presentation What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>The use of Data Feeds and their Content </li></ul><ul><li>Technical Tips to Format, Deliverability and Structure </li></ul>
  4. 4. Feed Affiliates are Made Equal What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal
  5. 5. Feed Affiliates are NOT Made Equal What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal
  6. 6. Feed Affiliates are NOT Made Equal What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal
  7. 7. Types of Feed Affiliates (Generalization) What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Price Comparison Sites </li></ul><ul><li>Niche Directories </li></ul><ul><li>Coupon Affiliates/Price Drops </li></ul><ul><li>Content Affiliates/Specialty Sites </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers </li></ul>
  8. 8. Types of Feed Affiliates (Generalization) What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Content Affiliates/Specialty Sites </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers </li></ul>Should not use raw product data feeds, but sometimes do, due to the lag of alternatives
  9. 9. Content Affiliates/Bloggers What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal Should not use raw product data feeds, but sometimes do, due to the lag of alternatives Provide tools that are based on product feeds <ul><li>Widgets/Gadgets </li></ul><ul><li>Product Show-Case Creators </li></ul>
  10. 10. Content Affiliates/Bloggers What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal Use 3 rd Party Providers and/or Custom and/or Networks Provide tools that are based on product feeds. <ul><li>Widgets/Gadgets </li></ul><ul><li>Product Show-Case Creators </li></ul>
  11. 11. Types of Feed Affiliates (Generalization) What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Price Comparison Sites </li></ul><ul><li>Niche Directories </li></ul><ul><li>Coupon Affiliates/Price Drops </li></ul><ul><li>3 rd Party Tools Providers </li></ul>
  12. 12. Examples: Price Comparison Site What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal
  13. 13. Examples: Price Drop/Coupon Site What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal
  14. 14. Examples: Niche Directory What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal
  15. 15. Examples: Content Site (Widgets) What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal
  16. 16. Everybody Likes What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Unique Identifier of Product within Feed(s) </li></ul>
  17. 17. 1. Price Comparison Affiliates What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal Information to match your products with the same product by other merchants <ul><li>BAR Code Information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>EAN / EAN-13 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>UPC-A / UPC-C </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ISBN / ISBN-13 (“Bookland”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>and/or </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Manufacturer Part # / Manufacturer Name </li></ul>
  18. 18. 1. Price Comparison Affiliates What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Info to determine/estimate FINAL purchase price </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shipping Cost </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Packaging and other Surcharges </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tax Information </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Usually smaller product images/thumbnails preferred </li></ul><ul><li>Detailed Description is often appreciated to build info page for “master product” </li></ul>
  19. 19. 2. Coupon Affiliates / ”Price Drops” What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Start/End Date/Time for “ on-Sale ” Price, if available </li></ul><ul><li>“ Regular-Price” is used for MSRP (SRP or RRP) ? </li></ul>
  20. 20. MSRP Problem Illustration What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal
  21. 21. 3. Niche Directories What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Product Categorization that makes sense </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t “lump” thousands of products into one category </li></ul><ul><li>Also try to avoid one product = one category </li></ul>
  22. 22. 3. Niche Directories / Categorization What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal 1. 2. 3.
  23. 23. What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal
  24. 24. The Basic Elements What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Format </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Column Delimiter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Row Delimiter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Escaping of Special Characters/String Formatting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Headers/no Headers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Structure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Column Names, Order, Types and Defaults </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Delivery Methods/Access to Feed </li></ul>
  25. 25. What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>There is NO Right Format or Delivery Method! </li></ul><ul><li>Provide as many Options as Possible! </li></ul><ul><li>Let each Affiliate Choose for Itself! </li></ul>
  26. 26. What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal Document it! Affiliates are NO Fortune Tellers! Knowing is ALWAYS better than Assuming!
  27. 27. What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal Whatever you do is entirely your choice and should be controlled by business sense and economics Most Affiliates can work with what you got, if you provide Documentation. One Exception! It must be possible to Access and Process your Feeds without any human interaction! <ul><li>No Login Forms to fill out </li></ul><ul><li>No Messages that must be acknowledged </li></ul><ul><li>No Choices that must be made manually every time </li></ul>
  28. 28. What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal The Power of Know! Practical Example Canon - PowerShot 10.0-Megapixel Digital ELPH Camera – Silver SKU: 8800577 http://.../images/products/ 8800 / 8800577 _sc.jpg http://.../images/products/ 8800 / 8800577 _sb.jpg http://.../images/products/ 8800 / 8800577 _sa.jpg Thumbnail Images (Product Listing) Medium Size Image (Product Detail) Large Image (Pop-Up)
  29. 29. What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal The Power of Know! Practical Example Sony - Cyber-shot 10.1-Megapixel Digital Camera - Green SKU: 8943129 Guess the URLs to the different sized product images for this item!
  30. 30. What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal The Power of Know! Practical Example Sony - Cyber-shot 10.1-Megapixel Digital Camera - Green SKU: 8943129 http://.../images/products/ 8943 / 8943129 _sc.jpg http://.../images/products/ 8943 / 8943129 _sb.jpg http://.../images/products/ 8943 / 8943129 _sa.jpg Thumbnail Images (Product Listing) Medium Size Image (Product Detail) Large Image (Pop-Up) Correct?
  31. 31. What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal The Power of Know! Practical Example Sony - Cyber-shot 10.1-Megapixel Digital Camera - Green SKU: 8943129 http://.../images/products/ 8943 / 8943129 _sc.jpg http://.../images/products/ 8943 / 8943129 _sb.jpg http://.../images/products/ 8943 / 8943129 _sa.jpg Thumbnail Images (Product Listing) Medium Size Image (Product Detail) Large Image (Pop-Up) Oops!
  32. 32. What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal The Power of Know! Practical Example Sony - Cyber-shot 10.1-Megapixel Digital Camera - Green SKU: 8943129 http://.../images/products/ 8943 / 8943129 _ r c.jpg http://.../images/products/ 8943 / 8943129 _ r b.jpg http://.../images/products/ 8943 / 8943129 _ r a.jpg Thumbnail Images (Product Listing) Medium Size Image (Product Detail) Large Image (Pop-Up) Why r and not s ? I have no Idea.
  33. 33. Some Specific Tips Based on my own personal experience and talks with other people who work with data feeds and both end of the process, including: What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Merchants </li></ul><ul><li>Networks </li></ul><ul><li>Third Party Vendors </li></ul><ul><li>Other Affiliates, including “competitors” </li></ul>
  34. 34. Some Specific Tips What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Column Delimiter: TAB character (ASCII character code 9) </li></ul>Feed content is used in almost every case for the use on the Internet and rendered in HTML. HTML does not have a TAB character or an equivalent for it. Any TAB character in content of your product catalog should be replaced with something appropriate. You probably do this already on your own web site, where you get the same problem. Ask your webmaster what they do there. Maybe there is no TAB character in the database Anymore already, or they might replace TABs with a fixed number of spaces. Whatever the Case might be, do the same during the export of your feed and include this information In your feed documentation for your affiliates.
  35. 35. Some Specific Tips What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Row Delimiter: Line-Feed (ASCII character 10) </li></ul>The format to indicate a new line in text files (line-break) varies between computer platforms. I strongly recommend to let your affiliates specify the platform they are using to process your feeds, save it with their account and generate feeds for them according to this setting. Microsoft Windows (and MS DOS) uses the character combination of Carriage-Return (CR, ASCII character 13) and Line-Feed (LF, ASCII character 10) Unix and Linux systems only use the Line-Feed character (LF, ASCII character 10) Macintosh uses only the Carriage Return character (CR, ASCII character 13) Most Windows and Macintosh DB applications are capable of handling the Unix line-break.
  36. 36. Some Specific Tips What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>No special enclosure of text values, e.g. using double-quotes </li></ul>There is no need for this special treatment, especially if you replaced all column and row delimiters that appear in the content itself. I did not have the space left in the previous slide, but I strongly suggest replacing any line-breaks that appears in your content with Something else and again include this information in your feed documentation. I suggest using <BR/> , which is the HTML tag to generate a line-break. The advantage of doing this is obvious and publishers who do not like it can easily strip or replace it during the import of your feed, if they want to.
  37. 37. Some Specific Tips What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal Include Column header as the first Row within the feed. Do not use any special characters in the name, including spaces. Use only the characters a-z and/or A-Z, 0-9 If you want to _ as a separator between words for better readability. Make the column titles as descriptive as possible, but also as short as possible. This is not a substitute for a Written documentation of the feed structure. It only supports it, like a reference card only supports a user manual, but not replaces it. Do not make the titles longer than 64 characters <ul><li>Use First Row in the Feed for Column Titles/Headers </li></ul>
  38. 38. Some Specific Tips What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal You want relay hierarchical information within your two-dimensional data feed. For example a product category structure. The semi-standard method of doing this is to include all parents of the node in the column data, which contains the information about the node where the item is attached to in addition to the node itself. The individual levels are usually separated by the character “>”. The value starts with the top parent node in the root and ends with the node itself. Example: Item A is attached to sub-category Z. Sub-category Z is a child node of Category Y, which is right below the root of hierarchy. The content for the category information of Item A would look like this: Category Y>Sub-category Z <ul><li>Transmitting Hierarchy Information </li></ul>
  39. 39. Some Specific Tips What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Initialize cells with no values for the item properly </li></ul>Numeric Values Usually 0, if there is no value. You can use the initial value to relay information about the format of the data in this column, if you actually have data for an item. This is especially helpful, if only few items have a value for it or if the value is seasonal in nature and not used all the time. 0.000 Numeric values with up to 3 digits after the decimal point (e.g. weights) 0.00 Numeric values with up to 2 digits after the digital point (e.g. price values) 0.0 Numeric values with up to 1 digit (e.g. length, dimensions) 0 Numeric values without digital point. Numbers.
  40. 40. Some Specific Tips What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal <ul><li>Initialize cells with no values for the item properly </li></ul>Date/Time Values Often left empty if item has no value for this property. What is the format, if there Is a value? Is it just a date or only a time or date & time? U.S. date format, British? Maybe ISO xxxx or something entirely different . Maybe even just text entered by a human with no rules (oh horror!). There are ways to let publishers know (additionally to spelling it out in the documentation of the feed) via the initial values in the feed data . Examples for some initial date/time values that can “talk” about the format for records that do have real values to watch out for: 01/31/1900 31/01/50 12:00 AM 19001231
  41. 41. Some Specific Tips What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal … There are many more tips like this, but beyond the time limit and scope of this presentation. I included the ones that I consider to be the most important ones and caused me at least the most head-aches and problems with the processing and use of merchants Product data feeds. There is much more. See the resources recommendation at the end of my presentation. … and more; and more… etc.
  42. 42. Recommended Data Feed Resources What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal Article Merchant Product Data Feeds for Affiliates – 101 http://www.Cumbrowski.com/datafeeds101 and Slideshare.net/Cumbrowski.com Collection of Resources http://www.Cumbrowski.com/datafeeds
  43. 43. This Presentation is available at: What Makes a Good Data Feed? Tips for Merchants Jan 28 -29, 2009 Internet Marketing Resources Portal Slideshare.net/Cumbrowski.com Carsten Cumbrowski [email_address] www.Cumbrowski.com/about www.Cumbrowski.com/contact Thank You!

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