By Cormac Cahill, Product Development, Bright North

Retailers know the complexity of running a retail business in a world led by the consumer. As consumers continue to demand simpler and more cost effective ways to purchase, retailers are challenged by the rapidly increasing number of customer touchpoints, including search engines, price comparators and affiliate marketers. With hundreds of sales channels and huge affiliate networks, keeping a grip on the quality of the brand experience has become a complex exercise for the digital marketer.

Product data feeds as part of the ecommerce toolkit are taking centre stage in this battle to keep control of quality across all channels. As online retail sales continue to grow (this year will see a 16.2% rise in online sales to £58bn) the need for an optimised feed is critical. Broken links, poor quality or missing images and inaccurate pricing are just a few factors that lead to lost revenue and poor brand experience.

Good product feeds help maintain a quality brand experience, enhance a retailer’s online presence and increase the chance of converting a visit into a sale. Below are just a few areas in which a quality feed can help to optimise the customer experience across a retailer’s sales channels:

Search – a comprehensive feed means products are categorised properly with accurate meta-data, allowing for the right products to be found easily and increasing the chances of converting – vital when there are many similar products available.

Relevancy – faulty product feeds can have a detrimental effect in retargeting ads, which work by showing consumers products that retailers believe they have recently viewed and therefore have an interest in. If an irrelevant ad is shown it will diminish the chance of a conversion; with industry click-through rates currently only 0.1% it pays to show an ad that’s relevant.

Personalisation – if products are not described correctly, then the consumer’s experience is diminished. It’s generally accepted that targeted marketing is far more effective than non-targeted marketing, with personalisation the ultimate form of targeting. Accurate product feeds play an essential role in making this happen.

Tracking – understanding where your feed performs the best, what sells and what doesn’t and crucially where there could be broken links or errors is fundamental to the success of an ecommerce strategy. Up to date reporting, that flags out of date images or broken links and gives insights into sales, allows retailers to act quickly and dictates a smarter approach to marketing campaigns.

Device optimisation – product feeds should adapt to the multitude of devices that consumers use to browse and shop. Without a smart product feed the experience is diminished and there is a risk of losing the customer’s attention.

Dynamic feeds – updating offers as and when they change can have a big effect on conversion rates. In industries such as travel, where prices change often it pays to ensure any banner ads displays an accurate price or companies risk customers turning to competitive brands.

Digital marketers are fast realising the need for an optimised feed, those that are putting product feeds at the forefront of their ecommerce strategy will be reaping the rewards in the months to come.