Back in the late '90s the first shopping comparison engines came on the scene and allowed retailers to begin syndicating feeds of their product inventory.
The first comparison sites began to drive significant online conversion volume for retailers, and as such the inventory feed was squarely in the center of a retailer's conversion universe, driving significant more revenue than any other ad channel.
Then Google AdWords happened, putting into motion the inventory feed's decline into relative obscurity in the world of online marketing.
For the next few years, just about the sexiest thing you could do with feeds was Yahoo SSP (paid inclusion) program – and we all felt a little dirty about that one. Feed management was relegated to a dark recess of the organization, somewhere below the SEO team and only slightly above corporate IT.
Then just last year something strange happened. Google made the feed cool again. By integrating Google Shopping and their nascent Product Listing Ads (PLA) offering into a single marketplace, Google created one of the most significant retail advertising channels on the planet. And that marketplace is driven by a retailer's inventory feeds.
In a recent research report, RBC's Mark Mahaney mentioned that many retailers are seeing as much as 10 percent or more of total online sales coming from PLA. This dwarfs all other online ad channels with the exception of Google's own keyword search marketplace. A Q3 RKG study mentioned that PLA is the catalyst for finally making non-brand search work for its retail clients.
So now that feeds are critical again, it's important to focus on what you can do before the holidays to get your feeds in shape to have at all of this high quality traffic available to you. Here are a few tips on things you can do in the next couple weeks:
- Study the Google Merchant Center specs. Know them inside and out. Refresh your knowledge every couple of weeks since they tend change a lot.
- Let your SEO and SEM folks have an impact on what content ultimately lives in your feed. They tend to know how to align content to queries better than the merchandisers do.
- Start posting your feed more regularly than you have in the past. For Google, fresh and accurate content = high quality content. High quality content = lower CPCs.
- Hire a third party to audit and improve the quality of your data -- make them show you what they'll do to your feed before signing up.
- Evaluate a new class of feed driven offerings. A recent Monetate study showed that Pinterest AOVs exceed all other social channels – Pinterest now offers a feed service to enhance the quality of your pins with rich data. It's currently free, so give it a shot!
Feed folks, you have a few weeks to step up before the holidays. Make those inventory feeds work for your business this holiday and go from marketing zero to marketing hero in no time.