In this week’s masterclass FusePump’s Sam Hodges explores five ways to master your product data. 

Marketers today get very excited about “personalisation”, “programmatic media buying” and “dynamically optimised online advertising”. But without accurate and comprehensive product information, in a usable and optimised data feed, these concepts and channels cannot be used to their full advantage. Mastering your product data is key to unlocking your multi-channel marketing potential – and there are some straightforward ways to improve your product feeds for maximum success and improved performance.  

1. Make your product information accessible and usable

It’s all very well to say “take control of your product data” – but what does that really mean? Your ecommerce website doubtless contains all the up-to-date, relevant information relating to your products: you can gather up all of that, create a feed, and consider yourself organised. It’s not too tricky.

But when you send your products into other channels, such as paid search, affiliate marketing, comparison shopping engines or retargeting partners, you will have to meet that partner’s specific criteria before consumers will actually start seeing your products. Become familiar with the specification and make sure you’re sending what’s actually being requested, because otherwise the whole exercise is pretty pointless.

2. Ensure nothing is missing or broken

It might sound obvious, but once you’ve gone to the effort of making sure your product data is all in one place, you need to actually validate it (the trickier part).

Within the feed, there may be attributes missing or image URLs that point to the wrong place. While small errors are understandable, they may have a bigger impact on your digital marketing than you think. As well as making the products more difficult to find (or indeed invisible to customers) on third-party sites, a low-quality feed can be rejected by partners, for a variety of reasons.

Technology exists to check for data that isn’t valid, to weed out those broken image URLs and to spot empty fields. You can also set up rules so that products with missing information don’t get sent to marketing partners and ruin your chances of being listed. The handy thing about checking for data quality in your product data feeds is that you may also find ways you can improve your own website and the consumer experience.

3. Optimise product titles and descriptions

Once you have a functional product feed, there are plenty of ways to enhance the data therein, to make your products more easily discovered and stand out against those of your competitors.

On your own website, short titles can work well – within the context of your brand website, people understand what they are looking at. But, out there in your multi-channel marketing universe, your products have to speak for themselves: and be easily found when consumers perform a search, on Google or a comparison shopping engine. Therefore it’s a good idea to get the relevant information into the product title: for fashion retailers, this might include gender, colour, size, and brand, as well as the actual name of the actual product.

Similarly, the descriptions for your products should be keyword-rich and useful to consumers – but this doesn’t have to be labour-intensive for you. It’s possible to add the product title and further attributes into the product description automatically, particularly where the title doesn’t meet the specified character length criteria.  

Indeed, optimising your product feed should be an ongoing process.  Partner requirements will be evolving constantly, and your data should be keeping up.

4. Use the words people expect you to use

Most marketing channels will describe and categorise similar products in different ways. For your feed to make sense to a marketing partner, you need to use the language they use. This may mean re-categorising products (so where you use Womenswear > Dresses, another channel may go for Clothing > Women > Dresses) and updating common attributes like colour. “Cyan” may be your brand’s way of describing blue items but, for the colour attribute in your feed, you are going to need “Blue”. This sort of thing can be done automatically with the right technology in place.

This isn’t just to please your marketing channel partners: it has a real effect on your channel performance. It’s incredibly useful for consumers who filter during their buying journey, and may inadvertently miss your product (even though it’s perfect for them). As ecommerce grows and grows, consumers do expect personalised, targeted marketing, with accurate information and a consistent user experience.

5. Let affiliates get creative with your product data

The most important thing is to make it as easy as possible for publishers to promote your products, and it’s worth doing this in a way that will really engage your consumers. Under a CPC model, engaging ads are basically free branding for you.

With smart technology, you can give affiliates the power to create dynamic banner ads and on-site widgets, which contain your live inventory and search filters for interested consumers. Let’s face it: awesome creative isn’t really awesome unless it can be powered by clever technology and optimised to do something useful that converts customers efficiently.

Mastering your product data isn’t just about getting it into one place (although that’s a good start). Understanding what your marketing channels need from you and how it benefits your consumers is vital, and optimising your product attributes – especially where you can use existing technology to automate this process – should allow you to engage more consumers and sell more stuff. Finally, making your creative more dynamic and functional – letting technology power design – will go a long way to improving performance.