Affiliate marketing is a proven online marketing channel for advertisers and publishers. When the concept was born about 16 years ago there was no Facebook, no Twitter and no iPhone or iPad. What’s more, many retailers were just getting online at that time. A lot has changed, however, one thing has remained the same – data feeds are still challenging for both advertisers and publishers.
From an advertiser perspective, especially to marketers, data feeds can often seem pretty technical. They’re typically something technology teams or third parties manage. In many cases it’s not that the advertiser doesn’t want to fix the issues identified, it’s just that technology teams always have a long list of projects and it’s more about corporate priorities than anything else. You might be surprised, therefore, at just how many retailers don’t do a good job keeping their data feeds up-to-date. Missing information, expired offers, out-of-stock products, the list goes on and on. It’s incredibly frustrating for publishers who truly have their advertiser’s best interests at heart.
Quality issues can also translate into lost opportunities. Remember, publishers talk and counsel each other. If you’re an advertiser well known in the affiliate marketing community for having quality data feeds, word will spread, which will help you recruit publishers into your program. Why? Because a quality data feed is likely to have a higher conversion rate. The good news is that the technology used to create and optimize data feeds is getting more sophisticated. There are now a lot of firms out there today that can help advertisers improve their feeds for a fee.
Popshops, GoldenFeeds, and FusePump are just a few examples that have a wide range of capabilities. If you are an advertiser with data feed quality issues, make it your New Year’s resolution to do some research and get them fixed once and for all.
So Many Products, So Little Time
The technical aspect of data feeds can be just as daunting for publishers who need to consider the shopping experience of their audience. A targeted shopping experience can help build loyalty because you are in effect filtering out irrelevant products and making it easier to help the shopper find what they want. If a website is targeting women’s apparel, for example, men’s apparel should be excluded. This is easier said than done if the advertiser is not providing separate feeds. In many cases, the publisher simply cannot work with the advertiser in question (back to lost opportunities).
How can advertisers possibly meet the needs of hundreds if not thousands of publishers in this area who may need something different? The answer: Put the power of customizing the feed into the hands of the publisher. There are now easy-to-use tools available that let the publisher do just that. GoldenFeeds and other data feed-related companies, for example, have simple wizard-like interfaces that let the publisher exclude or include products and attributes in the feed. You want only shoes or flat-screen TVs? No problem – you get the idea. Presenting a quality, customized feed to your users will keep them coming back for more.
Advertisers and Publishers – Can We Talk?
If there is one thing that affiliate marketing represents – it’s partnership. Sometimes, however, everyone is just too darn busy to have a meeting and agree on what’s truly needed to increase sales through the affiliate channel. Advertisers and publishers need to keep the lines of communication open. Online retailers should proactively ask their publishers how they can improve their data feeds and find out what’s working. Publishers should try to quantify and forecast improved results for advertisers if changes are made and help them build a case for making an investment in third party data feed management.
Are data feeds getting easier? Yes they are – but it still takes focus, prioritization and determination to get them right.
Scott Allan is LinkShare’s vice president of marketing. He has more than 15 years experience in corporate and product marketing with an expertise in the performance marketing channel.