How Cheap Data Feeds Cause Expensive Problems for Retailers

April 28, 2023

by Andrew Stack

Retailers are always looking for new ways to enhance efficiency, especially with their ecommerce strategy. One solution many retailers turn toward is product data feeds. These stores of product information are easy to access and often at affordable prices, making them appealing for your ecommerce platform.

Despite the benefits of product data feeds, retailers should note the solution is not without costs. Over time, they can negatively affect the customer experience and diminish your brand’s reputation. Learn about the pitfalls of relying on data feeds to obtain product attributes and discover alternative data solutions for your ecommerce strategy from the experienced team at Virtucom Group.

Lack of Product Knowledge

Offshoring is one of the main reasons product data feeds have such a low cost. When businesses transfer responsibilities to countries where labor is less expensive, even at the same skill level, they’re offshoring.

Besides reducing labor costs, offshoring can boost efficiency and enable retailers to access new markets, but it also presents several challenges. With data, the offshore workers creating the feeds likely have little to no knowledge of the products. As a result, feeds can include numerous inaccuracies and, in cases with a language barrier, other mistakes and omissions with product data.

No Communication with Manufacturers

More often than not, data feed companies aren’t getting product information from the manufacturer, instead opting for data from large ecommerce sites, such as Amazon or Walmart. This means the information you receive might be inconsistent, with few product attributes. It may also be missing key details but contain errors from the platform used for research.

No Recourse for Mistakes

Given that product data feed companies are prone to errors, it may be surprising to hear that most contracts waive responsibility for incomplete and incorrect information. In other words, you cannot hold the company accountable for the data it provides. Generally, product data feeds are promoted for their speed and low cost, not quality.

In more than 15 years of partnering with retail clients, we’ve discovered the impact product data have on ecommerce businesses. Our audits of their sites revealed factual errors in approximately 65% of all product records and around 15% of records missing attributes, images, and other assets.

Unreliable Product Attributes Hinder Time to Market

When product attributes are properly formatted and populated, they can create a better shopping experience for your customers. These features and characteristics of your product help consumers make purchasing decisions. Examples include price, material, aesthetic traits, and technical specifications.

When you rely on product data feeds for attributes, it impacts left-hand navigation, comparison features, and the ability to view similar items — all essential components for ecommerce growth. As mentioned, information from product data feeds comes in with minimal intervention by the provider. It becomes your responsibility to map, normalize, and cleanse data before you can use it on your site.

Think about complex products like electronics. These items typically have multiple product attributes, like brand, size, and the systems they support. If you use product data feeds, you’ll need to review and map each provided attribute to the one in your data model.

You can post data as-is from the feed onto your site to expedite time to market, but you risk affecting customer experience. Conversely, you can normalize the data before making it live, but this will considerably impede your time to market. With product data feeds, it can feel like a lose-lose situation.

Increased Chance of Publishing Duplicate Content

Data feed companies don’t just work with you; most sell their information to many other online retailers. Publishing this content on your site verbatim can affect the user experience and your site’s visibility because it’s duplicated from other ecommerce platforms that use the same provider.

Although Google doesn’t penalize duplicate content, using it can affect ranking on results pages. Product and category content with replicated information from another site may or may not rank, and if they do, Google might remove them because it can’t figure out which site is copying which. What’s more, duplicate content prevents you from differentiating your brand and products from competitors.

Boost Product Data Management with Virtucom Group

The many risks of product data feeds may make them an unprofitable investment long-term for your ecommerce strategy. In the increasingly crowded marketplace, quality product information and ecommerce content are essential for standing out from the competition. When you present customers with accurate, normalized data, rich product pages, and helpful site functions, you enhance the customer experience and simplify purchasing decisions, potentially leading to more conversions.

For an alternative to product data feeds, try managed product data services from Virtucom Group. With our help, you can streamline the item onboarding process. Contact us today to learn more about ecommerce solutions for retailers.

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