Who’s Minding Your Reputation? The Risks Of Third-Party Product Data

Jul 20, 2017 12:04:00 PM

by Abigail Moore

It’s hard to miss recent headlines about the headaches open online marketplaces can cause for e-commerce retailers. While most companies keep a careful eye on the product data acquired from vendors and sold directly through their websites, it’s not uncommon for third-party product information to be excused from such rigorous standards. You might ask, who regulates the quality of information provided by these third-party sellers? Unfortunately, the answer is often no one, and that can cause serious problems.

How Does a Marketplace Work?

Most e-commerce websites serve a simple purpose – to offer a selection of carefully curated goods to customers. The most successful online retailers insist on highly detailed, accurate data for every product presented for sale, and thus take great care when acquiring this information from vendors. Once product information has been obtained, there’s a lengthy process of verification to ensure accuracy. Normalized product data brings data up to the standards required for publication. The process can be labor intensive, but it’s necessary to avoid high return rates and maintain customer satisfaction.

Adding a marketplace to your site allows you to offer an expanded roster of products without increasing your product data management load. Marketplaces enable online retailers to partner with third-party vendors, who list their products on the site as well. On one hand, this seems like a great way to boost revenues with minimal effort. However, due to reduced oversight, the retailer has minimal control over the product information and product content provided by the third-party vendors.

The Pitfalls of Third-Party Data

In a perfect world, these outside vendors would apply the same rigorous standards to their product information that the retailer does. Time and again, we see that this is rarely the case. By allowing unverified product data on your e-commerce website, you run the risk of introducing:

  • Incorrect information that results in customers receiving the wrong item, or an item that does not meet their expectations
  • Sloppy content that introduces embarrassing grammatical and spelling errors, coding issues, missing and improperly formatted images and more
  • Duplicate content that erodes SEO value because it can be found on multiple websites
  • Missing information that lacks key elements shoppers might need to make a buying decision
  • Improper formatting that creates a sense of inconsistency
  • Offensive content that reflects poorly on the retailer and damages long-term brand confidence

Any one of these problems can tarnish an otherwise sterling reputation, costing a retailer business in the short and long term. A brand’s image is especially important for online sales, where the customer must have trust in the brand because he or she can’t physically interact with the goods before purchasing. And of course, no company wishes to find itself the subject of scathing reports when third-party data results in angry customers.

Protecting Your Good Name with Data Stewardship

There’s no denying that the marketplace model is a compelling option for boosting sales and website traffic, but it’s imperative that retailers take care to properly review and standardize all product information before it’s published on their website. It’s not surprising that many businesses don’t take this step – as mentioned above, standardizing data isn’t a small undertaking, especially for a retailer with thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of products online. However, given the consequences of allowing unreviewed product information to represent your brand, the necessity becomes obvious. It’s important to keep in mind that while you see a clear distinction between your own offerings and products offered through marketplace vendors, customers may not – to the average shopper, the items on your site are seen as your responsibility, for better or worse. Whether you task an internal team with the management of third-party vendor information or partner with an outside firm to ensure best practices for all published product information, it’s critical to take steps immediately to prevent unverified and sub-par data from marring your brand’s reputation.

Does your site include a marketplace for third-party vendors? What are your concerns about third-party data integrity? Leave us a comment and let us know, and be sure to check out our post for better product data management strategies.


Data integrity, time to market and increased conversions are vital to all e-commerce retailers. Our product data management and unique content creation program ensures consistent product names, robust product descriptions, complete and accurate product attributes and an array of digital assets are at your disposal, providing time to market and quality improvements that will outpace your fiercest competition. Contact our team and get started with Virtucom ProdX today

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