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Win or lose on marketplaces is up to your content

The ecommerce world is rapidly evolving, both from business to business, and the business to customer aspects. Ecommerce customers search for products and find them on various sites and roughly these can be split into 2 categories – retailer’s sites and numerous marketplaces.  

Online retailers realize the situation and understand that they need to provide customers with a consistent shopping experience across this variety of channels. That is why the majority of online sellers manage their sales operations not only on their own websites, but through a wide variety of marketplaces as well. Amazon sets the tone and marketplace thrive. The rising popularity of online marketplaces forces ecommerce retailers to distribute their sales activity and their product data. In some cases the prodat data is distributed to as many as 300 marketplaces, in addition to their own web store.

Sellers want to provide good user experience, ensure product findability and drive sales on their own website. To ensure all these, sellers invest a lot of effort and resources. First, into their site navigation infrastructure – categories, attributes and filters which allows shoppers to easily navigate through the store. Second, into product tagging as all products on site should be tagged according to the infrastructure above for the filters to work. Third, their whole site undergoes search engine optimization to ensure findability by search engines. Then, sellers invest into traffic acquisition in order to create interest in their products as early as possible on the search site while still one click away from their site.

As opposed to sellers’ own site, on the marketplaces, the picture changes. In many cases product information distributed by the retailers to the marketplaces is partial at best and sometimes even missing completely. There are many reasons for this lapse. First, it’s really hard. Providing clean and consistent data, compatible with every marketplace’s data requirements, takes a massive effort. Second, this data distribution is usually done through agents. This could be feed integrators or data distributors which help sellers upload their product feed to the marketplaces and other retail channels.

While these feed integrators are essential in the process, they only provide the distribution platform. They don’t deal with the quality of data and at best only provide highly manual tools for data manipulation. No matter what the retailer does – content creation for his products is his responsibility. As for the marketplace’s requirements for the product data, some product information is mandatory, so if the seller fails to provide it, his data feed will simply be rejected. Still, even if the seller manages to pass the marketplace minimum data requirements and upload his feed,  if his product data is partial, his sales on the marketplace will be hurt.

One major aspect of the product data which is often partial or completely missing is the navigational tags. As mentioned above, the navigation system allows shoppers to browse through the site by filtering products based on their attributes. For site navigation to function properly, all the products must be tagged with the relevant products attributes. If some products are not tagged or partially tagged, they will simply not appear when people interact with the search features on site. 

For instance, if a seller sells a product “Men’s Real Leather Black Jacket with Removable Hood – Genuine Leather, Size L” and does not tag it with “Type:Jacket”, “Size:L”, “Color:Black” and “Material:Leather” tags, then any shopper who will filter the products in category by any one of these attributes will not see this jacket in the results. 73% of online shoppers browse the site in addition to performing a search query. This clearly shows how important tagging is, and how the lack of navigational tags can impact product discoverability and subsequently the sales. 

Such failure of discoverability is bad enough when it happens on the seller’s own website. But when it occurs on a marketplace, it simply means an immediate loss to the competition. Sellers who sell unique items may be able to get away without proper data tagging, but sellers who compete on the same or similar products in their categories stand to lose to the competition every time. Adding navigational tags not only prevents such discoverability failures, but the potential gain from the properly tagged data and properly exposed products is between 12% and 93% increase in sales.

5 tips on how to properly tag your data

  • Familiarize yourself with the attributes and values offered by each channel/marketplace, and understand which attributes and values are relevant to each category of products you sell.
  • Some attributes allow the selection of multiple values, such as color, material, ingredients. In these attributes, make sure you tag your products with all the relevant values.
  • When uploading a feed to a marketplace or to a distributor, make sure that the feed contains all the relevant tags along with the products. You may add the tags manually on the marketplace or feed distributor website or you may contact Lisuto and we will help you take care of the problem.
  • Make sure you keep track of all announcements regarding structure changes on all channels, which on average, usually occur every quarter. If the update is relevant to your categories or products, adjust the product feed accordingly. This way your feeds won’t get rejected and you won’t lose sales. In most cases the new tags should be applied to the future feeds, but in some cases the marketplaces are not backward compatible and some fixing of the existing product feed is needed.
  • Always remember to tag every new product you add to the feed with the relevant attributes. 

With ecommerce on the rise, and more and more ecommerce channels added each day, the competition becomes fiercer. And as sellers fight for their place under the sun in marketplaces, one sure way to create an immediate boost in sales is to get the product data into a proper shape right away.

Pavel Zaslavsky is the General Manager of Lisuto Israel, a Japanese – Israeli start up, that develops global content AI solutions for ecommerce. In his previous positions Pavel Zaslavsky was the founder and manager of the global catalog operations at eBay and founder and manager of the catalog operations for Shopping.com in Europe. Pavel held adviser positions in a number of major ecommerce multinationals and teaches ecommerce at the MBA studies at the Israel Institute of Technology