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  1. #1
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    Datafeed Requirements
    Now that I am developing more complex sites that are based on databases and not my own human eyes/brain. I have started to think what is needed for the optimal datafeed. So here is my list of what I think is needed in any datafeed to be of the ut-most use.

    Buy/image URL: Are in every datafeed obviously, but merchants before uploading your feed, testa couple URLs toi make sure they are right. One of my merchants have a buyurl whose domain is localhost. If I hadn't noticed I would have thousands of bad links and be none the wiser

    Name of Product: Fortunately this is the field that is always supplied, of course to expect the same product to have the same name over 2 merchant's datafeed can never be expected.

    Price: This is the price of the item, its also on every datafeed although some times its listed under sale price and some times its listed under price.

    Description: A clear detailed dewscription of the product, including all its features. You can also have a brief description too, but give me the long description and I'll figure out what info I'll need from it.

    Manufacturer/Brand: It's important to know who makes the product and their should be a field just for this. Sometimes the brand is only included in the name field, this isn't good b/c how does one distinguish easily who makes the product without alot of work. I would rather have it listed in both places and be able to remove the brand from the name if wanted than to only have it in the name field (although even if its only here, the merchant isn't always consistant ;-(

    UPC: This is a unique identifier of the product, I need it to be able to compare and contrast between products over many data feeds. Without this number I can never be totally sure that I am comparing apples to apples.

    Categories: There must be a way to group the products or ones datafeed is worthless. Every site breaks their products into groups of similar products, how come you don't have this information on your datafeed.

    Style Code/Style Number: This is another way to distinguish between products over several data feeds. The problem with this is that some merchants add the merchant prefix to the style number or add an color indicator at the end of it, so the same product might have 2 similar but different style numbers from 2 different merchants.

    Keywords: If the description isn't complete and/or there isn't any categories field then a list of keywords can help. But the categories and description fields are better.

    Brief description: Whereas the longer description is perfect for searches, a briefer description is good for desplaying info on the actual webpage.

    Sale Price/List Price: Having the actual price is essential, but it is also nice to have the list price/sale price too to point out sales and discounts to the customers.

    Color/Size information: Products come in several colors and this type of information is important to the customer, especially for clothing. Every clothing merchant has a color/size field even if they only have one color/size in stock, how come this info is rarely included as a separate field on datafeeds. Sometimes you can find the color value from the product name, usually after the word in, since has Blouse in navy blue. But it would be better to have its own field to elimiate confusion.

    SKU: Rarely is this needed since it is made up by the vendor, but if there isn't a Color, Size, Brand, UPC and/or Style number field, sometimes you can use this number to figure out the brand, color, size info sometimes, but very rarely.

    Last Updated: is a good field if accurate

    Instock: one assumes that if a product is in the data feed it is in stock. But I have seen too many feeds that just put it all as yes regardless to make this field mostly unreliable anyway. Some merchants call something instock if they can order it from the manufacturer and get it out in several weeks.

    All other fields are pretty much not needed in my opinion, especially fields like merchantID ( a number made up by the vendor) or vendor name, we knew that when we picked up the data feed.
    Expert who says Moo

    a.k.a. OJMOO

    Cow Dance


  2. #2
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    There have been a number of discussion threads about which fields affiliates want in a datafeed.

    At one point while working on my "datafeed project" this past year, I created a spreadsheet attempting to "map" the datafeed fields from 6 affiliate networks (ShareASale, CJ, AvantLink, LinkConnector, Bridealuxe, and ClixGalore). I'm attaching a copy of that spreadsheet (in tab-delimited text format).

    I ended up with 109 distinct datafeed fields (of course, many of these would be mapped together into a much smaller number of distinct fields for any particular datafeed-user's needs -- but I'm not sure that any two datafeed-users would ever agree on the mapping).

    Unfortunately, even within a single affiliate network, the fields are used by different merchants differently. For example, some merchants create a separate SKU for every variation of a shirt (color, size), while others create a single SKU but list the available sizes and colors in a field (or not).

    As you mention, "Manufacturer/Brand" is another tricky issue. Some products actually have 2, 3, or 4 distinct brands (I'll make up an example: "Barbie* Post-Its*" sold by 3M* under license from Mattel*). Sometimes the brand "belongs" in the product name; sometimes it does not. There is no meaningful way to distinguish "Manufacturer" from "Brand" (but in many cases, it would be really helpful if we could do so).

    But "Manufacturer/Brand" becomes even trickier in some product categories, because the consumer may not care about who manufactures the product or what the product's brand name is, but instead the consumer wants to know the product and brand that the product is compatible with (e.g. ink/toner, batteries, chargers). This data might be in many different fields in different merchants' datafeeds (title, description, manufacturer/brand, etc.).

    On the issue of the "instock" field, I wrote in May about the wide variety of unique values that merchants store in this field (http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=119429), when they store a value at all -- and of course, as you mention, many merchants list all items as "instock" including items which they must special-order.

    Another important datafeed issue is "which characters are allowed, and what do certain characters mean?"

    Finally, on the issue of categories, I think there are at least a dozen ABW members who could write entire books on the subject of how well (and poorly) merchants categorize their products, and how well (or poorly) the merchants' internal category data makes it into the datafeed.
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    Last edited by markwelch; July 6th, 2009 at 02:32 PM.

  3. #3
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    My point of the post is not what there is, but what is needed. The SKU field is a poor substitute for other fields. I don't care what each network calls the fields, its the information that matters.

    Depending upon which fields are missing an incomplete datafeed is as useless as having no datafeed at all.
    Expert who says Moo

    a.k.a. OJMOO

    Cow Dance


  4. #4
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    My point of the post is not what there is, but what is needed.
    There was a super long thread over in the Datafeeds forum where members tried to hash out a standard feed format. I'm pretty sure AvantLink and SAS used the information, but no real standard has ever been accepted across networks.


  5. #5
    http and a telephoto
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    Categories has long been a sticking point for me, and there are some HUGE feeds that don't have them at all and are therefore useless to affiliates.

    Oranges, you state that every merchant has categories on their sites, but I have to disagree. There are many shopping carts and sites that are using TAGS to create fake "categories" on their sites and they have no existing category information in any existing database.

    Examples of this are CafePress and Imagekind. They only have tags available and a search engine to find related products. Categories do not exist. On the music sites that have large feeds, this is also probably why there are no categories. What would the category in the feed be? Would it be based on genre, artist, album, style?

    Unfortunately the variety of data now doesn't always lend itself to the easy categorization of anything.

    It's getting to the point where making an affiliate site using a datafeed needs to be more creative, and you also need to use searches and tags to make landing pages for shoppers, and not the old fashioned directory style sites.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  6. #6
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    If there are tags that they use to generate the pages then list the tags, those are the categories. I don't expect (and it would be absurbed to think) that the categories are the same between any two merchants. But, give me the categories the merchant uses and I'll convert them into categories I can use.

    The data feed itself is not the be-ll, end-all of site creation. It is the starting point that needs to be modified for the affiliate's needs and certain things are needed for it to have any use at all. Certain combination of feilds can be used to simulate other fields. i.e. color information can sometimes be found in the name of the product and sometimes in the description, but it would b easiest to have it in its own field. Certainly if there is a separate color field on a webpage in the vendors site, then there must be a similar field in the vendors database and thus it should be in the vendors data feed.
    Expert who says Moo

    a.k.a. OJMOO

    Cow Dance


  7. #7
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    and you also need to use searches and tags to make landing pages for shoppers,
    Got any clues where I should dig to learn more about this idea?


  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador PatrickAllmond's Avatar
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    IMO we should not be looking for one gold standard for datafeeds. There should possible be a standard per top level category or per industry.

    And a tag is a category - a way of grouping things.
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  9. #9
    http and a telephoto
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    But the tags won't each get their own separate field in a datafeed, or the feed would have too many fields and be unusable. Tags are used in search, Categories are a stable way of displaying a static navigation. My point is that many sites aren't using a traditional category structure any longer, or never did, so the Category fields simply can't be populated.

    It is frustrating, but it is probably the way of the future in site design.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  10. #10
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    Loxly, for a merchant that uses "tags" which you don't consider to be proper "categories," do you think it would be improper for the merchant to insert a comma-delimited list of tags in the "category" column in the datafeed (if permitted by the network)? I know some merchants already do this, storing more than one category in that column/field. (On ShareASale, a single category & sub-category must be chosen from a fixed list, so categories or tags sometimes are comma-separated in one of the five custom fields.)

    Again, everybody acknowledges that categories are a huge headache for merchants and publishers. Patrick is right that there is no one solution that will meet everyone's needs -- but of course we all would like to see some improvements.

    I know that when I managed the affiliate program for QuoteProducts (now defunct), I had trouble with how to include categories/topics/subjects in the datafeed. Every item in inventory was an "famous quotation poster," but publishers needed some other way to organize the inventory. Each poster was "tagged" with multiple topical subjects (sports, love, golf, hell) as well as an author name (Mark Twain), plus the author's occupation and birthdate.

    We ended up posting one version of the datafeed on ShareASale (with each poster SKU appearing once, and no useful subject information), but we posted several other versions of the datafeed on our web site for download by affiliates who wanted the additional data.

  11. #11
    http and a telephoto
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    I include tags in my feeds, they are in the keywords field in the Shareasale datafeed. On my sites the meta keywords is used by the site search, so becomes the searchable "tags".

    Putting them in a "Category" field would be useless, you cannot make a viable category structure out of them.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

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