11 factors to consider when choosing feed management software
March 15, 2018
Feed management has become a crowded playing field, with new technology providers emerging regularly. But it’s important to remember that not all feed management software is equal. <br> To help you find the tool best suited to your business needs, we’ve listed 11 key considerations:
<ul> <li>Will the software increase efficiency?</li> <li>How quickly can you get your products to market?</li> <li>Can you automate manual processes?</li> </ul> One of the main reasons for brands and retailers to start looking for a new way to manage their product data feeds is because their current solution simply takes too long. For some, it takes several weeks, or even months, to create or update a single feed. So, an important question you need to ask yourself is, will this software save me time? <br> First things first: how advanced is the data processing? Find out how long the software would take to process all your data, particularly if you’re dealing with a volume of hundred thousands or millions. Is there a real-time preview of your data edits? <br> Does the software support delta uploads? Delta uploads mean that in the event of new or updated information, only these select products are imported or exported, instead of your entire feed each time. This too can save a ton of time. <br> Check to see if the software offers any type of automation. This is particularly useful for manual processes like data mapping, defining product categories, scheduling imports, or excluding unprofitable products from an export. <br> If the software enables you to be in the driver’s seat, you would no longer need to rely on IT for support. Cutting out the middleman would significantly streamline your processes and save you a lot of time.
<ul> <li>How easy is it to navigate the software?</li> <li>Does it require coding knowledge?</li> <li>How easy is it to validate your data?</li> <li>How simple will knowledge transfer be to new team members?</li> <li>Is the software modern and current?</li> </ul> Some software interfaces are built better than others. Therefore, you’ll absolutely want to make sure your feed management tool is intuitive and user-friendly. Even if your feed is complex, it should be easy to manage with the right software. Make sure to request demos of several tools to get a feel for how easy they are to navigate. <br> Keep in mind that feed management software should also simplify your work. Look into how easy it will be to analyze your feed’s health or to assess how ready it is for each channel. Will you need to code in order to fix format errors or edit your data? Or do you simply need to select, drag, and drop the required rule boxes into your feed? <br> Lastly, find out much time and effort is required to train new team members on the software. Will knowledge still be available and easy to access once a team member leaves your company?
<ul> <li>Can the software handle the number of products in your inventory?</li> <li>How many channels does it support?</li> <li>Will it help drive continued growth?</li> </ul> The last thing you would want is to go through the process of choosing feed management software, only to outgrow it a year later. Imagine where your company will be in a few years. Will you have more products? Will you want to enter new markets, regions, or marketing channels? <br> Some software only integrates with one or few channels, others have partnered with thousands. On top of that, some can’t handle any feed containing more than 1000 products. So if you’re serious about international expansion, growing your product inventory, and being ready for new advertising opportunities, make sure the software you choose can sustain and support this.
4. Import sources
<ul> <li>Can the software integrate with all of your data sources?</li> <li>Does it have a variety of API integrations already set in place?</li> <li>Can it import from sources that other tools can’t?</li> <li>Does the solution provide a robust crawler as a last resort?</li> </ul> If you have multiple data sources, it’s important to find software capable of integrating with each individual source. Even if your product data is scattered across several mediums, importing and merging it should be no problem with the right provider. <br> Does the software have a variety of API integrations? These will help you easily and quickly import data from sources like Google Shopping, your shop system, PIM system etc. <br> Keep in mind that import sources can also help you optimize further by adding additional product information to images or ads. For example, some feed management tools can import TripAdvisor ratings or real-time weather data. Check to see if the software offers any unique sources that others may not. This additional information can be used to enrich dynamic travel ads for channels like Facebook and Instagram. <br> In the case that you’re missing any critical product information after importing from all of your sources, see if the software offers a robust website crawler. This way, the provider can gather all information from your website directly. No matter where it is or how much of it there is, you’ll want feed management software that can retrieve any and all product information.
5. Export destinations
<ul> <li>Which exports are available?</li> <li>What type of channels are they? (e.g. shopping, marketing, affiliates, offline retail, etc.)</li> <li>How international are the exports?</li> <li>Will they allow you to expand in the future?</li> <li>Can you export to B2B channels as well?</li> </ul> Many feed management tools are built only to serve single channels (i.e. Google Shopping or Amazon). To avoid choosing a software that doesn’t meet your export needs, you’ll want to carefully examine which exports it has available. <br> In any case, in order to drive growth and allow for further digital reach, it's important to choose a software with omnichannel potential. Look for software that integrated tailored export templates for the most popular shopping and marketing channels. Some solution providers take it a step further and include the big name exports, as well as more unique channels and B2B channels. Others will even build a custom export just for you. <br> Some feed management tools are only capable of local or regional exports. This could put a cap on your overall revenue potential while pushing away the possibility of international expansion.
6. Data optimization potential
<ul> <li>What type of data manipulation is possible?</li> <li>Does the software recommend best practices to increase individual channel performance?</li> <li>Can you A/B test different feed variants to identify the best performer and to further optimize?</li> <li>Can you optimize ad images using the software?</li> </ul> This is where feed management tools really start to differ. Some software offers the tools for very basic optimizations, which is okay if you are looking for just a few quick fixes. However, if you want to start maximizing your revenue potential and really standing out from the crowd, you’ll want to look for a software that offers powerful data optimization tools. Keep in mind that the better your data, the better your performance. <br> Can the software help you increase performance by offering channel-specific tips? This can be extremely useful for identifying any weak points in your feed and for furthering optimization. Also, check to see if the software allows you to A/B test different feed variants against one another. Doing so can help you easily identify the better performer and use the results to further optimize your feed. <br> Does the software provide image optimization capabilities? For image-heavy platforms like Facebook and Instagram, image optimization is key. If you want to export to these channels, look for a software that offers dynamic image editing.
7. Data security
<ul> <li>Does it have systems in place to avoid the compromise of your data?</li> <li>Can it segment feeds into different databases to avoid crossover?</li> </ul> Not all feed management software is capable of protecting the privacy of your product information. If this is important to your business, you’ll want to ensure that a solution provider has systems set in place to avoid a compromise of data. <br> Depending on the size or regulations of your company, it may also be important that certain product information is only available to certain departments. In this case, you’d want to look for a software that offers an information segmentation function.
<ul> <li>Does the software export to channels that others aren’t?</li> <li>Is the vendor constantly testing new features?</li> <li>Does it apply real machine learning to everyday challenges like category mapping, image recognition, and field mapping?</li> <li>Is the vendor working closely with partners like Google and Facebook and implementing tools that will help you to drive performance on those channels?</li> <li>Do you trust the vendor will do everything to make sure you’ll be able to capture new opportunities as they come?</li> </ul> At the end of the day, your business growth can be stunted if your provider is not innovative or agile enough. Make sure you choose a software that is regularly testing new features and optimizing what it already has. Is it exporting to channels others aren’t? Above all, you want a software that won’t get old. <br> If the software is using machine learning technology, you could save time on everyday tasks like category mapping, image recognition, and field mapping. Moreover, the use of machine learning is still growing in the industry, so if a software is already using it, it’s a good sign of its overall agility. <br> Is the vendor working with big industry names and building tools to help drive performance with them? Check to see what kind of partnerships they have (i.e. Google or Facebook) - as these can be telltale signs of their level of innovation. Or better yet, find out what they are doing with these partnerships. Are they building new functionality (i.e. creative editing for image and video) to boost your performance on these channels? <br> Do you trust that the vendor is agile enough to help you stay agile? With ecommerce constantly changing, it’s important to look for a tool that can help you capture new opportunities as soon as they’re available. This could be anything from virtual or augmented reality to even a smart fridge in the future.
9. Credibility & expertise
<ul> <li>Have they received industry awards?</li> <li>What are their certifications?</li> <li>How long have they been around?</li> <li>Who are their customers and what are they saying?</li> <li>Is the vendor a reliable partner in the ecosystem?</li> </ul> If a vendor looks too good to be true, start seeking external proof. If you’re feeling convinced after examining their accreditation but still need a final push, take a look at their current customers or any case studies they might have. More credible solution providers will have no problem clearly listing a few of their top customers, industry partners, and testimonials directly on their website. Video testimonials and external online reviews can also be extremely useful here. <br> Do they have any industry awards or certifications? How many? If they have awards listed on their website, look into which awards and from where. What do the awards mean? Why were they certified and for what? Here, it is also beneficial to look into how long the software has been around. A good software should regularly be receiving awards and new certifications. <br> You’ll also want to take a step back to look at where the vendor fits into the entire industry ecosystem. Are they reliable in terms of the role they should play? What are their partners saying about them? The types of certifications and their partners should be able to give you a feeling for this.
10. Customer support
<ul> <li>To what extent does the vendor help you make the transition?</li> <li>Do you get a dedicated account manager? </li> <li>Is there supporting, up-to-date material? </li> <li>Does the vendor provide round the clock customer support? </li> <li>Is local support available if needed?</li> </ul> Some vendors provide you with a dedication integration manager to assist you during your onboarding of the software. Others may charge you for this support or not offer it at all, so find this out before committing to anything. <br> After the initial setup, find out if you’ll be assigned an account manager and how much or if they charge at all for support. Also, ask yourself, is there enough supporting material and content available to help me if human support isn’t available? Check to see if they have an up-to-date help center, guides, articles, or webinars that can provide you with additional support. <br> When is support available? While some vendors limit their hours of availability, others offer 24/7 support. You may also want to look into whether or not they offer local support. Do they have offices in only one country or across the map? How will this impact the level of support you receive? <br> In any case, look for a vendor that offers a high-level of customer support, understands your needs, and is there when you need them.
11. Value for money
<ul> <li>How much can you do with the software? How flexible and advanced is it?</li> <li>What is the pricing structure? Are you paying for each export or per SKU?</li> </ul> All of the above points will influence the value you get for your money. Simply put, you get what you pay for. Have a basic feed and have basic needs? Opt for a basic, low-budget software. Have a highly complex feed with sophisticated needs and big growth plans? Opt for a premium software that allows you to save time, easily create next-level feeds, expand internationally, and be a leader in your field. <br> It’s also important to look at the pricing structure. Will you be charged per click or per number of products managed on the software? The former implies no fixed cost- meaning you might end up with some nasty surprises. In other words, the better your campaigns run, the more you’ll have to pay. The latter is more predictable, as the number of products in your inventory is less likely to change. This pricing method also works with number ranges. <br> Lastly, some low budget providers will put a cap or charge you extra per added export channel. Be careful because this can limit your growth.
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