When it comes to maximizing revenue, the same principles hold in online ecommerce as in brick-and-mortar retail: be price-competitive, be visible, and offer a complete, compelling assortment of great products. We find that the last point, as intuitive as it seems, is often overlooked. Retailers focus on top-selling products, markdowns, and items that receive extra attention from merchandising teams, while losing sight of the overall breadth and completeness of their product catalog.
At a basic level, this seems fairly self-evident: by sending more products to a marketing channel, you reach a bigger and more diverse set of shoppers, thus increasing the volume of meaningful, high-intent interactions with your product catalog and boosting sales. Looking closer, though, there are several less obvious reasons a complete product catalog boosts sales.
Consider brand recognition and lifetime value of customers in the context of a given affiliate channel. Let’s say, for example, an apparel retailer leaves shorts and skirts out of their product catalog for colder weather months, because those items are presumed to be in relatively low demand. Perhaps certain categories are lower margin, and thus excluded from a product feed. Perhaps product data from certain categories is difficult to attain, and so those categories are not represented in the feed. Whatever the case may be, those excluded products are not available on affiliates, reducing your footprint on channels that you are sending product data to. Shoppers who frequent affiliate-powered sites will see your products less frequently, and associate less closely with your retail brand.
Also consider the treatment your product listings receive from affiliate channels. Since these channels win when you win, they are incentivized to show listings that are likely to convert. At a more macro level, the more conversions your product catalog yields through a channel, the more likely your individual listings are to be surfaced prominently. This can become a virtuous cycle: more product listings, more conversions, more impressions, and repeat. In other words, full product catalog coverage benefits your affiliate program from a channel standpoint, as well as from a shopper standpoint.
Because of these factors, your affiliate program is likely to benefit from product catalog completeness at better than a 1 to 1 ratio. In other words a catalog that is 100% complete will generate more than twice the revenue of a catalog that is 50% complete. Take the case of two large retailers participating on ShopStyle – an affiliate who relies on product catalogs to promote merchants.
ShopStyle has high production for Client B, who has a product catalog that is 99.97% complete. Conversely, for Client A, whose product catalog is only 51.55% complete, ShopStyle’s production remains relatively low. By keeping nearly half of their available products out of their feed to ShopStyle, Clint A has stifled their revenue potential on the channel considerably.
For affiliates who use merchant product catalogs on their sites as a means to promote different items that an advertiser has to offer, having a complete product catalog is extremely important for production.
When it comes to product feed completeness, Mercent’s data optimization tools can help in several respects:
- Defining Assortments: If you have legitimate business reasons to slim down a product feed to a given affiliate channel, Mercent’s product filtering tools allow you to easily, intuitively segment your product catalog. If the volume of products in your feed to a given affiliate channel changes substantially, it will be evident in Mercent’s channel feed log, and you will be alerted.
- Completing Data: If there are any issues with key attributes that preclude certain products from being sent to an affiliate channel, Mercent can assist with tools for augmenting data and mending subpar product data.
- Matching Feed Fields: If certain fields are required or recommended by a particular affiliate channel, but missing from your product data, Mercent can logically populate those fields in your feed to the affiliate.
These tools are available in a single, elegant platform. Once your product data has been optimized, all feeds sent to affiliate channels can be previewed.
Complete, quality data is the cornerstone of Mercent’s technology. We believe that expressing your catalog fully and accurately is key to performance on affiliate channels.