What Is Product Content Syndication?
Product content syndication is the process (automated or manual) by which brands synchronize and distribute product data to retail endpoints like Walmart, Shopify, or social media ad platforms per retailers’ requirements. Sometimes called e-commerce syndication or product information syndication, it allows brands to expand beyond their owned sales channels (such as websites or brick-and-mortar locations) to unowned, third-party channels (such as Alibaba or Google Shopping).
In the era of omnichannel marketing, product content syndication is integral to e-commerce, where consumer practices usually involve pre-purchase online research. According to the 2023 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey from PwC, 55% of respondents use search to find information about goods and services, compare prices and brands, as well as read reviews. Amazon was the second-most visited resource for researchers at 35%, while 29% also visit sites that specialize in price comparisons. In short, ensuring audiences can access accurate, timely, and relevant information about your products and services online is a must in today’s marketplace.
Why is product content syndication essential?
When consumers conduct pre-purchase online research, they can’t typically use their senses — touch, taste, smell, and so on — to gather information about the goods or services they’re considering. They rely instead on rich product content, such as how-to videos, 360° images, and product specifications, to inform their understanding. Product content syndication ensures that the data they receive is accurate, consistent, and can be found on the platforms and sites they most frequent.
Besides arranging to be on those same platforms and sites, brands benefit from product content syndication because it supports consistent customer experiences (CX) across touchpoints, facilitating both audience trust and brand loyalty. When automated, the process accelerates time to market and reduces the likelihood of errors, such as sending product data that doesn’t meet a retailer’s requirements, which can range from category templates and specific units of measurement to how the product data is formatted. (The costs — e.g., added labor, lost productivity, or even being unlisted — associated with such mistakes are also lowered.) As a result, teams avoid time-consuming manual tasks, freeing them to work on higher value projects. Finally, product content syndication encourages entry to a greater number of sales channels, growing sales opportunities and revenue.
How to syndicate e-commerce content
Before syndication can take place, there are a few steps to take that will best set you up for success.
- Clean and centralize your product content. E-commerce syndication puts your product content in a wide spectrum of sales channels, so you want it to be complete and error-free. Anything else may lead to costly mistakes that damage brand reputation and jeopardize sales targets.
And because product data can reside in various locations and among multiple teams, pairing your product content syndication efforts with a product information management (PIM) solution is key. We explain in greater detail below why PIM is critical to your efforts.
- Build a product content strategy. In tandem with the step above, develop a product content strategy. Define the business goals that matter as well as customer needs. Are your product descriptions and naming conventions in line with the search terms consumers use when researching items in your inventory? How about the images you’re using — do they feel out of date? Collaborate with colleagues in product management, design, editorial, SEO, and UX to develop a product content strategy that nets results.
- Choose the tools that best support your e-commerce content syndication efforts. Organizations often turn to PIM solutions, feed management systems (FMSs), plugins, integrations, and digital asset management (DAM) platforms to complement their syndication solution. We address these in detail below — read on to learn which variables to consider as you design or update your product content syndication process and software.
- Monitor and measure your efforts. Naturally, you’ll want to find out how well your product information syndication efforts are performing so that you can adjust tactics and workflows to best optimize results. Good metrics to monitor and optimize — particularly for B2C entities — include search impressions, purchases, basket size, add to cart rates, top keywords, order defect rate (ODR), and clickthrough rates (CTRs), but there may be others that better support your goals, so choose those that are meaningful to you. Keep in mind that accessing performance metrics will depend on the syndication channel. Some may offer them via API, while others — e.g., social sites like Instagram — display them directly on the ad server; access points vary.
Other important indicators for B2B organizations include lead volume and quality. Is your lead volume higher on certain sites, platforms, or channels? If so, should you dial back on others? And are your leads representative of the audiences you’re targeting? If not, you may not be distributing your product content to the right endpoints. Finally, are these leads converting and raising revenue?
Choosing the right product content syndication tools for e-commerce
There are a number of ways that you can syndicate product content, and each involves different tools. Common methods include:
- Manual syndication. This is the most basic method. Users add needed data to a spreadsheet that’s then sent directly to the targeted sites, channels, and platforms for syndication. Additional software and plugins aren’t required, but the task is more time-consuming — especially for brands with hundreds of SKUs and those with growing catalogs — and involves a higher chance of error than automated methods.
- Product feed URLs. This method involves the creation of a live link or product feed URL that holds all the product information prepared and formatted to the specifications of its intended destination. These links can’t be generated from a spreadsheet so require a PIM solution or feed management system (FMS).
PIM software helps organizations gather, manage, govern, enrich, and syndicate product data on the digital shelf. You can integrate it with a syndication solution, but be sure that you can pull information directly from a single source of truth so you have the most up-to-date product content prior to syndication.
Similarly, a FMS helps brands manage and optimize the distribution of product content to its various endpoints. A PIM solution ensures that the content is prepared correctly, while a FMS ensures it reaches those endpoints.
- Product feed files. These are used for sales channels like Amazon that don’t take product feed URLs. The primary difference between the two methods is in their names: One relies on a feed URL, while the other involves a file downloaded in the format specified by the platform, channel, or site that’s receiving the product content. The tools and steps used to generate a product feed file are the same as those for product feed URLs.
- Direct integrations. APIs and plugins ensure direct integrations that aid the transfer of data between two systems. Examples of plugins used for product content syndication include Wyomind, WP ALL Import, and Moose Sync, which import and export product feeds to platforms like Magento and WooCommerce. Some PIM solutions offer direct integrations, though, so you won’t always need plugins. When evaluating PIM solutions, check to see which integrations they offer. We have the extensive and ever-growing Acquia Exchange integrations and connectors hub, for instance, that further enhances our own PIM offering. We’re looking forward to bringing product data syndication to our own PIM solution soon and would be happy to give you a sneak peek. Contact us for a preview of this exciting development.
Now that the most common methods for product content syndication have been laid out, what should you consider when evaluating the software that makes it happen?
- Your digital commerce footprint. The bigger your inventory, the more powerful your syndication solution should be. Don’t forget growth goals, either. You may not have a high number of SKUs now, but are you planning to increase that figure?
- Seamless integration with your martech stack. Does the syndication solution you’re assessing play nicely with existing systems? Will it streamline workflows or gum them up?
- Assist in meeting retailer requirements. The formats and specifications that retailers demand vary and can change from day to day. One may require a 100-word description with no bullet points, while another may ask for a 200-word description and encourage bullet points. A good end-to-end syndication solution will monitor any changes and flag when your product data runs afoul of such requirements.
- Expand your syndication network. What’s the maximum number of distribution channels that the syndication solution you’re vetting can handle? How extensive is its template library? Templated exports are a standard way of syndicating product content, so more templates mean more syndication opportunities.
- Translate product information for the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN). The GDSN is an online tool that empowers manufacturers to safely share supply chain and regulatory data with retail partners.
Whether shopping at a Big Box retailer or small specialty shop, customers expect to easily find information about goods and services no matter where they look — a mobile app, website, social media, or anywhere else online.
Satisfying those expectations isn’t easy, but there are plenty of product content syndication tools for e-commerce that can help, such as PIM solutions and FMS. They allow teams to easily find product data and quickly syndicate it across multiple channels while ensuring audiences enjoy consistent experiences at each stop along their customer journey.
In fact, a digital asset management (DAM) system that incorporates a PIM solution can be highly advantageous. DAM platforms act as a central hub for all your digital assets, allowing you to easily organize, distribute, collaborate on, analyze, and securely store assets. When combined with a PIM solution, organizations benefit from having product assets readily available in the same system and the ability to optimize media files for a given channel, further easing product content syndication.
PRADCO Outdoor Brands, for example, uses Acquia DAM and PIM to wrangle assets for more than 5,000 SKUs across product lines. With Acquia PIM, the company can then distribute the product copy, information, and assets that meet each retailer’s requirements. That’s quite the accomplishment, because PRADCO’s products can be found across hundreds of channels, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops, Walmart, and Cabela’s to name just a handful.
Learn more about our cloud-based PIM and DAM solution and how it improves product experiences, renders product content more visible, and promotes brand management.