Watch: Webinar – Dealin’ With Dropship Product Data Feeds

Summary

Travis Mariea, CEO of Flxpoint, takes you on a deep dive into the world of ecommerce product data feeds, with a special focus on dropship, and how you can leverage them in your business while avoiding the common pitfalls.

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Below, you will find a transcript of our webinar.

Travis Mariea:

All right. Thanks everyone for joining today. My name is Travis Mariea, I’m the CEO Flxpoint. And today’s presentation is dealing with data feeds. We get questions a lot on what are data feeds, who uses them, how to integrate one, so today is really about diving into that, it’s going to be probably a shorter webinar than many of you are used to, don’t have to really dig into it too far, I think we cover a lot in about 20, 30 minutes. So it should be good and should give you a good overview of what to look out for when working with them, and hopefully, we can learn some stuff today.

Travis Mariea:

So with that, I’ll go ahead and get kicked off. So today, like I mentioned, we’re going to really kick it off with what are they? We had one person respond to us and say, “Hey, I’d love to join, but I’d love to know what they are.” So we’ll definitely start there. Who uses them? And then why? Great place to start. We’ll give an example of a data feed, then we’ll dive into how to provide a data feed, right, how to actually provide one to your marketplace, or your resellers, and the common pitfalls that kind of come with that.

Travis Mariea:

And then how to integrate, right? You’ve been provided one from one of your suppliers, your reseller, how do you actually integrate that data feed and things to consider. And we’ll wrap up with live Q&A. So if you do have any questions, you can feel free to put them in during the presentation, happy to address them as we go. But most of them, I’ll probably wait till the end, but it’ll be good to kind of get them in, and I can kind of knock them out from there. Just had a quick question come through, yeah, I will be providing the copy of this recording, everyone that signed up is going to get a recording sent to them. So it’ll be in your inbox and on YouTube probably by tomorrow.

Travis Mariea:

All right. So who uses data feeds and why? So really, if you’ve attended any of my webinars, I like to kind of diagram things out and show where people fit in the workflow of the e-commerce world. But really the three places you’re going to see data feeds used are from a supplier, right? A supplier providing a data feed to their dropship resellers, right? A supplier is what we consider anyone that warehouses and holds inventory, that has the product on hand, that is ready to ship product out, right, a supplier of products.

Travis Mariea:

A lot of times are providing to their B2B dropship resellers or providing a data feed to basically say, “Here’s the quantity of what I have in my warehouse, here’s the cost that it’s going to cost you to purchase this from me. And here’s some other prices, MSRP, right, there isn’t just retail price. Here’s the map price, the minimum advertising price, minimum allowed price,” whatever you might go by, and basically just providing them a look into their warehouse without actually having to connect, it’s more of an external kind of view and a way to consume the products that they have in their warehouse. And we’ll dig into why that matters so much.

Travis Mariea:

And then secondly, the B2C side of things. So the supplier of products, I have a bunch of T-shirts in my warehouse, I want to not only sell them to my B2B resellers, but I also want to sell them direct to the consumer, and I want to put them up on a marketplace or I want to put them up on an ad platform like Amazon and Walmart and Facebook and anywhere else. The same reason applies here, they want to provide proper quantities, costs, well, not really cost in this way, but maybe prices, right, list price. And the big thing here too is product data, getting the data to these companies, they want to be able to list them, like you see the example here, these T-shirts, you want to be able to list them efficiently on these marketplaces and ad platforms without having to manually upload images. [inaudible 00:03:52], so a feed really helps you syndicate that product data, as well as keep the pricing and the quantities in sync.

Travis Mariea:

So the main reason is really that, it’s the supplier providing to the reseller, there is one more link in the chain, you can essentially… a dropship reseller could now list down to a marketplace as well, they could be that middleman, we definitely see that. But for the purpose of this webinar, this is the main entity we’ll be talking about.

Travis Mariea:

And then lastly, before I move on, inventory feed [inaudible 00:04:28] different, inventory versus product data, inventory is really what we consider quantity, costs and prices, things that change fairly often. And then product data feed can encompass the inventory, can encompass those three or four different cost, quantities and prices that might be in the feed, but it’s really about the images, the titles, the descriptions, that’s what we refer to as product data, and is not typically updated as much as you might need to update the quantity as an example.

Travis Mariea:

So you might wonder, “Okay, well that’s great. I want to sell on those platforms, I want to sell to my B2B resellers, whoever might be. How do I go about generating a data feed? Where does it come from? How do I get started here?” So really, with a data feed, it’s about taking what you have in your internal software, your internal database, a lot of times you’re managing product inventory and product data via a platform, a lot of times that platform could just be, very simply, your e-commerce store, it could be your Shopify store, WooCommerce or BigCommerce, Magento, that could be your entire… if you’re a small brand, or a small retailer, you could just have that, and that could be running your whole business off of that, maybe add some QuickBooks for accounting, whatever it might be. But you could just be managing all of your product catalog in one e-commerce store.

Travis Mariea:

In that case, you can just pull the product data out of there, if you’re keeping live inventory up to date, you can pull the inventory out of there, and basically generate a feed directly from your e-commerce store. Sometimes people are maybe not keeping all the product data or the inventory might not be up to date or true, and their e-commerce store might be in their warehouse manager system. That in case, you can pull from there as well. SkuVault, ShipHero, it’s really just about where you’re keeping accurate inventory, accurate costs, where’s the source of truth, right? And then you’re basically pulling from wherever you feel that accurate quantity can be syndicated, that good product data can be syndicated across to these channels that you’re trying to push the feed to.

Travis Mariea:

So as you can see here, you can kind of daisy chain it too, right? It’s SkuVault is connected to your Shopify store, and then Shopify store, if those are two in sync, then it’s a lot easier to find a plug in or a feed generator, as we refer to here, that connects to Shopify versus maybe let’s say NetSuite or ShipHero, or SkuVault, right? So maybe they’re both in sync there, and you kind of daisy chain it from here and pull the data out.

Travis Mariea:

And so really, what you’re trying to do is to provide this data, Google and Facebook and these B2C marketplaces and ad platforms, they don’t have access to your Shopify store, you’re trying to get it into a format that they’re familiar with, that they have access to. The same thing with the resellers, you’re not going to give them access to log into your Shopify store, you’re trying to get it into a format. And that’s really where the feed generators come into play.

Travis Mariea:

So Flxpoint obviously, our platform, we all connect directly into your store, it’ll generate a feed, it’ll allow you to generate multiple different types of feeds. We really play well in the B2B dropship reseller space. And there’s a lot of other things that go into that first, just providing a feed, right? How do you get orders back from your resellers? How do you get tracking back to them?wWe’re not going to get into that today, today is really just about inventory and product data feeds. But that’s really where we kind of shine is in that B2B reseller.

Travis Mariea:

The B2C side, and I’ll talk more about in the next slide, but GoDataFeed and Feedonomics, just another example of generators. You can search as well, you can search Shopify feed generator or WooCommerce product feed export or generator, right? You can do that and just insert your platform name, your online store name and just type that in, you’ll find a lot of times free, maybe even $25, maybe $99 at the most, for just a simple generator of a feed. There’s obviously reasons why you might want to go to a more sophisticated one like ourselves, and generating feeds is just one of the many things that we do and these other companies do. So something to think about and consider as you look around.

Travis Mariea:

And so really what we’re doing, what a feed generator is, or the generational feed is, is we’re taking that product data that’s in that platform of yours, we’re making it public by… Well, we’re one, getting into a format that people are used to consuming, so a CSV file, comma separated values file, very common for companies that know how to work [inaudible 00:08:44]. It’s essentially a spreadsheet, right? If you ever received a CSV, and you try to open it with Excel, it basically opens up as an Excel Doc, right? It’s essentially a spreadsheet. But it’s in a format that is universal, that’s open to just about anyone you work with. So it’s the most common one we see, a form of a CSV, essentially a text file is just even more of a generic type file, right? It could be separated by any kind of delimiter. But you’ll see text files.

Travis Mariea:

XML is a little more sophisticated, it’s more of a structured file that is… you can still open it in a notepad application. It gets a little more sophisticated when it comes to integrating and sending the data. But it’s another very common feed file format. We see spreadsheets, like actual Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. And then EDI, if you’re in the retail space, you’ve probably heard EDI before, in any space really, I mean, healthcare, and different logistics and things like that.

Travis Mariea:

But, EDI, it was built to replace the fax machine. It’s basically just a structured format of a file that is agreed upon among parties. I’m not going to get into EDI much there but just know it’s a bit more of a complex way of putting together data in a file. And so that’s typically… A way that our partners are, whether it’s a marketplace or reseller who can read that file, and then we figure out how to get it to them. So how do I know to give them this file? Obviously, if I’m changing quantities in my Shopify store by the minute or by the hour, or whatever it might be, I need to make sure that they have that data, I can’t just be emailing it every time that the quantity changes, right? “Oh, just got an order, need to go email out my file to someone to tell them that the quantity is different.”

Travis Mariea:

So what you typically see is people will do some kind of script, or honestly, these Flxpoint, GoDataFeed, Feedonomics, they have a script running, a piece of code running, that’s exporting out that file from your store, and automatically overwriting the file on a location like an FTP location, which is basically a server in the cloud, right? HTTP link is familiar, if you put something on Dropbox, and I share a link to that file, HTTP link is basically that. So it’s basically a live file now. That’s why they call it a feed, you think about a feed is like syndicating, it’s like a stream of data. That means that anytime you download that file, it’s going to have the most up to date data, in platforms like this here in the middle, feed generators, that’s what they’re doing. That’s what these arrows are all about. It’s really a one way arrow in this scenario. But it’s basically updating it by overwriting that data constantly. And that’s why they kind of call it a feed.

Travis Mariea:

So lastly, the other thing is maybe a little bit less sophisticated way of doing this, you can also, instead of putting it in and just overwriting the file via link, or an FTP location, you can just email out the file. Some suppliers, and some private data owners will do this where it’s like, whenever it does change, an email gets sent. Or maybe they just send it out daily or hourly, and that’s just how they do things. So you can expect an email with a new file. Not the best way of doing things, it’s a little bit archaic in this day and age, but 10 years ago, it was amazing to be able to automatically send out an email each time for an [inaudible 00:12:02] to get live inventory quantities, right? And then there’s EDI, again there, right? So just connecting via what’s called a value added network.

Travis Mariea:

But yeah, so basically, what the end result is, and I’ll show the next slide is you’re just getting a file and you’re getting one that is reliably up to date, with accurate inventory costs, quantity and product data that may change at any given time, and you’re supplying it to a third party.

Travis Mariea:

And so to kind of bring that home, because that might not… you still might be kind of thinking and a little hazy on what that actually looks like. It’s basically a spreadsheet, right? And you can get really sophisticated with, like I said, EDI type limitations, or essentially a lot of times you can pull this data from an API, you can do all that. But the very bare bones level, it’s just a spreadsheet, I’ve kind of transposed it here with the left-hand-side being the headers, and then the right is kind of an example just to show in this slide here. But essentially, you’re going to usually see these headers are going to be each column, right? Column A is going to be parent SKU, column B is going to be variant SKU, and so on and so forth.

Travis Mariea:

And this is just one row in a spreadsheet, and then there would be multiple rows below it, right, KSU one, two, three, then it’d be SKU, four, five, six, four, or five, six, below that, so on and so forth. So that’s basically what you would see if someone… If you’re asking for a product data feed from your supplier, or if a reseller is asking you to provide a product data feed to them. That’s basically they’re asking for, they’re asking for a spreadsheet with a bunch of rows of products with their data in it. And so I’ll get into it more, but I’m just going to walk through a couple of the things you’ll see here.

Travis Mariea:

So parents SKU versus variants SKU, basically the idea that there’s a parent product, like a T-shirt, and that T-shirt can have a red in a large, and a small in a green, and all these different kinds of variations of that T-shirt. So [inaudible 00:13:54] in here, this isn’t always the case, I’ll get into [inaudible 00:14:01] best practices and pitfalls. But this is ideal. You’ll see titles, description, stuff to make it easy for your products to be syndicated and sold by your partners.

Travis Mariea:

Typically, you’re only going to send the wholesale cost when you’re sending the product feed to a B2B reseller. Someone that is reselling your products onto another sales channel. If you’re actually listing it directly to the consumer, the marketplaces don’t need to know how much it’s going to cost them. You’re not selling it to them, you’re selling it directly to the consumer with a list price, as you see in this next column here, and so you don’t typically need to send a cost, right, there’s no resell cost. So you’ll see those differ depending on where you’re sending quantity, obviously one of the most important pieces there.

Travis Mariea:

Product image links, so it’s worth noting here, and I’ll get into it more, like I said, but naming it in a proper way where you’re using the SKU as the file name, you’re actually putting a link to the image here in the feed, which isn’t always the case. And then also making sure that if you do have multiple images, putting it in multiple columns. I didn’t do that here in this example to save space, but this would essentially be product image link number one, and then the next column would be product image link number two, and so on so forth.

Travis Mariea:

You’re going to have a main category, subcategory, really important for the B2C listing, they typically need you to fit into their taxonomy, into their categories. The prices I mentioned, if you are not the brand, right, if I’m Vans, I’m not typically putting my own name in next to all my products. But if you’re a wholesaler that sells multiple brands, a lot of times it’s helpful to have that brand name in there, in the feed, as well as the Manufacturer Part Number, the brand part number, right?

Travis Mariea:

UPC. Obviously, a lot of times it’s required to be listed on these marketplaces, as far as a feed goes. If you’re creating them in bulk, you typically might need a UPC. And there’s other data down here that could be optional, it could be required, depending on where you’re listing.

Travis Mariea:

So yeah, and then shipping costs. It’s worth noting here, because obviously, depending on your shipping policies, you might not know the shipping cost. Typically, shipping costs are generated on a per order basis, there’s one T-shirt, might not have a cost, because you don’t know where it’s going. Is it international, is it close, is it in the same state, is it just across the country, is it just one shirt, is it multiple shirts? You don’t really know the shipping cost. But for certain, if you have the flat rate policy, you can at least give an estimation, or the flat rate for that single item, if you do have a flat rate cost.

Travis Mariea:

So we’ve seen this requested a lot if you’re selling to B2B resellers, and honestly some of the marketplaces, you can give a shipping estimate or shipping policy. So that part’s a little bit more nuanced. But hopefully that makes sense, where sometimes you’re going to put that in there, even though it might not be the exact shipping cost after it’s all said and done.

Travis Mariea:

And lastly, the options and attributes, that is a good practice. And I put two columns here, because really, you’re going to have a column that says, “Option name,” which is color, and an option value, which is red, then option name, size, and option value, large. So if anyone wants one, everyone’s going to have my email, I can send you a generic kind of sample CSV, in case you’re interested, just feel free to email me after the webinar.

Travis Mariea:

So I talked a little bit about this already, but the B2B versus B2C. What are the big differences in when you’re providing this? And most people we talk to today, like I said, I’m using the supplier as the main persona here of who’s providing the feed. But dropship resellers can, as well, when they act as a middleman. But let’s just use the supplier in this instance, if you’re providing a product data feed to your dropship resellers, people that are reselling your products to consumers. Your work is done after you provide the CSV, it’s up to them now to figure out how to get the products up on their website, to sell it on a marketplace, whatever it might be, they have to figure that part out later, right?

Travis Mariea:

So this is traditionally easier to do, just get up and running, and then the dropship reseller receives this file, right, it looks something like this in spreadsheet format, they receive that file, then it’s up to them on like, “Okay, how do I get that file into my e-commerce store?” Right? Let’s just say that’s the case, they’re selling it on Shopify now. That’s a really quick, shameless plug here. But that’s where Inventory Source and Flxpoint come in, they’re our two companies that kind of help with that, right? Flxpoint, like I said earlier, not only helps with generating the feed, but also would help your resellers with the connecting in from a feed that’s provided to them, to then into their own store.

Travis Mariea:

So that’s where that happens. Otherwise, you’ve got more savvy resellers, they can figure out how to script it, they can figure out how to manually upload and do it via VA or whatever it might be. Virtual Assistant [inaudible 00:19:09], if quantity is not changing too much, or whatever it is. So that’s something worth noting, your work is done sending it to a B2B side of things.

Travis Mariea:

It’s a little bit different with B2C. B2C, these are tech companies, these are ad platforms, and they’re marketplaces that they almost have leverage in a scenario, you want to sell your products here, they want to make it easy for you to some extent, but at the same time, you want to do it in bulk, you have to kind of fit their rules, and they want to provide a great experience to their customers. When I go search Amazon or Walmart or Facebook or whatever it might be, I don’t want to look at your data, especially if you’re reselling products, so you call it T-shirts and they… All right, you call it apparel, and they call it clothing, and I’ve got this whole structure of different categories, you got to figure out where everything is located.

Travis Mariea:

They want one nice structured taxonomy of categories that you have to adhere to. So I’ve just given that top level here as an example. You might have in your feed, just go back real quick, you call it apparel, right? That’s your main category in the spreadsheet that you received or that you’ve generated. And so from there, they don’t care if you call it apparel, you need to call it clothing in the category one, so you’re going to be mapping up to their taxonomy. And so there’s, in the back end of all of these, they have the ability to basically receive a feed, and you would go and you’d enter it in, essentially, that HTTP link of where your feed’s located, like we saw earlier, that you can generate with a feed generator.

Travis Mariea:

And then there, you’re going to need to match those categories, I mean, a lot of times, that’s where GoDataFeed, that’s where Feedonomics comes into play, they’ll help you kind of do that. Sometimes they have some smart logic to help you automatically do that, I would definitely say that they are some of the leaders in that space when it comes to doing that automatically for you. The other thing to think about too, is on different platforms, this is just one platform, one calls it clothing, that might be Google, but then on Facebook, it calls it apparel and clothing, or apparel and accessories, or whatever it might be. So you have to do this each time for each marketplace that you’re selling on. So definitely an effort here, but you’re trying to sell your products, and it’s the steps you need to take.

Travis Mariea:

Attributes as well, this is where it gets even more difficult, because if you think about categories, every product has a main category and a subcategory. But that makes it really easy that you know all your products fit into these categories, I just do that once and then boom, I got my products up on that platform, and I gotta do it again for the next platform.

Travis Mariea:

But attributes are a little bit different, where your T-shirts might have a requirement of size, right? That might be an option or an attribute that you need to put in. And you might just have a one-size-fits-all for some kind of piece of apparel, and so you don’t have a size in there in your feed, and so when you go load it, you’re going to get this error message that says, “I can’t list your product because it don’t have a size, and we’ve noted that it’s in the clothing category.” Right? So you then now have to look at each category and determine what are the attributes that’s required for that category?

Travis Mariea:

And then the next category of let’s just say, kitchenware… let’s say grocery, and it’s like, “Okay, well, I listed a protein bar. And because it’s in the protein bar subcategory, it needs to have, ‘Is it vegan, or GMO free?'” Or whatever it might be, something that’s completely different, that would not apply to a T-shirt. So it’s a little bit more granular kind of management that goes into that, especially if you got a large, large feed of tens of thousands of products or even thousand products plus, it’s going to be kind of tough to manage.

Travis Mariea:

So once again, B2C gets a little bit tougher, same thing. And say you’ve got all that dialed in attributes, categories, whatever, you then need to check and determine on each one of these platforms, “Are my data fields, like the long description I’ve got, over 120 characters?” And maybe on Google, that’s fine, but on Walmart, it’s not. And so you’re going to get an error trying to list into Walmart. Same thing with images, is the resolution too low, is the image in a rectangle shape, and then it’s required on Facebook to be in a square shape? And so they cut it automatically, or maybe they don’t let you list it at all? So as you can see here, you’re fitting to the marketplace that you’re listing on more.

Travis Mariea:

So in the B2C side, or B2B, it’s like, “Here you go, you figure out all the hard stuff.” And that’s why today, we still see suppliers who don’t sell B2C and strictly sell B2B because they don’t want to be good at this, they don’t want to have to manage all that, they allow their resellers to figure that out and to handle that, because this is always changing too. Sure, you can get it set up once for one marketplace, go do the next one, do the next one. But we just saw Walmart change the way that they accept shipping costs, right, on listing. So it’s always changing, it’s a moving target for sure.

Travis Mariea:

So when it comes to providing the B2B, I’m going to focus on the B2B side here now, because obviously, as we just said in the B2C, there’s variants on marketplace, and it’s probably worth a whole nother webinar on that. But focusing on the B2B portion, this top reseller portion here, what are the best practices that we see when it comes to providing a feed, right? And I see a couple of people in here from Flxpoint, some coworkers here, and if you guys can think of any that I didn’t put in here, I’d love to see them in the chat, and I’ll hit them at the end in case I miss any. So I’d love to see those, if anyone has some ideas.

Travis Mariea:

But the first one is providing variants in a parent/child SKU, logical naming convention, right? So providing variants of parent/child SKUs with a logical naming convention. So what that means is, and I’ll go back to my example, you have a T-shirt that has multiple variations of that T-shirt, you’ve got different sizes and colors, and that can exponentially expand depending on all the combinations of size and colors that you might have. So if you think about it, you really do need a way to logically determine if this large, red shirt should go up and kind of hierarchically list underneath a private listing of that same T-shirt that will give you options for the green, large shirt. If you want that structure, that parent/child kind of hierarchy, you need to kind of provide it in a way that makes sense, and that can be interpreted by platforms, as well as even human readable, ideally.

Travis Mariea:

So you know that this right here, if you read this, you can see that it’s probably the same exact product, it’s just a variation of it, because it’s got the same kind of prefix of the SKU, of the parent SKU, it starts with a dash, and kind of determinants the L is for the size large, dash red for the color. So that’s a good structure. We see a lot of times where the parent SKU isn’t even provided at all. And so you can still, if your parents SKUs are not provided, but still in a good structure, you can sometimes assume and deduce what the actual parent SKU should be, makes it a little bit tougher, causes more issues, right? You’re going to get more requests and questions from your resellers. But it’s at least one step in the right direction.

Travis Mariea:

The best practice is to actually provide two columns, one parent SKU, one variant SKU, and have it in a nice structure. So that’s definitely worth noting, and we definitely see that, some do better than others. Large distributors that we work with don’t do it.

Travis Mariea:

So next, providing images. So another common thing we see is that a supplier won’t provide… they’ll have images, but they’ll have it on some Dropbox location, or FTP, in a folder and it’s zipped up, and it’s nowhere to be found in the feed and they give you a spreadsheet of the feed for all the product data and inventory data. And then they say, “Hey, by the way, go to this FTP location to find the images.” And it’s in a zipped folder or whatever.

Travis Mariea:

So obviously, there’s reasons why you want to zip up images, they’re large, right, you want to save space, things like that. But if possible, put them up on Dropbox and get the unlimited plan, or [inaudible 00:27:15] plan or whatever it is, and put them in an unzipped folder, and name them by the variant SKU, right? That SKU123-L-Red, the very lowest level, so you have the color, you have the picture of that shirt, that’s a large, that’s a red shirt, identified right at that level. That’s the best practice.

Travis Mariea:

We see zipped a lot of times and although Flxpoint can unzip an image folder really quickly and do that automatically, a lot of systems can’t. The other thing is, once again, good naming conventions here, if you’ve got multiple images, put them in separate columns in the feed, and give them just a simple -1, -2, -3, on the end of the naming of them, right? So when you name the image, the actual file name that’s on Dropbox, name of the SKU, and then end it with a -1, or -2, or whatever it might be.

Travis Mariea:

Providing intuitive headers, so you saw the example earlier, right? My feed I generated, it was category… or the main category was the name of the header. We see people use a ton of different stuff that, for whatever reason, made sense at the time, but isn’t really that intuitive. We’ve actually seen other large distributors not even provide headers at all, they just provide you a file with no headers, and it’s separated by some delimiter, there’s technical reasons why that made sense at the time, but ultimately, not updating it and providing it was frankly, lazy in a lot of cases. Nowadays, you should be able to account for, from a technical standpoint, to get the headers in. And so people can see the headers and read them. If you don’t have headers, it makes things really difficult to understand what’s going on and download them, you have to reference the doc or whatever it might be.

Travis Mariea:

For large catalogs, we’re talking about integrating, right? Whether it’s through a system, a generator, or a system to connect to the feed, we’re doing it in a programmatic way. And even when you’re not, a large file is tough to manage, it becomes untenable after a certain amount of size for a lot of people, they can’t open it on their computer, whatever might be. And sometimes you might just want to check the quantity.

Travis Mariea:

So if you’ve got a large, I’d say over 5,000, 10,000 products, and you’ve got a lot of product data in there, I think it makes sense to go ahead and separate out the inventory file and the product data file. And honestly, it’s probably a best practice to put the inventory data in both the product data file with all the data, and then put it in a separate file as well. If you can manage to keep those in sync, you’re not dealing with [inaudible 00:29:49] that says, “Quantity of 10 here,” it says, “Quantity 5 here.” If that’s not an issue, and you can feel good about your process or you’re working with a company like ours, basically, I would do that when possible. Just to make it easy, in case someone does want to just consume one file, it’s easier for them to do versus kind of connecting to two.

Travis Mariea:

And the last one is providing a FAQ doc to explain your data feed. So definitely, it’s good to explain it. I mean, you saw the one earlier, it’s pretty straightforward, but you’ll definitely get questions. As a supplier, you want to minimize the amount of reseller emails and inquiries around the technical stuff, you’d just rather get emails about orders rather, right? So do what you can there.

Travis Mariea:

In the common pitfalls we see, so the first one, people are used to Excel, they used to Google Sheets, they want to use them, I get it, we use both all the time here Flxpoint. But it is good to keep it in a universal format, the formatting that happens and renders in these programs can mess up the data, one of the most common ones or UPCs, the leading zeros can disappear basically out of the data file, so as you take it from a CSV to an Excel file, and back to a CSV or whatever you’re doing with it, that can cause issues there.

Travis Mariea:

So something to think about, try to keep it in a CSV file, if possible, try to avoid Microsoft or Google specific formats. Also, you’ve seen scientific notation where you have a long number, a lot of times it turns into that E plus 11, if you’ve ever seen that, it can cause confusion.

Travis Mariea:

I’ve also seen spreading data out across multiple tabs, obviously, once again, you’re using Google or Microsoft here in most cases. So if you do do that, that’s really tough to kind of integrate with. Flxpoint does have the ability to pick out a specific tab and integrate each one of those tabs. But that was something we had to build that was not easy, that was not out of the gate, out of the box kind of functionality, so something to think about.

Travis Mariea:

And then not using HTML description, so if you just put a description into a field, it’s going to come through, but it’s just going to come through as one long stream of text and for most suppliers, or for most resellers, and for most marketplaces, that’s just not going to be doable, you’re going to want those attributes, different points about why the product is great in bullets, you’re going to want bold, you’re going to want HTML type rich content. So putting it in HTML is definitely a best practice, and if you are not doing it, it’s really a common pitfall we see.

Travis Mariea:

So that was all about generating a feed, being the supplier, pushing a feed out to a reseller to consume, right? And like I said, if you do those things, it will put your reseller into a good place to work with your feed. And then your work is done, you don’t have to worry about integrating to a marketplace, whatever it might be.

Travis Mariea:

But now let’s talk about from the dropship reseller perspective. So you’ve received a feed now, right? There’s two main areas that you have to tackle now, you’ve received a feed that we just got done talking about supplier generating, and so there’s some best practices there in how to work with your supplier on that. And then two, now you have to get it up to the e-commerce store. So I’m a dropshipper reseller in this slide and the next two, and I’m trying to figure out both of these and make sure I’m taking the right steps to make sure that I’m not going back and forth, and spending a lot of time here.

Travis Mariea:

So let me start on the left-hand-side and dive in on what to do here. So when working with a supplier, the supplier has to provide you with a feed, they’ve watched this webinar, they’ve done it in the perfect format, whatever it might be, you still kind of want to ask some questions, make sure you fully understand that feed, because it’s going to make the difference when you go to get up to your e-commerce store. Because you might run into some issues there, and you want to know what’s possible from your supplier, you don’t really know the system that they’re using to get you a feed, you just get a link to a spreadsheet. So you really want to get a feel for what is possible.

Travis Mariea:

So the first thing to ask is, what format and protocols are available? They might say, “Hey, we email out a spreadsheet every day at 8:00 am, Eastern time.” And [inaudible 00:34:00], “Great, okay, there you go. I got a feed now.” But they didn’t tell you, “Well, we also have it located on Dropbox. And that’s updated hourly.” Right? Or, “We have an API you can connect to that’s live, is real time.” And so that might make a difference to you, you might find that if you just took that out, or that daily emailed feed, and you integrate it because it was possible in the system that you’re doing, that you can pull from an email. You did it, and then you’re starting to sell out-of-stock items constantly, and you realize that the quantity out of date, you would have wished you asked and integrated first directly to the hourly one, if not maybe spent the extra money or spent the extra time to integrate directly to the live feed.

Travis Mariea:

So definitely ask what’s available, don’t assume what they give you is the only thing they have. And then they might not even tell you how often it’s updated, right? Let’s take the other example of they didn’t tell you about an email, every 8:00 am, or whatever. They just said, “Here’s a link to the file.” And that’s all they say. So you want to know how often is this actually updated? What can I expect from an inventory perspective? How often do the quantities change on this file? Because you’re not going to know, because it’s just constantly getting overwritten. How often does the cost change, right? Because, I’ll talk more on the right-hand-side, that’s going to make a big difference on what software you choose, right? And should you be updating cost? Do you need sophisticated rules to factor in the cost when you’re pricing your items? You don’t want to lose money if they just bump the cost up 50% on you. That’s going to factor in how you list those products.

Travis Mariea:

And then how often do you get new products, because all these are probably going to be on different cadences. What I see is inventory, depending on how much it matters, and who you’re working with, it can be updated anywhere from every five minutes, to every hour or twice a day, right? As often is that, right? Five minutes to maybe every, let’s say, eight hours, more than once a day. That’s the range. Costs, it’s really rare, but I’ve seen some of that update costs throughout the day, which is rare, but I have seen it, it’s more often that you’ll see costs change monthly, or quarterly. And they’ll show up in the feed, and there’ll be different costs, monthly, and quarterly is probably the most common.

Travis Mariea:

And then products, products are once again, they kind of are usually lockedstep with costs a lot of times, but new products can constantly be showing up, I should say, actually, but they are on a cadence of monthly or quarterly more often. So just something to think about and differentiate between those three different data points.

Travis Mariea:

And then also, yeah, so with that, they might tell you that, and honestly, there’s a lot of the larger distributors out there might say, “Yeah, this is how it works with this file. But for our API, which just has inventory quantity data, that’s actually updated in real time. And then the product data, we send in a file on Dropbox that’s updated every day,” or every month, or whatever it might be. So ask about, once you determine the different protocols, see what’s different, as far as how often it syncs, sometimes they differ greatly.

Travis Mariea:

And then also, once again, don’t assume what they gave you was everything, is all the data here? A lot of times they’ll give you data where your cost is not there, because that’s submitted separately. So they’ll say, “Here’s the file with the quantity and the product data,” but then your cost comes in a different file, right? So some definitely to account for.

Travis Mariea:

And lastly, do you have any integration partners? So this might be really simple, you might be using a platform like ours, and they gave you a feed that checks all the boxes, and it doesn’t really matter, but it’s probably good to know either way, and especially if it’s really sophisticated or complex, and there’s a delta file where it’s just the change quantity shows up in one file, and then there’s a quantity file, but also a product data file, and the API has… It can get really crazy. So it’s worth asking, “Do you work with anyone that helps set this up? Or do you have your feed already integrated, like an inventory source type scenario, where into a network that I can just plug into?” Definitely end with that one, especially if you’re a little concerned about integrating with them.

Travis Mariea:

So all of these questions are really setting you up, and try to get them out as you can with a supplier, get them up front in one email chain, whatever, and then take them and use them to help make better decisions on how you connect to your e-commerce store. And so, things to consider when you’re looking to sync with your e-commerce store, right? You’ve got a supplier that constantly is changing costs, or constantly is changing quantity, and you need to make sure that you’re not over selling their items. And maybe they’re always loading up new products, right? That was why you asked that there. How do you plan on managing that going forward? What is your business strategy, are you just going to load five of their products and sell that? Probably not. You’re probably going to sell as much as that makes sense for your business model and your consumer that you’re selling to, or whoever it might be. And then you’re probably going to load new products as they become available in the feed, you’re going to want to get those up.

Travis Mariea:

So if you need to load new products in, you’re going to want to use a platform that can manage product data, that can take the product data from the left, which is the file that you received, or the API integration that you’ve integrated to, and push that product up into your store. A lot of times people do it backwards, because they’re used to the traditional method of, “I take my own file, I create my own descriptions,” and that’s fine. You definitely want to modify your descriptions, and your titles, and do all that stuff. But as far as getting new products up in bulk and mass, this left to right flow, we’ve converted a lot of online retailers to learn that this allows you to do things a lot quicker, you can modify in stream, you can change the file, you can build rules and flex point to add chain… make sure that it’s not all uppercase or add MPN to the descriptions or bullet out attributes automatically. You can do a lot of data management as well as individually manipulate the descriptions and titles.

Travis Mariea:

But if you go from, “I want to just download this spreadsheet, upload it to my store, and then try to sync back to the inventory,” it’s tough to manage, and it’s really not the most efficient way. So if you plan on adding new products constantly, or a good bit at least, definitely consider a dropship platform or data management platform that will push the products up to your store for you and allow you to manipulate the data prior to it going live on your store. Definitely consider that.

Travis Mariea:

Secondly, how often do you need to sync inventory? If it’s someone that is constantly going through SKUs, and they keep low quantities, and you need to sync really quick, right? Look at and ask your partner and your software provider that you’re considering, “How quickly can you sync?” We can sync down every five minutes, a lot of the other platforms out there sync hourly, at best, and so you’re just going to want to kind of consider that.

Travis Mariea:

Do their products overlap with other suppliers in your warehouse? So this is one where you may be working with a supplier that you already buy from in wholesale, you buy from them pallets every quarter, every month and you store in your own warehouse, and you’ve got your own inventory, and you already got product data up on your store selling, let’s say, CamelBak water jugs, water bottles. So with that, you want to consider, “Okay, how easy is it to get their inventory to sync up in conjunction with my inventory?” Right? Will my platform make it easy to say, “I’ve got 15 CamelBak water bottles in my own warehouse. And now I want to overflow into CamelBak who’s going to dropship for me? Can I easily just add in their 200 that they have in their warehouse to my 15? And the second that I run out of my 15, it overflows to the 200?” Right? So thinking about that, and if that factors in.

Travis Mariea:

Or if you’re working with a brand directly, CamelBak, then also one of the distributors as well, that’s another case where there’s overlap there, right? So think about that factor. Flxpoint automatically allows you to kind of match those multiple sources of inventory, by the product data we pull in, right, UPC and different IDs there. If you need to go do that manually for each one of your products, it might work if you only have some overlap, if you have a ton of overlap, you definitely want to look into an automation platform that does that automatically, based on UPC, or whatever it might be.

Travis Mariea:

Managing various structures, so multiple images, and then custom fields, right? So once again, it’s all about the product data, it’s about loading new products, do you have products that are a variant structure? Some don’t, some have very flat structures, there’s only one water bottle, everything else is a separate type of water bottle, there’s no kind of parent/child structure. Maybe that’s the case for your catalog, maybe it was all on multiple images. But definitely think about how I manage product data and get it up to my platform? And how do I make it so I can manage things a little bit easier as well, just in my own management system? So think about that as evaluating what you’re using.

Travis Mariea:

And how complex is the integration? So if it’s file-based, a lot of the software out there, like ours, and others, they’ll automatically be able to just pull in a file by just using your own kind of user interface to say, “Here’s where the file is located. Here’s the headers, we map it in.” And you as a user can just go in and map all that in and sync it. However, if you’re working with someone that says, “Yeah, my product data is like that, here’s the file. But then if you want real-time inventory, you have to connect to my API.”

Travis Mariea:

So when you’re considering how to sync with your store, if you need that real-time inventory, you should be considering working with a partner that can build that API integration for you, or that EDI integration for you. And that can do more than just give you a platform that’s what you see is what you get, type user interface to help you connect, but can actually have that professional services team, and that almost act as your tech team, your developer resources, build those for you as well. Your first [inaudible 00:44:04] might be easy, but if you anticipate your other ones needing that, definitely something to consider.

Travis Mariea:

All right, well, it wasn’t 30 minutes, 45. So I really do think I got as basically… exhausted my knowledge of data feeds and maybe all the things that to look out for. So hopefully that was helpful for anyone, will definitely be… I saw this come through as well, another one asking for the recording. We will be recording this. If you do have any questions, if you, like I said, if you want to see an example data file, send me an email, my email is down there. If you just want to learn more about Flxpoint in general, go ahead, you can see a demo, there’s tons of product videos on our website.

Travis Mariea:

Looks like we do have another question coming in, [inaudible 00:44:52]. So I use Miva. How do I generate a feed? So Miva is actually one we’re familiar with, Miva is more of an enterprise from what I would describe it as, sales channel, e-commerce website platform, right? So if you’re using Miva, the place that you manage your product inventory and data, you would basically, once again, you can do that search where you just type Miva product feed generator and see what pops up, see if there’s stuff in their marketplace, I know they have an app marketplace. That’s one option.

Travis Mariea:

Flxpoint, we could integrate to you as well. And then obviously, then you’ve got the platform, the flexible platform to generate any kind of feed that you want. That’d be another option. It really just comes down to what your strategy is, is it B2B, B2C, all that, and what you would need, right? So yeah, Miva is not as popular as a platform because it is a little more expensive, and like I said, enterprise-ish. So it might be tougher to find, you might have to have someone build it like us, or someone else, but definitely look and see if you can find anything prebuilt.

Travis Mariea:

We got one more, how do I get a data feed from my supplier? So, I mean, this is a really good question if you think about it. You’re not really sure. Right? So the first thing is, you just got to ask, you have to ask them, “Do you provide product data feeds, right?” And see if they even understand what that means. If they don’t, right, we’ve got some resources on our YouTube channel, if they’re not there today, there’ll be up there soon, [inaudible 00:46:29] how to kind of have that conversation with your supplier of, “Here’s what a product data feed is.” I mean, you could share them on this webinar and just maybe skip to a certain time.

Travis Mariea:

But if they know what it is, they’ll just provide it to you. They’ll say, “Here it is, here’s what it is.” And that’s where you go back to asking those questions about, “Okay, is this the only way you give it? How often is it updated?” That kind of stuff. So, basically say for some context, put it in a way of, “Hey, I’d love to sync with your inventory, so I can keep my website up to date, as well as load new products efficiently. Do you provide a product data feed in a file that I can easily upload to my website?” That’s probably good enough. If you write that in an email, they will probably understand what that means.

Travis Mariea:

All right, any other questions? Awesome. Well, I know it’s not the sexiest topic, data feeds, but hopefully we’ve got a pretty good turnout, I guess, for the topic, and I really appreciate you guys sticking through it and hopefully you learned something today. So thanks again. And like I said, you’ll see the recording out in your inbox, as well as on YouTube. Have a great one.