Understanding Content Sources and Prioritization in E-Commerce

Understanding Content Sources and Prioritization in E-Commerce

You might think that when you submit product content to a retailer, it will go live on the retailer’s web site—end of story. But getting content live is harder than it looks. Fortunately, solutions exist, but it’s worth educating yourself about how the area of content syndication is rapidly evolving.

Supply Side—Suppliers

Historically, content for CPG products was created by third parties primarily in the content creation business. They setup pipelines for receiving physical products and taking photos of them. Then, they charged suppliers for those images and delivered the images to various retailers. The photos were standardized (front, back, left side, right side, top, bottom). Most of the investment at these companies (called catalog companies) was around the content production pipelines for receiving physical products and capturing the resulting images.

But in the last few years, this model has been disrupted, with suppliers taking a more active role in the creation of their product content.

The 3C’s of Product Content

Suppliers are taking a more active role because of 3C’s of product content:

Control. With E-Commerce the fastest growing segment for most suppliers, they want to take a more active role in how their brands and products are represented online. This means they are hiring their own agencies to create content, and in some cases, they’re building out in-house teams to manage content production.

Copy. Images are one key part of the pipeline, but so too are product names and descriptions. When most products were sold in-store, it was the advertising and product packaging that mattered the most. But as more and more sales have shifted online, product descriptions (the text that describes the products) are playing a bigger role, especially because it is this text that retailer web site search algorithms and general search engines like Google evaluate in order to determine which products to show in their search results.

Cost. Suppliers don’t want to pay multiple times to create the same product content.

Demand Side—Retailers

Until recently, many retailers were not setup to take product content feeds from multiple sources. They typically worked with one or two content providers who created most if not all of the content displayed on their web sites.

Leading retailers have opened up their content pipelines to accept content from multiple sources, including from, catalog providers and directly from suppliers via product information management (PIM) systems that support direct syndication to retailers.

With this open, multi-source model, has come a new challenge: content prioritization. If a retailer receives content from multiple sources, how does a retailer choose which source to display on its web site?  Different retailers take different approaches:

  • Time-based: Most recent content wins. This model is used by Amazon. Whoever submits content last is whose content shows up on the web site. The key challenge with this model is that good content can get overridden by bad.

    Example: That means that if a supplier submits content for an item, but a distributor submits content for that same item a few days later, the distributor’s content will override the supplier’s content. In that case, the supplier will need to repeatedly resubmit their content unless they’re able to make an arrangement with their distributor to stop submitting content that overrides the supplier’s content. This makes sense however—suppliers should have the most up-to-date and accurate content for their brands.

  • Static priorities. In this model, the retailer assigns static priorities to each content source. This works well initially but doesn’t factor in submission quality over time. It also means that retailers become swamped by requests to change content source priorities as suppliers/brands submit requests to change content source priorities as they see content they don’t like representing their brand.

    Example: a content source is set at the highest priority. For a while, the content source delivers high quality content. But over time, the quality of content from that source starts to degrade. But because the content source priorities are static, the content from that supplier is still ranked higher than other content sources. A supplier who notices this degradation must submit a request to the retailer to update its content priorities, which takes time. As a result, the retailer may start out with good content but end up with bad.

  • Dynamic content priorities. With this approach, content sources are initially configured in priority order. The submitted content is evaluated for quality and the content score for each content source changes based on the quality evaluation over time. As a result, content from the highest quality content source is what will be displayed on the web site. While this approach is more difficult for retailers to implement, it delivers the best online shopping experience with the highest quality content.

Content Done Right
Fortunately, there are connected content platforms like Content Analytics that manage the complexities of content delivery for you. The Content Analytics platform not only helps you gather all your content in one place, it also syndicates that content to retailers and audits the item pages on retailer web sites to make sure content has gone live—and alert you if it hasn’t.

Unfortunately, many legacy Product Information Management (PIM) systems don’t have built-in syndication capabilities. That means they can help you consolidate your content, but they can’t help you deliver it to the retailer web sites where shoppers will see it. Content Analytics includes built-in syndication capabilities, including both direct API connections to retailers, and template support for retailers that don’t support APIs. Please contact us to find out more.


Get Updates in Your Inbox

Recent Posts