Shopping Feed Management – The Top Seller Variant Strategy

If you manage comparison shopping engine campaigns, you probably know that sending your full product feed isn’t always the way to go.  It’s a painful reality for some because retailers are pulled in one direction to give all of their products a chance to convert and pulled in another to maintain a low COS and stay under budget.

One route you can take to limit your feed is to cut out variants.  Product variants are the additional listings of a given product (ex. the same shirt in S, M, and L and in Black, White, or Blue).  More specifically, it may be profitable to keep just the variants of your top-selling products and brands.

Jeff-Coleman-shopping-feed-management-top-seller-strategyThe following is the insight of our Director of Account Management, Jeff Coleman. (Thanks Jeff!)

I wanted to let you know about a strategy I’ve been using for some of my clients that have product variations in their feed.  The example below is for a client of ours.

For retailers that sell multiple variations of a single product, we might not want to send every single variation to each shopping engine. For example, our client has, on average, 13 different size & color variations for each piece of clothing they sell, which adds up to thousands of additional listings and a lot more visibility on search results pages.

The Problem

When we were sending the full feed, we were over budget and over their ROI goal so I elected to cut out variations altogether to get spend under control. COS improved a lot, however, that all-or-nothing approach to cutting variations ultimately hurt their order volume as I ended up removing variations for products that were profitable.

The Solution

Send all product variations for top-converting items. I did this 2 ways.

1. First, I got a list of the products that sold on each engine.

2. Next, since we don’t have Google Analytics data for this client, I went with their top-selling brands. I already had an idea of what their top brands were, but I asked the client for their feedback on this just to be sure. So my variation list included a) the top-selling SKUs on that engine and b) all SKUs in their top-selling brands.

If you have Google Analytics data for the client you want to try this for, I’d recommend complementing that list with a list of their top-selling products site-wide by going through the exact same process you’d normally go through to put together a regular top-sellers list. That way you can easily update that list each month when you update your Google Top Sellers list.

Why The Top Seller Variant Strategy Can Work

The idea here is to saturate the search results of any particular engine with a bunch of listings of a client’s top-selling products. If a product converts well, then adding 10 more listings for that product will give them more visibility for searches that have already proven to generate orders.

Results

We saw order volume increase from around 30 – 35 orders per week to 45 – 50 orders per week, and according to their internal tracking, the CSEs are generating more YOY volume on their top brands. We also saw an initial COS increase of around 10 points, although I’ve started to make “variant” cuts meaning I’ll cut a parent SKU if none of the variants are generating orders.  That has helped bring COS back down.

However, I think if I’d been able to get better data on top-selling products site-wide (like the list we would generate from Google Analytics), I think the impact on COS would’ve been lower.

With this particular client, we were beating their COS goals and they were comfortable increasing our COS in order to get more order volume. If your client isn’t meeting their ROI goals, then it might be possible to implement a strategy like this in conjunction with a limited feed. For example, you could limit the feed to just the top converting products, categories, or brands, but then send product variations for those to maximize your visibility on the top converting-products while completely cutting out/ down-bidding the poor-performing stuff.

About the AuthorJon Gregoire is the Director of Demand Generation at CPC Strategy. Jon heads up the agency's inbound marketing program. A UC San Diego grad, Jon is a Chicago native and full-time San Diego tourist. He enjoys Bear Grylls-like backpacking trips, archery, weekend getaways in Southern California, watching his beloved Chicago Bears, and bidaily coffee consumption. See all posts by this author here.