Does your firm advertise on shopping comparison feeds? If so, you're cordially invited to participate in "No CSE Sales, No CSE Rows Week", scheduled for April 1 to April 7, 2007. Here's how "No CSE Sales, No CSE Rows" works. Right at the end of February, 2007, for each CSE determine all the SKUs in that feed which had exactly zero corresponding sales in February. For one week, April 1 through 7, drop these items from your feed for the corresponding CSE. In short, for each CSE, remove their zero-sales items for one week. Why do this? What will happen? As these are items that aren't selling, your sales shouldn't decrease. And as these items that aren't selling, this change shouldn't provide any advantage to your competitors. Projected sales and share impact: nil. What about costs? If these items aren't generating sales, you'd hope they're also not generating click fees. If that's the happy situation, then dropping these SKUs for a week shouldn't impact costs either. Projected cost and earnings impact: nil. Why participate in a project with no anticipated top or bottom line impact? Two reasons. First, what if costs ,instead of staying flat, actually decreased during that week? That'd suggest the no-sales items were consuming cost and were reducing your profits. Hmmm. That'd indeed be an interesting and profitable thing to discover. Second, do you know today what would happen if you did this experiment in April? Does this proposed experiment leave you feeling a bit uneasy or uncertain? If you don't know what would happen, or it the experiment does make you feel uneasy, perhaps that's because you lack sufficient insight into the profitability of your CSE advertising at the SKU level? If so, don't blame your marketing team. Blame the opacity of the feed engines when it comes to providing "atomic" (eg, by SKU by day) cost data. Here's another thought experiment. Take your top 10 performing Google keywords and contemplate turning them off for one week. Crazy, you say? Indeed. You could likely tell me in short order the cost of those words and their corresponding sales. And I bet they're profitable. And so I bet you'd be crazy to even think of turning them off. I'm not advising you tinker with the successful portions of your Google campaigns. I offer the Google example to contrast with the feed situation. Google (and Yahoo, and MSN) provide advertisers with detailed atomic cost data both through their web tools and through their APIs. Kudos to them for doing so. Cost data lets direct marketers manage their advertising intelligently. The search engines know that and support that. Not so for most comparison shopping engines. For the most part, cost data isn't easily available to advertisers -- that is, at the by-day by-SKU level. Certainly not via APIs or through machine-friendly formats. (And no, screen-scraping costs isn't acceptable in 2007. Yes, it works, but is a tremendous IT pain for all sides.) CSEs should provide their advertisers with detailed cost data and they should provide it in machine-friendly form. Lack of CSE cost data impedes direct marketers from managing their advertising intelligently. So, again, you are cordially invited to participate in "No CSE Sales, No CSE Rows" week. Think about it. And if you're not sure you want to participate because you're unsure of the impact on your business, well, then I've made my point. Join us and the ARTS in the effort to standardize data formats for getting data into and out of comparison shopping engines. Welcome!
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