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Standards For Comparison Shopping Engine Feeds

Here's today's ARTS Shop.org press release on the CSE data standardization initiative.

Contact: Kathy Grannis or Ellen Davis (202) 783-7971

ARTS Announces New Formats to Simplify Online Advertising

New York, New York, October 10, 2006 - Standard data exchange formats designed to simplify online advertising were announced today in New York City at the annual convention of Shop.org, the online division of the National Retail Federation. These standard formats will allow advertisers to send detailed product-level information to search engines more efficiently.

The new standards were developed by a diverse committee working with the Association for Retail Technical Standards (ARTS). Committee members included representatives from search engines including Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft; from online retailers including Target, Penney's and REI; and from online marketing agencies including Mercent, Channel Intelligence, The Rimm-Kaufman Group, and MARS.

"Standard data formats help retailers and search engines by providing a common language for describing product data," said Richard Mader, Executive Director of the Association for Retail Technical Standards, a division of the National Retail Federation. "This in turn helps consumers by ensuring product data on the search engines is more complete, timely, and accurate. ARTS is pleased to be working with a diverse set of search engines and online advertisers on this important standard."

"The current situation is a digital tower-of-Babel, where different online shopping search and shopping engines take SKU data in different formats. These specs allow advertisers, engines, and agencies to exchange product data more efficiently," said Jay Heavilon of MARS, who chaired the committee.

The data formats are specified in XML, the data language of the internet. One format allows retailers to submit detailed product information to the search engines including product name, price, URL, image, description, color, size, in-stock status, and shipping fees. Another format allows search engines to send back standard acknowledgements and/or any appropriate error messages.

The first beta test of the standard occurred on October 5th, when engineers at marketing firm Channel Intelligence used the format to submit product information from their client Circuit City to the AOL Shopping platform.

"Circuit City sells 9,000 great consumer electronics products online," said David Mathews, President of Circuit City Direct. "Standard data formats will help us get our product information out to our search engine partners with more speed, accuracy, and consistency. Our goal is to help online shoppers get better information when researching and buying consumer electronics."

According to Shop.org and Forrester Research, online sales will top $200 billion this year.

# # #

The Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) is an international membership organization dedicated to reducing the costs of technology through standards. Since 1993, ARTS has been delivering application standards exclusively to the retail industry. ARTS has three standards: The Standard Relational Data Model, UnifiedPOS and IXRetail. Membership is open to all members of the international technology community- retailers from all industry segments, application developers and hardware companies. www.nrf-arts.org

Shop.org is the network for retailers online. It's where the best retail minds come together to gain the insight, knowledge, and intelligence to make smarter, more informed decisions in the evolving world of the Internet and multichannel retailing. Founded in 1996, Shop.org became a division of the National Retail Federation in January 2001. The association's membership includes interactive executives from store-based retailers, catalog-based retailers, Web-based retailers, and retail solution providers. www.shop.org

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.4 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 23 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2005 sales of $4.4 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com

If your company currently advertises using CSEs -- or if your company is thinking about starting -– this standardization effort will help you. Here are four steps to support this initiative.

  • Contact ARTS for a copy of the three XML specifications: visit www.nrf-arts.org or call Karen Shunk at (202)-626-8140
  • Ask your merchants, marketers, and IT folks to review the product schema. Do the fields have the data needed to describe your goods? Do the fields have the data needed to support your promotions, offers, shipping, and tax situation? If not, offer ARTS suggestions on improvinf the specs for the next iteration.
  • Ask your IT team to develop a product data feed in the ARTS format. Make this your preferred format to send data to CSEs and your search agency.
  • Advocate. Tell the CSEs you would be more likely to start advertising with them (or to increase your ad spend) if you can send and retrieve product and cost data more easily. Tell all CSEs to support the ARTS standards.

Standards help all us – retailers, agencies, CSEs, and consumers. Find out more, and lend your support to this important industry-wide initiative.

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