FusePump Director Matt Bailey discusses how product data feeds will be almost omnipresent in the near future.

Product data feeds are the hidden drivers of digital commerce. Without realising it, you’ll almost definitely have seen something today that owes its existence to a data feed: perhaps a Google Shopping ad, a retargeting message, or an affiliate ad. At FusePump we optimise and repurpose feeds for any channel, including email campaigns, display ads, paid search, comparison shopping engines… the list goes on. Managing a feed involves lots of hard work behind the scenes to keep product information up to date, relevant, optimised and distributed into the right channels.

But what about the future? We’ve identified five places where we think real-time product data will be used more and more to give customers timely information:

1 – Outdoor

You might well have heard about or seen British Airways’ fantastic #lookup outdoor advertising campaign that featured children pointing at the planes overhead. The real-time data behind these ads allowed the screen to show which the flight number and destination/origin of the flight. As outdoor advertising becomes ever more digital, there’s increased potential for ads to show real-time information. We’ve already seen integrations with twitter, but there’s huge potential for advertising screens to show live video, localise information, and live product information such as prices and availability. Watch this space!

2 – TV

Again, this has already started to happen. Anyone who’s watched live football on TV will have seen Ray Winstone’s large floating head shouting about the latest on-screen odds.

This is only the start. Advertising on TV will become increasingly targeted and displaying real-time product prices and other information is a logical progression.

Our television sets – like so many other things – have become smart, internet-enabled, devices. Through apps on your TV you can instantly buy a product you have just seen in an advert. H&M piloted this technology a couple of years ago, using a Super Bowl slot to allow people to buy products from David Beckham’s Bodywear line through certain smart TVs. Live data-feed-powered product info displayed in adverts, paired with the ability to buy immediately, is surely the way that these trends are going.

3 – Buy Buttons and direct purchase

It hasn’t been a smooth journey, but Buy Buttons are emerging on social media and elsewhere on the Internet. While perhaps not suitable for all channels (twitter has recently started phasing them out), the idea that people can buy things in a click or two – already standard on Amazon of course – is not going away. These Buy Buttons are more effective if paired with a product data feed to show real-time information.

At FusePump we have a ‘BuyNow’ solution for brands that is powered by data feeds. When a customer clicks on a BuyNow button, data feeds are used to show real-time prices and other live information from brands’ retail partners. This is particularly timely if a customer has been researching a product (e.g. on Facebook, or YouTube) or if they see an ad that they like and want to know pricing options. BuyNow is particularly applicable for brands without their own online store, and the data-feed-powered BuyNow buttons – and their use of data feeds – help them to control their customer journeys and drive sales through their retail partners.

4 – Chatbots

Though early experiments with chatbots have mostly been for fun, it won’t be long before chatbots become trusted channels for product research (and probably, in future, purchase). This too will require product data feeds in order to provide up-to-date information on products. For example, if someone generically searches for flowers, the chatbot might ask which type, what price they would be willing to pay, what colour etc. All of this information would be contained in a feed and would be whittled down by an algorithm until the perfect product is found. We, and others, expect a similar algorithm will also be deployed in mobile phone voice searches to facilitate purchasing.

5 – Instore

Brick and mortar stores across the board are stepping up their instore experiences to compete with online shopping, and to provide a seamless omnichannel experience. Often this mirrors digital experiences that are increasingly personalised and efficient. Over 50% of people use their phones whilst in-store to compare prices and other information. Initiatives by physical stores include interactive displays, connections with apps, smart payments, and having a digitally-enabled inventory.

We work with an electronics retailer that is using product feeds to power tablet devices and billboards in-store. This puts digital at the heart of the store, and allows the customer to browse items beyond those immediately available. Using a feed and a customer interface, as opposed to a website, gives the customer a much more convenient and intuitive experience.

M&S have also used in-store feeds to great effect on their instore tablets and billboards. The feeds provide product information and this is integrated with buyer guides and barcode scanning functions to create an interactive customer experience. We would be surprised if videos don’t feature in more data feeds soon, giving the customer far more in-store information about products than ever before.