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The application that receives the data often sets the requirements for the format of a data feed. A feed is most often in the form of a file which contains information structured to meet these requirements. These type of file can vary but often comprise of formats such as:
Extensible Markup Language (XML)
Comma Separated Values (CSV)
Tab Separated Values (TSV)
Plus many more
In an eCommerce context, the data feeds of online stores are sent to sales and marketing channels like Amazon, Google and Facebook to instruct them how to display their product listings correctly.
It is called a data feed because the file is being updated frequently (every day or every hour); this way the product info is constantly fed (uploaded) into other systems, like shopping channels.
Updating the file frequently is very important, because the product information in an online shop changes constantly, for example:
Products get sold and are eventually sold out (out of stock)
New products are added to the shop
Some products will be discontinued.
It is important therefore, for the retailer not to advertise products that aren't available: interested consumers will click on his product ad (the retailer pays for each click) only to be disappointed when they find out that this product is sold out.
Each eCommerce sales channels will take a look at the product data in order to establish when and where it should be displayed to match shopper queries and interests. If businesses regard the data feed not as a means of getting data from A to B, but to help their shoppers find the relevant products, there is more that can be done.
It's therefore important to have an accurate, up-to-date data feed that has the addition of relevant queries to match your potential customer's searches.