As an affiliate, one of the most profitable ways to promote a merchant is by directing your visitors to individual products which they are looking to buy.
If you just have a handful of items, you can get by with individual product links. But lets say you have a larger number of products to promote – for example, something with frequent changes in availability such as fine jewelry. In this case, individual links would be cumbersome to maintain and keeping track of new and out-of-stock merchandise would be particularly labor-intensive.
Which brings us to the datafeed – a product catalog which you can download directly from the merchant (or from affiliate aggregators, such as CJ or SAS). Using a datafeed implies the need for some programming ability, as you typically load the data into a database and have dynamic pages on your site which query and display the data. “Easy to use” feed generators and datafeed scripts have been available for years, but most of them come up a little short compared to “DIY” solutions and fail to handle data in different formats from multiple merchants.
I recently took a test drive of a promising solution called Pop Shops – a little gem that debuted in mid 2007. Pop shops lets you build product pages featuring data from merchants from Commission Junction, Linkshare, Shareasale, LinkConnector, Performics and several independent affiliate programs. It solves the multiple-merchant issues by creating interface code to the data on their own servers, which is also updated frequently to reflect in-stock and out-of-stock status.
More advanced users can define their own styles and take advantage of options to automatically display additional pages similar to the first. For a point and click solution, the result is not too shabby – you can see the result of my testing at Aquamarines.us.
What’s missing? The ability to sort or select items by price range tops my wish list, followed by the ability to manually create more than one page per shop. It would also be nice to be able to specify a different url for the product links – I cringe a little at having a page of outbound links all going to the same place! (Note: This feature is now available for Enterprise plan subscribers)
Pop Shops has 3 levels of service – Basic, Pro and Enterprise. The Basic plan is free, but you are limited to creating 10 shops. I’d recommend stepping up to at least the Pro version at a modest $5/month.
[tags]affiliate marketing, datafeeds, web development [/tags]