How to Create a Google Local Inventory Products Feed

Why Work With Distributors?

The first thing you need to understand is the role distributors play in retail and the value they add.

A distributor is essentially a wholesaler that stocks a large number of products and sells them to retailers. Instead of dealing with each product manufacturer individually, a retailer can negotiate a single deal with the distributor and get access to a range of products.

For retailers, the value is clear. Dealing with a distributor saves them from the burden of product selection and negotiating with dozens of manufacturers. In many cases, distributors will also take back unsold products, extend credit, and help retailers sell more.

For manufacturers and product creators such as yourself, distributors offer easy access to a network of retailers. Instead of approaching hundreds of different stores, you can negotiate a deal with a single distributor. The distributor will then work to get your product placed in retail stores that buy from it.

Moreover, distributors take over the responsibility of storing and shipping products from you. Instead of packaging and shipping everything yourself, you can simply sell the product to the distributor which, in turn, will ship them to retailers.

If you care about reaching more customers and getting access to lucrative markets, you’ll want to use distributors. However, as you’ll learn below, you might not need distributors in some cases.

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6. Check Major B2B Marketplaces

There are many large B2B marketplaces online where you can buy large lots of products at low prices. Alibaba.com is one of the largest B2B marketplaces of manufacturers, importers, and wholesale distributors. Other B2B marketplaces include:

  • Global Sources (USA)
  • Buyer Zone (USA)
  • EC21 (Korea)
  • EC Plaza (Korea)
  • Busy Trade (Hong Kong)

Look for a marketplace that serves your country or region. There are also industry-specific B2B marketplaces; these can either serve a single country or a global population of retailers.

Customer search

Customer search is used to find customers for various purposes. For example, cashiers might want to view a customer’s wish list or purchase history, or add the customer to a transaction. The search algorithm matches the search terms against the values that are present in the following customer properties:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Loyalty card number
  • Address
  • Account number

Among these properties, the name provides the most flexibility for multiple-keyword searches, because the algorithm returns all customers that match any of the searched keywords. The customers that match the most keywords appear at the top of the results. This behavior helps cashiers in situations where they search by typing the full name, but last name and first name were swapped during the initial data entry. However, for performance reasons, all the other properties preserve the order of the search keywords. Therefore, if the order of the search keywords doesn’t match the order that the data is stored in, no results will be returned.

By default, a customer search is done on the customer address books that are associated with the store. This type of search is known as a local customer search. However, employees can also search for customers globally. In other words, they can search across the stores of the company and across all other legal entities. This type of search is known as a remote customer search.

To search globally, employees can select the Filter results button at the bottom of the page and then select the Search all stores option, as shown in the illustration that follows. In this case, not only customers are returned. All types of parties that are part of any address book in the headquarters are also returned. These parties include workers, vendors, contacts, and competitors.

Note

A minimum of four characters must be entered for a remote customer search to return results.

The customer ID isn’t shown for customers queried from other legal entities, because no customer ID has been created for those parties in the current company. However, if an employee opens the customer details page, the system automatically generates a customer ID for the party and also associates the store’s customer address books with the customer. Therefore, the customer will be visible in local store searches that are done later.

Additional local customer search capabilities

Additional local customer search capabilities

When the user searches for a phone number, the system ignores special characters (such as spaces, hyphens, and brackets) that might have been added when the customer was created. Therefore, cashiers don’t have to worry about the phone number format when they search. For example, if a customer’s phone number was entered as 123-456-7890, a cashier can search for the customer by typing 1234567890, or by entering the first few numbers of the phone number.

Note

A customer can have multiple phone numbers and multiple emails. The customer search algorithm also searches through these secondary emails and phone numbers, but the customer search results page only displays the primary email and phone number. This may cause some confusion as the returned customer results would not show the searched email or phone number. In a future release we plan to improve the customer search results screen to show this information.

The traditional customer search can be time-consuming, because it searches across multiple fields. Instead, cashiers can search in a single customer property, such as name, email address, or phone number. The properties that the customer search algorithm uses are collectively known as the customer search criteria. The system admin can easily configure one or more criteria as shortcuts that will appear in POS. Because the search is limited to a single criterion, only the relevant search results are shown, and the performance is much better than the performance of a standard customer search. The following illustration shows the customer search shortcuts in POS.

To set search criteria as shortcuts, the admin mus

To set search criteria as shortcuts, the admin must open the Commerce parameters page in Commerce, and then, on the POS search criteria tab, select all the criteria that should be shown as shortcuts.

Note

If you add too many shortcuts, the drop-down

Note

If you add too many shortcuts, the drop-down menu on the search bar in POS will become cluttered, and the employee’s search experience can be affected. We recommend that you add only as many shortcuts as you require.

The Display order field determines the order in which shortcuts are shown in POS. The criteria that are shown are the out-of-box properties that the customer search algorithm uses to search customers. However, partners can add custom properties as search shortcuts. To add custom properties as search shortcuts, the system admin must extend the extensible enumeration (enum) that is used for the customer search criteria and then mark the partner’s custom properties as shortcuts. Partners are responsible for writing the code to find results when their custom shortcuts are used for searches.

Note

A custom property that is added to the enum doesn’t affect the standard customer search algorithm. In other words, the customer search algorithm won’t search in the custom property. Users can use a custom property for searches only if that custom property is added as a shortcut, or if the default search algorithm is overridden.

Retailers can also set the default customer search mode in POS to Search all stores. This configuration can be helpful in scenarios where customers that were created outside POS must be searched immediately (for example, even before the distribution job is run). To do so, the retailer must turn on the Default customer search mode option in the POS functionality profile. Once it is set to Yes, every customer search attempt will then make a real-time call to headquarters.

To help prevent unexpected performances issues, this configuration is hidden behind a flighting flag that his named CUSTOMERSEARCH_ENABLE_DEFAULTSEARCH_FLIGHTING. Therefore, to show the Default customer search mode setting the user interface (UI), the retailer should create a support ticket for its user acceptance testing (UAT) and production environments. After the ticket is received, the engineering team will work with the retailer to make sure that the retailer does testing in its non-production environments to assess the performance and implement any optimizations that are required.

Searching specific fields

Add a field name with a colon to your search term to narrow your search for that term to the specified field.

For example:

searches for titles that include the term “artichoke”.

Searching for a misspelt word won’t work when searching specific fields, since search looks for an exact match.

For example:

doesn’t yield any results.

Searchable properties

Depending on the type of search, results can be based on different searchable properties.

Type of search Searchable properties
Products
  • body
  • product_type
  • tag
  • title
  • variants.barcode
  • variants.sku
  • variants.title
  • vendor
Pages
  • author
  • body
  • title
Articles
  • author
  • body
  • tag
  • title

Additional Features of Local Inventory Ads

Google also offers some cool optional features that merchants can choose to take advantage of.

On display to order (ODO)

Google Local Inventory Ads ODO
Google Local Inventory Ads ODO

If you’ve ever gone furniture shopping, it’s likely that you’ve ordered an item you saw in stores that wasn’t available for immediate purchase and you received it at a later date. This is where ODO comes into play. It allows retailers to advertise the items that are displayed in-store, but not available for immediate purchase. 

Store Pickup

If your items are available for store pickup and you have this feature enabled, a merchant who is on your Google local storefront page will see a link to your site that has store pickup info. By clicking the link, the shopper will be taken to your website where they can complete the order using the store pickup checkout option.

Merchant hosted local storefront

With this feature, shoppers who click on your local inventory ads are directed to your website instead of your Google-hosted local storefront. Learn more.

Online conversion from local inventory ads

This feature allows you to track users that click on your local inventory ad and convert online as opposed to buying at one of your physical store locations. Learn more.

1. Understand Your Industrys Distribution Channels

There are many ways a product can go from manufacturer to retailer. Not all wholesalers serve the same market. Understanding your industry’s distribution channels and supply chain can help you find the right wholesale supplier for your retail or online business. Different types of wholesalers include:

 © The Balance 2018
© The Balance 2018
  • Manufacturer: For some products, you can buy directly from the manufacturer. Boutique stores generally buy from small (sometimes one person) manufacturers.
  • Importer/Exclusive Distributor: A company might have the sole right to import and distribute a product in a certain country. Some may sell directly to retailers, others sell to smaller local wholesalers who in turn sell to stores.
  • Wholesaler/Regional Distributor: There are usually regional wholesalers who take delivery of boxcar-sized lots and sell to local wholesalers, who then sell to small businesses.
  • Jobbers: These individuals make daily deliveries to local grocers and retail brick-and-mortar stores.

Some retailers will move enough volume to bypass jobbers, or maybe in a smaller industry, importers sell directly to retailers. Each industry has its own unique distribution channels, which can then vary by product, region, or country.

When you first start, you'll be buying from the smaller wholesalers at higher prices. As your volume increases, you'll be able to get better pricing or move up the supply ladder to a bigger wholesaler.

How to Develop a Local Product Inventory Feed

Similar to creating a Local Product Feed, a Product Inventory Feed includes additional attributes that are specific to the stock information of the local store.

Feed Format

The difference between a Local Product Feed and a Product Inventory Feed is that you cannot use an XML feed for your Inventory Feed.

There are only 2 options: a delimited text file, or an API.

Local Product Feed Inventory & Ad Attributes

Highstreet.io has found if you synchronize your product feed with Google frequently, the customer will see the most current inventory, prices and appropriate information from the last update.

Google recommends the following attributes be included in your Local Inventory Feed and we pulled the Google sample feed below to show the difference between required and optional fields you can include.

Recommended Attributes

  • Itemid
  • Store code
  • Quantity
  • Price

Sample Local Product Feed Inventory Attributes

Incremental Feeds

Highstreet.io uses incremental feeds for many of our clients to advertise their products online. We highly recommend you use this process for synchronizing your local store inventory including price and quantity as this information changes quickly.

Local Product Inventory Feed Options1. Local product inventory – All product data is submitted daily at a scheduled time.2. Local product inventory update – Product data submitted at various times throughout the day. Only product data that has changed will be updated in the feed.

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