Several thousands of products, various prices, photos, attributes, colors, sizes, etc.

A shoe shop introduces changes every season, an e-delicatessen shop is subjected to incessant verifications of prices for vegetables, jams or beverages, shops offering small home appliances have thousands of products on offer, almost everything is sold on a large scale online.

In order to increase sales, to ensure customers trust an online shop, it must offer up-to-date data. Stocks must be verified in real time. How can one manage that? A CSV file is intended to provide full organization, control and management of products, it helps to store the current data in a comfortable way, sending it to various advertising channels as well as to the shop, updating all information on products. How can we create and open a CSV file? Why is the CSV file an irreplaceable tool? Let’s check.

A CSV file – how does it work?

Product feed files (product files, CSV) are appropriately formatted XML files. They contain all information necessary to display a given product, namely:

  • name,
  • price,
  • photo,
  • description,
  • size,
  • color,
  • technological specification.

The task of CSV files is to facilitate and to make possible to introduce, in a simple and certain way, a product offer consisting of even a few thousand items to various sales channels. A product file is successfully used in online shops which promote their offers in Google AdWords, Google Zakupy, Facebook Ads, price comparison websites (PCW), marketplaces or through affiliation networks.

An appropriately optimized CSV file sends information to the sales channel, thanks to which a user is able to find a product offered by the shop, for example, by feeding some specific key phrases in the search engine.

Continuous updating is an essential element of “taking care” of the CSV file. This is due to the fact that some information is subject to dynamic changes. In particular, stock levels are vulnerable to changes, and they have to be updated or otherwise an e-consumer might place an order for the product which is not stocked by an online shop.

CSV files are also often exported by suppliers through their own systems. Then such a file can be imported to the online shop database. In this way we can quickly develop a database of products offered by the shop.

How to sell using CSV files?

The basic rule of conducting sales based on a product file is that there is no single CSV file. Each advertising channel is different and each channel has its own guidelines which need to be met so that the product file can be accepted by the advertisement publisher. One must read the guidelines (very often sales systems allow export of a CSV file prepared for a specific channel) and prepare the file so as to make the whole integration process trouble free.

The CSV file optimized for a specific channel must be uploaded into the system (for example Google Merchant Center). Then you just wait for the acceptance. Simple, isn’t it? In theory yes, but in practice you must do your best to prepare the file so that it is well optimized for an advertising channel.

Each line of the file should be filled with information which will provide a full and coherent product which will satisfy the users’ needs. What matters in Google is the relation between the product description and what is entered into the search engine, it is worth distinguishing the offer with other than pack shot photo (arranged, in use). Product comparison websites, marketplaces or e-commerce arcades allow us to provide a greater number of photos or videos.

CSV files – how to open them?

Files in CSV format can be opened in many different ways. CSV stands for Comma Separated Values. It is simple a format for storing data in text files. It can be opened with one of the tools found in the Office package. Another good option allowing us to open CSV files is also Notepad++ – a notepad version which is much richer and equipped in additional functionalities. Another good tool is Libre Office and its Calc tool. Here you can comfortably manage the so-called commas, which separate columns. It must be remembered that when opening the file we must necessarily choose the Unicode coding system (UTF8).

There is also some software dedicated to managing CSV files, such as CSVed or CSV Easy.

It is always a good idea to test a few solutions and choose the software guaranteeing easy work on the file.

Creating a CSV file

Creating a file in the CSV format is not a particularly demanding job. The data defining the product, such as its name, description, price, weight, size, color or stock level, must be entered into respective columns and lines. We should always be guided by what is important for a particular product. If we offer balsamic vinegar, what will really matter (in addition to its name) will be its capacity and for example the aging period, whereas for clothes more important aspects include their color range and size, whereas for tires we need to specify whether they are summer or winter type, etc. All data that are important for the user must be included in such a file. Then we need to save it in appropriate extension and choose an appropriate coding system (UTF-8)

However, it is worth knowing that when we run an online shop we won’t be forced to supplement the CSV file manually. Why? Most providers offer their own XML files. They can be exported and, if necessary, adjusted to a specific advertising channel. If we export products to the CSV file from the shop system, during the export configuration we will probably be able to determine what channel the file is dedicated to. If not, we may be helped by special plugs (for example for Prestashop this will be PriceWars).

And what if the CSV file is not correct? Don’t get discouraged, don’t panic. Start with exporting the file once again and tick correctly appropriate options. If this does not help, read the guidelines of the advertising channel and trace your file to discover the source of the problem. It may turn out that, for example, we marked tabs instead of commas when configuring your file. This can be fixed easily.

Without the product file it would be impossible even to manage an online shop with the product base of 2000 indexes. When updating the 300th product, we could realize that the first one would require another update. The CSV file saves the life of a shop manager. In one place we can quickly and effectively introduce changes which allow us to activate, optimize and increase the conversion of the campaigns run in every channel.