New data standard formats introduced at Shop.org

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NEW YORK - Standard data exchange formats designed to simplify online advertising were introduced Oct. 10 at the National Retail Federation's Shop.org's annual summit.

The new standard formats will let advertisers send detailed product-level information to search engines more efficiently.

"Standard data formats help retailers and search engines by providing a common language for describing product data," said Richard Mader, executive director of the Association for Retail Technical Standards, a division of the National Retail Federation.

A committee was formed to help develop these formats with representatives from search engines like Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft, and retailers like Target, REI and J.C. Penney to work with the Association for Retail Technical Standards.

Currently, data is not standardized and different online shopping search engines take SKU data in varying formats.

The new standardized data formats are specified in XML, the data language of the Internet. One format allows retailers to submit detailed product information to search engines including product name, price, URL, image, description, color, size, in-stock status and shipping fees.

The first beta test occurred Oct. 5, when engineers at Channel Intelligence used the format to submit product information for Circuit City on the AOL shopping platform.

Such new online search functionality can revolutionize e-commerce because of the up-to-the-minute relevant information available.

"This helps consumers by ensuring product data on the search engines is more complete, timely and accurate," Mr. Mader said.

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