In our app development work, simple is usually best. Pleasingly, the simple things are often the cheapest, too. And a low cost, functional solution is a wonderful thing when bootstrapping a project.  is not an app, it’s a nice simple e-commerce proposition selling removal boxes and packaging materials across the UK. It was out first, an probably our favourite, e-commerce project we worked on. It represents our principles of simplicity and quality in one package.

The market for cardboard boxes is painfully crowded and any leg-up that we could achieve in the site’s promotion was eagerly utilised.

The AdWords market for this sector is disproportionately skewed towards big ad spends; but when the cost per acquisition of a customer exceeds your average sale, you really need to investigate other channels of promotion.

Google Merchant Feeds are one such option. A free way to be included prominently in Google Search? We’ll take that.

In the spirit of bootstrapping, we’re also big fans of Open Office. You can use Open Office to create a spreadsheet for manual upload to the Google Merchant Center.

The exact layout depends on your product (Everybox’s products are exempt from MPN numbers, for instance, as they’re manufactured uniquely for us) but an example spreadsheet would look like the image below.

A few points to get right when putting together your feed;

  • id number is essential (event though your product range may be small)
  • Don’t include ANY quotation marks in your text anywhere. This will mess up your feed.
  • Note the GBP currency suffix
  • Make sure your products are actually in stock

Now to export;

  • Save the file as a CSV (.txt file) with the same name as the product feed you’ve registered in Google Merchant Center.
  • Before saving, check the box marked ‘Edit Filter Settings’.
  • When prompted, click the box marked ‘Keep Current Format’
  • The character set needed is ‘Western Europe (ASCII/US)
  • The field delimiter should be ‘{Tab}’
  • Back-space the text delimiter field so that NOTHING is there; basically, you don’t want any text delimiter.

That’s it. Save it and upload to the Merchant Center. A free listing in Google’s shopping results awaits. Bootstrapping indeed.