As products are released to the public on retailer Websites, the Onboarding Process finds them, and adds them to MetaLocator for display in Where to Buy and MAP monitoring products.  The opposite occurs when products are discontinued from retailer Websites.  When we can no longer obtain updates for a product from a retailer Website, we un-publish it from MetaLocator.  This is called offboarding.  This article discussions how this process works, and how to manage offboarding options.

Offboarding removes products as they become inaccessible on retailer Websites.  This can manifest in many different ways.  For example, when a retailer stops selling a product, they might:

  • Redirect the product page to a different product page
  • Delete the product page entirely, resulting in a 404 "Not Found"
  • Displaying a "discontinued" message
  • Removing the price from the page
  • Removing the "Add to cart" feature

There are many more examples of how a retailer might stop offering a product to the end user.

Offboarding runs in the background multiple times per day.  It is set up when your account is established.  No action is required to start the Offboarding Process.  The schedule is visible by viewing the background process list in the top toolbar:

When MetaLocator can no longer get an update from a given product URL because it has been removed, or has started redirecting, or another reason as above, MetaLocator starts considering it a candidate for offboarding.  

Sometimes products are only temporarily unavailable due to technical issues on the retailer Website.  Therefore, MetaLocator does not remove the product immediately when it becomes unavailable.  Other factors, like when a retailer Website goes offline or makes a publishing mistake, might be the root cause and not a reason to offboard the product.

Each retailer has a few options related to offboarding.  The options are found on the Retailer Profile.  To open the Retailer Profile, click Retailers, then the name of the Retailer.  The offboarding options are shown as follows:

  • Auto Unpublish:  If this box is checked, the Offboarding Process will consider products from this retailer as candidates for Offboarding.  If this is not checked, the Offboarding Process ignores this retailer entirely.  This is useful when connectivity to the retailer Website is unreliable or other issues prevent the crawler from regularly obtaining updates.
  • Maximum Number of Unanswered Update Requests Before Offboarding:  This lengthy-named option tells MetaLocator how many subsequent failed updates are tolerable before offboarding the product.  The update failures must be subsequent.  

When a product is automatically unpublished by the Offboarding Process, the exclamation point icon will be displayed next to the publishing switch as shown below.  This helps to distinguish products that were unpublished manually v.s. those unpublished automatically by the Offboarding Process. 

Hover your mouse over the icon to see the detail regarding the automatic action as shown below.

To view the number of times that MetaLocator has sought, but not received an update, click the name of the Retailer Product as shown under Retailers, Offers.  Click the name of the product to view the details:

Aging shows the number of times that MetaLocator has sought, but not received an update.  Seeing a value of 1 or 2 here is considered normal and is not cause for concern.  When this value reaches the Maximum Number of Unanswered Update Requests Before Offboarding for the retailer, it will be offboarded automatically, presuming AutoUnpublish is enabled for the retailer.

If you click Publish on a product that has been offboarded, the product's age is reset to zero and the system starts attempting to retrieve updates again for this product.  

The results of the Offboarding Process are also shown in the User Notifications section on the Dashboard.  Only actions that could result in changes to the user experience are displayed here.  Other un-monitored products that are offboarded can be seen in the system log.

If offboarding results in no more offers from any retailers for a given SKU, the offboarding notice will be displayed in red as shown below.  When the offboarding results in a retailer no longer being displayed for a given SKU, it displays normally.  Examples of both scenarios are shown below:

Product Redirects

Offboarding may also occur when a product URL starts to redirect.  MetaLocator crawlers do not follow redirects for price updates.  When a product URL redirects, MetaLocator does not obtain an updated price and the product begins Aging as described above.  This may be in the case of a URL change, or other technical issue requiring a redirect, as opposed to no longer offering the product for sale.  For this reason, MetaLocator will trigger onboarding at the midpoint of the "Maximum Number of Unanswered Update Requests Before Offboarding".  

For example, if the "Maximum Number of Unanswered Update Requests Before Offboarding" i 10, then after 5 "Unanswered Update Requests" we will trigger Onboarding for the product.  This will recrawl the retailer website for the product and obtain the updated product links.  This can result in multiple retailer products shown for the same product and retailer, where only the URL is different.  The old URL will be safely offboarded and the new URL will remain.  The automatic triggering of onboarding during the aging period prevents a gap between when the product is offboarded and the new product is onboarded.

In summary, the Offboarding Process helps keep the MetaLocator dashboard current and displaying only the products available for purchase by customers.  Questions regarding this process should be directed at the helpdesk or your account manager.

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