Digital shelf optimization

4 minute read

The digital shelf remains the central focus for CPG omnichannel and ecommerce activity.

Ensuring all elements of a product’s online presence are performing as well as possible is critical for brands to remain competitive and protect their market share from smaller brands that have made inroads due to supply chain issues and panic buying during the pandemic.

This article will explore the different actions manufacturers can take to optimize their product’s online presence.

Table of Contents

Key elements to review for digital shelf optimization

Improving digital commerce requires updating and upgrading the core digital shelf KPIs of search, ratings & reviews, and imagery. 

Availability, being fundamental, also needs to be monitored regularly at a SKU level. Finally, predictive and actionable analytics are essential and will also be discussed here. 

digital Shelf online grocery illustration

Optimizing for search

Location based analytics stores

Findability is a critical aspect of the digital shelf experience for shoppers, and it has a direct impact on conversion rates. If a product can’t be quickly found, and if it doesn’t appear amongst the first products, it has a much lower chance of going in-basket.

Scoring well in search is competitive. There is often regular churn amongst the top ranking products. It’s important to constantly measure share of search (SOS) and search ranking to ensure your products are ranking well.

All retailers have different search algorithms and product display page (PDP) requirements. It’s very useful to partner with a service provider that puts in place an automation process that ensures your product content is compliant with the retailer and that optimizes your content for the retailer’s search engine.

Being sure product titles and product content is optimized influences organic search performance, and for certain retailer’s ratings play a role too.

Ratings & reviews

Ratings and reviews are increasingly important as consumers seek out and trust user generated content more and more. In fact, often UGC is more influential in the buying journey than the manufacturer’s content.

For this reason it’s critical to optimize ratings and reviews management, and specialized partners for this specific task are increasingly used. The one-to-one engagement opportunity with customers that ratings and reviews provide is quite precious.

reviews client CPG

Consumers desire a meaningful connection with the brands they support in the engagement economy, so a brand that listens to them and responds to them is valuable. Some retailers offer the possibility to respond to reviews and if so, they should be responded to–especially negative ones–within the day or even within minutes. This boosts customer retention and is a very effective form of marketing. 

Reviews can also be a useful source of product feedback for manufacturers. New product development ideas, product improvements and category trends can be detected within reviews.

Digital shelf imagery

Ensuring imagery is optimized for the digital shelf is central. Aside from the obvious benefit of discoverability, optimized imagery and content makes for a positive shopper experience because the consumer will be able to find all the information they’re seeking quickly and seamlessly.

The hero image needs to be designed for online visibility, with every detail and product attribute such as format, size, weight, nutritional information, allergens, sustainability and provenance readily evident.

Video and image carousels are also recommended wherever possible since online consumers can’t pick up packages and inspect them the way they can in a physical store.

The digital shelf and availability

No discussion of the digital shelf is complete without some mention of availability because it’s so consequential to all the other digital commerce KPIs. As more shoppers become omnishoppers, and global distribution continues to be a challenge, availability is getting both more difficult to manage and more important. Out of stock levels reached record heights during the pandemic, and continue to be an issue.

location based availability

Naturally, availability impacts visibility and ranking in search, even after products come back online after a stockout. Location-based data analytics can pinpoint precisely where, and how often products are OOS. Put into the hands of customer teams, supply chain teams and sales field force teams, this information is actionable and can be a significant business lever.

Estore-based data that is taken from every single online location where products are sold is a powerful tool for manufacturers in their negotiations with retailers, supply chain teams and other partners.

Digital shelf analytics

Data accuracy comes from granularity. More and more manufacturers are seeking out comprehensive analytics because successful monitoring, strategy and execution in ecommerce is impossible without it. 

High quality, reliable data can inform CPGs on each aspect of their digital commerce. This is possible with location-based analytics that collect data from all estores. The actions manufacturers take to address or anticipate issues and opportunities will only be effective if they use this kind of granular data. Granular means store and SKU level, every day.

Data analytics platform

Sample-based analytics, which have widespread use, yield false indicators and unclear measurement, leading to wrong decisions and actions. Another negative consequence they bring is the inability to approach retailers with powerful information they don’t possess that could boost category sales. Both internal and external conversations are weakened by inaccurate data. 

Equipped with actionable and predictive analytics, CPG companies can not only confront the growing complexity of the omnichannel market but benefit from it. They can nurture relationships with ecommerce retailers with valuable category and assortment information, boost their digital shelf performance, and develop localized strategies for demand planning, inventory management, and shipping.

Why optimizing for digital commerce should be prioritized

As more shoppers continue to trial online grocery in the US–even if they wind up making their purchase in-store–the quality of their online experience is crucial if they’re discovering egrocery.

The growing importance of the digital shelf is reflected in the amount of advertising dollars being invested in it. The digital media ad spend in the US in 2021 was $278 billion. The reason that number is so large is because the measurement capabilities that come with digital media are highly valuable as more people go online for groceries.

dashboard CPG analytics

Specific-intent shoppers visit retailer sites just to read reviews and gather information sometimes, so this constitutes a prime advertising opportunity for brands, and a rare opportunity to collect first party data. When the deep purchase data possessed by retailers is coupled with the data a tech partner can provide, it holds potential for many actors, so optimizing for the digital shelf and attracting and retaining shoppers is a lucrative prospect for retailers, retailer partners and manufacturers alike.

While it is important to ensure that the online experience is optimized for consumers, manufacturers and retailers need to ensure that the on and offline shopping experience is seamless. Product pricing, information and advertising needs to be consistent across all media and in-store so that the customer journey is frictionless and streamlined.

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