The Fight for Customer’s Attention has Intensified
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of retail forever. eCommerce quickly took the center stage as more brands and retailers were coaxed to move their businesses online or take the omni-channel route. The number of online stores grew rapidly and with that the competition to get in front of shoppers to convert them into customers intensified. In 2020, there were over 24 million online stores, all fighting for the attention of the same shopper. With so much noise in the background, relying on your unique or high-quality products alone just won’t suffice if they are not visible to the shoppers. It is time brands bring out the big guns to stand out and get their customers’ attention. And how can they achieve this? With Digital Shelf Analytics!
What is the Digital Shelf and Why Do You Need to Optimize it?
Consider a physical departmental store that you are browsing through. There’s aisles and aisles of products that are screaming for your attention. And the products that are in our eyesight catch your attention first and often get bought over the ones that are on the top or the bottom shelves or are not displayed at all. Apply the same principle to online shopping and you have what we call the ‘digital shelf’. In short, the digital shelf is any online touchpoint where customers might find your products – from your website, Google search results, to third party websites or marketplaces where your products are sold.
And like with physical stores, you need to be visible to your shoppers online as well for them to choose your products over your competitors. And for that you need to appear on the first page of digital shelves and search results. But it is not as easy as it sounds. For you to optimize your digital shelf performance and rank higher, you need to review and consider multiple parameters – product descriptions and imagery, assortments and product availability, customer reviews and ratings, competitor prices, etc. You need to constantly monitor, review, and optimize these parameters to improve your digital shelf performance and your conversions.
How Brands can Leverage Digital Shelf Analytics to Improve Conversions
The first step in ensuring your customers find you is by appearing on top of search results, both on search engines and eCommerce sites. Infact, moving from page 2 to page 1 can boost your sales by almost 20x, making digital shelf visibility an extremely important factor in ensuring high conversion rates.
Your digital shelf performance comprises of multiple parameters and could be affected by one of more of the following factors:
- If your product descriptions are inaccurate or insufficient
- If your customer reviews and rating are poor
- If your products go out of stock
- If the images in your product listings are unclear or missing
- If your products are priced at a higher price
- If you don’t have the right breadth of assortment
Considering that any of these factors could bring down your online visibility and directly impact your sales, it is important that you include digital shelf optimization at the heart of your eCommerce strategy. With advanced digital shelf analytics, brands and retailers can have real-time visibility into digital shelf performance and optimize it based on data-driven insights. The right technology could give you visibility into competitor performance and help you alter your strategy to beat competition and emerge at the top. You need to find a solution that is easy to integrate, can be implemented quickly, and provides fast and accurate actionable insights that deliver results.
5 Best Practices to Address Key Digital Shelf Challenges
#1 . Digital Shelf Challenge – Product is not visible on the 1st page of search or digital shelves
Almost 90% of online enquiries start with search. And studies show that shoppers don’t look past page 1 anymore, and almost 80% only look at the first 5 rows. Hence, if your products are not ranking on page 1 of search or digital shelves, chances are you are losing your customers to your competitors. You need to make it easy for your customers to find you, if you want to improve your conversions and brand recall. And with the right tools, you can do just that!
Best Practice – Optimize your online visibility for improved search rankings
1st page visibility is critical as it builds credibility and trust. With advanced digital shelf analytics, you can easily track your rankings, compare them against your competitors, and optimize your listings so you rank higher on search engines. With the right data, you can analyze what is working for your competitors, add the necessary keywords, ensure your product categorization is correct, and price your products competitively, which will together result in improved visibility.
#2. Digital Shelf Challenge – Product is unavailable or out of stock
You have gotten the consumer’s attention, they have looked at your terrific product details and great images and they click on the link to “buy” the product and all of sudden the “out of stock” message pops up and now you have a frustrated consumer or worse, they feel like they have wasted their time and so they go to your competitor.
Out of stock products are a major turn off for shoppers and alienate them from a brand. It is also a big loss for the brand or the retailer as you are essentially turning down a customer who is ready to buy a product from you. As out of stock or over stocking of products is a common problem haunting retailers, finding a data-driven solution is the best bet to solve this digital shelf challenge.
#3. Digital Shelf Challenge – Incomplete, incorrect or missing product copy & images
To improve your search rankings and visibility requires more than just good products or competitive pricing. Although these two factors are important, your product descriptions, SEO keywords, and quality images significantly contribute to ensuring your products are visible on the first page. Infact, 30% of shoppers abandon their shopping carts due to inaccurate product descriptions.
The reality is that consumers shop online because:
1) they believe they can get a better price and
2) they think they can conduct better research into the product features
So, if your product descriptions are not comprehensive, your consumers will move to the other brands that have more complete information. Let’s try to address this challenge of digital shelf.
Best Practice- Include detailed descriptions and high quality product images
Brands and retailers need to spend time and effort in ensuring that their product copy and listings are comprehensive and accurate. With smart digital shelf analytics, they can identify the right keywords to use and enrich their copy with key attributes. They can track competitor rankings and optimize their content by including similar keywords to improve visibility and provide the right descriptions to aid conversions. With Intelligence Node’s product improvement score, retailers and brands can analyze their product performance and improve it immediately.
Parameters Definitions Product code: 80050312 Example score calculations 1) Attribute coverage Number of attribute details available, out of the total number of attributes for the product (category specific). Attribute coverage < 50% results in “failed” coverage (score =1) 17% (assume) Failed = 1 2) Image count Image count < 3 results in “failed” coverage (score =1) 2 Failed = 1 3) Image quality Image quality < median results in “failed” coverage (score =1). The highest image pixel count for every product has been considered in calculating the median of image quality assume 226000 (median = 395875) Failed = 1 4) Length of product info Length of product info < results in “failed” coverage (score =1). The total character count of the product info has been considered for calculating the median of the length assume 409 (median = 626) Failed = 1 Total 4
#4. Digital Shelf Challenge – Poor visibility into poor consumer reviews
Consumers often rely on customer reviews to give them an indication of the experience they might get with the product or the store. Poor consumer reviews can have a direct impact on your conversions and brand identity. A product with more than 5 reviews has a 270% higher chance of being purchased, making it extremely important for brands and retailers to encourage customers to leave a review. On the other hand, products without reviews or with poor reviews can discourage shoppers from buying your product and can have a huge impact on consumer sentiment about your products.
Best Practice – Listen to what is working for your customers
Consumer reviews are insightful and give you a peek into their sentiments about your product. However, the trend is that most retailers are not tracking customer reviews, much less negative reviews. Lack of visibility to negative customer reviews can severely impact customer’s perception of the brand and the product. Brands and retailers should use customer reviews to improve their product features and attributes. They can leverage user generated keywords into their product copies to resonate better with their customers. With a ‘rating dashboard’, they can get an overview of how the products are perceived and rated by consumers in a summary form and can be drilled down further to any category, brand or competitor.
#5. Challenge – No real-time assessment on competitive pricing
In today’s highly competitive eCommerce environment, price remains the most popular reason why shoppers select a product. For this reason and others, sophisticated players like Amazon are reviewing their pricing every 2 minutes to ensure they are strategically priced. And without visibility into competitor prices, brands and retailers can lose sales owing to overpriced products or lose margins by underpricing their products. They might also leave money on the table in the absence of a robust pricing strategy in place.
Best Practice – Offer competitive prices by optimizing and reviewing online prices to improve digital shelf performance
When selling online, you are competing with players like Amazon and Walmart who are known to review their prices multiple times a day. Hence, your pricing strategy needs to be agile and dynamic to keep up with price changes and comparison shoppers. You need to track competitor prices in real-time and have an automated price optimization strategy to take advantage of any pricing or assortment gaps left by competitors. Ensure your pricing tools are equipped to offer accurate price recommendations based on multiple factors like competitor prices, market trends, demand, product visibility, etc. Compare and benchmark against exact and similar competitor products with advanced pricing solutions to improve performance on the digital shelf.
Best Practice – Maintain optimum inventory levels of all products to achieve success on the Digital shelf
Deciding the inventory levels for your SKUs cannot be based on product forecasts alone. You need comprehensive data analytics to understand actual day-to-day demand for top-selling products, the short-term impact of seasonal trends, and real-time competitor sales. Once you have current and historical data, you can predict demand and sales velocity and accordingly optimize your stock levels to ensure you are neither over stocked nor under stocked. You can make sure you have inventory when the customer wants to buy; and you can also take advantage of the market if your competitors don’t have inventory.
It’s Time to Own The Digital Shelf
It’s no secret that brands and retailers that leverage technology for customer and competitor data move ahead in the eCommerce race. Amazon, Walmart, and Target are just some of the examples of retailers harnessing data and analytics to win the retail race. Digital Shelf is one such area that is less explored but fast gaining the importance it deserves. Brands and retailers need to invest in advanced digital shelf analytics to stay ahead of the curve and thrive in the evolving retail space.