All About the Digital Shelf
As eCommerce continues to grow, the retailer’s online experience is becoming increasingly important. With recent events, consumers are now spending more time browsing and buying online. This has created a new focus for retailers: the digital shelf. New opportunities and challenges have emerged for retailers with this ever-growing focus. Read on to learn more about the digital shelf and how to equip your team to maximize its value.
Defining the Digital Shelf
The digital shelf is the virtual version of its brick & mortar counterpart. This is where a consumer can view the product details if they wish and place it right in their cart and carry on shopping. It also considers the extra steps that may need to happen, such as calling an attendant to grab an item for them for brick & mortar or clicking through to another page to specify customizations for digital. Ultimately, the item ends up in the cart once the consumer has completed the steps.
Similar to brick & mortar, you can control the experience around the digital shelf. You can strategically place similar products near a certain product, such as product recommendations, and can sort items into aisles, such as categories on your site. Examples of digital shelves include your product pages, quick view, etc.
Criteria for the Digital Shelf
A digital shelf has two criteria:
- Can a consumer view the product and the information about the product?
- Can the consumer add it to their shopping cart?
Opportunities & Challenges of the Digital Shelf
Unlike brick & mortar, the digital shelf extends beyond your site, including third-party platforms your products are listed on and other means of direct-purchasing your consumer might be connected with. While the benefits of increasing the platforms you list your product on are advantageous, this can lead to multiple concerns if you don’t approach your strategy with care.
When you look at a product on the digital shelf, the consumer can often find information that is not readily available on the packaging in-store that can lead to a sale. This includes the reputation of the product from reviews, information on related products they can buy with the product they are viewing, how-to guides, or “hours to complete” for games, DIY crafts, etc, and more. This can increase consumer confidence in their purchase and creates a better overall experience. Consumers can click “add to cart” for accompanying recommended products instead of running around the brick & mortar store trying to find the things they need. Retailers can easily modify these details to add clarity for the consumer – instead of needing to repackage the physical goods all over again to add this critical information.
Extending beyond basic store-level data, such as the number of consumers in the store, items sold, and average purchase amount, retailers can find more specific information about category and product performance down to the click to add to cart rate, among others when they have access to this data. This allows retailers to get more clarity on trend patterns and nurture sales if they don’t buy the product on the spot.
The digital shelf makes room for new challenges brands now have to face. Part of the in-store buying experience is the heightened use of the other senses, such as look (packaging, sizing), touch (is it soft?), and smell (does this smell good?). This multi-sensory experience is void for the digital shelf, making it critical for retailers to over-describe the purchase. This lift requires retailers to constantly update product descriptions for the latest trends and details – and this time can add up if your products live on multiple platforms.
Opportunities of the Digital Shelf:
- More immersive than traditional shelves (lead customer journey)
- Data about view/click to add to cart rate, engagement rate, etc.
- Modified Easily
Challenges of the Digital Shelf:
- Rapidly adapting & being tweaked
- Manual Work can be time consuming
- Lacks experience that often leads to better product-fit
What to Do
By over-communicating, you can ensure a higher level of satisfaction with the product as well as work towards minimizing returns that are caused by consumers not knowing enough about the item.
- Use Syndication Tools
Already well-known, syndication tools can allow you to update your products seamlessly across all platforms. If you are not employing a tool yet, we highly recommend adding it to your stack as your channel presence expands.
- Use the Data
One of the strongest benefits of the digital shelf is that real-time data can improve performance. Use the data available to explore what products and/or categories are doing well and which ones aren’t. See if there are any differences between these two areas and see what you can apply to the low-performing products. Look at these product’s competitors to see how they position these products on their digital shelves. And if a campaign isn’t performing well? Don’t wait for change. Optimize the campaign and don’t be afraid to remove it from high-trafficked areas if it doesn’t improve.
The digital shelf provides endless opportunities for retailers to create new levels of experience for their shoppers. Retailers must aim to create product presentation strategies for their shoppers, given the depletion of the brick & mortar experience in the digital world. By understanding these new opportunities and challenges and embracing them instead of applying the “brick & mortar strategy” to them, retailers can create an equally engaging digital experience. This can extend further than the in-store experience to drive meaningful connections with your consumers and keep consumers coming back for more.
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