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How to Win on the Digital Shelf

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Blog header graphic: Digital shelf article

Instead of a physical retail shelf full of choices, the digital shelf is made up of every customer experience your buyers have with your product — search results, mobile apps, websites, social media, in-store shopping, etc. If you want to win on the digital shelf in e-commerce you need to stock every location with high-quality product information. 

This change from physical to digital is challenging for some, but it also presents a big opportunity. You now have more control over the appearance of your product and story (e.g. branded videos and 360º photography). To start stocking your digital shelf, identify and prioritize your most important products, clarify price points, invest in search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, and garner as many reviews as possible. 

Let’s start with a closer look at the definition of what the digital shelf is. 

What is the digital shelf?

The digital shelf refers to anywhere customers can view or buy your products online. It’s a combination of search results, ads, product pages, social media accounts, mobile apps, and third-party sites. Basically, the digital shelf is everywhere your product can be found through a screen. 

You can think of each digital channel like a store filled with aisles of shelves for every kind of product imaginable from every brand in existence. It’s not easy to predict or control how people will move from shelf to shelf in this omnichannel landscape. There are tubes, portals, and chutes between aisles and shelves. Avoid getting lost and start by focusing on what you can control — your
product information and product content

Product information and product content are the foundation of your digital shelf.  To simplify the whole concept, imagine the digital shelf as the first page of search results from google. This is where you want your products seen no matter what other channels you use. 

Why is the digital shelf so important?

Brands spend US$500 billion a year for physical shelf space because they know how much it impacts sales. But that investment is flimsy without backing it with a fully stocked digital shelf. That’s because 84% of smartphone shoppers turn to their mobile phone to help them shop while in a store.

How are customers using their smartphones to help them shop in stores? They’re looking for product content, price comparisons, and customer reviews. And they’re finding these on the first page of search results. The first page of search results is your primary digital shelf — whether you have customers in physical stores or not. 

Studies show that less than 50% of consumers will click past the first page of results. You need to get your products placed on this shelf or your sales will suffer. How do you do that? A recipe that combines a focus on your most important products, high-quality product content, SEO strategy, and product reviews. 

How do you "win" the digital shelf?

Your first step to win the digital shelf is getting your products in front of customers with accurate product information. According to the 2021 Widen Connectivity Report, complete and utter accuracy is table stakes for the digital shelf. You also want to deliver visual content that helps them experience the physicality of your products. Think videos and 360º spin photography. 

Detailed product content is one of the most important decision-making factors in the customer journey. 73% of consumers say that detailed product content is a key factor when browsing the digital shelf to buy a product. To prioritize content strategy, you have to know your top products and invest your resources there. 

1. Clarify and prioritize your top products and resources

What is your number one product in online revenue? What are your top five? Which categories are you depending on to grow?  Knowing these things is a huge first step to winning the digital shelf. When you know your top products you can invest resources appropriately. 

For example, if your top product isn’t selling as well but search rank hasn’t changed, it’s likely time to run a new ad campaign or increase spending on existing campaigns. If you’re going to launch a new product it’s going to take some extra investment of money and human resources upfront to get it moving and selling. Once you know your priorities, you can focus them on getting your product noticed on the digital shelf and keeping it there. 

2. Maintain competitive prices at all times

If you want to matter on the digital shelf, your price has to stay competitive. Keep in mind that if you’ve got a search result on the first page, it’s likely right beside a link for Amazon. And if someone sees that cheaper price, they won’t buy from you. 

So keep your prices competitive and change them by season. Lower your prices appropriately when products go out of season and make sure to account for big sales periods like Black Friday. Stay vigilant and keep prices updated consistently throughout the year to keep your place on the digital shelf relevant. 

3. Employ a targeted SEO strategy

You’ve got to have the right SEO elements on your product page, but that alone won’t always get you to the first page. You’re going to need high-quality images, video, 360º spin photography, and a way to get lots of traffic to your product pages so they stay on top. Knowing all the little tips and tricks to optimize product SEO is crucial. 

Working with an SEO agency is one of the best ways to create a targeted SEO strategy. They can help you identify keywords and build a plan to keep your top products on the digital shelf. You’ll have to post on your blog and on social channels at regular intervals, but you’ll know it’s contributing value when it’s part of your SEO strategy. 

4. Stay on top of reviews and garner as many as possible

Customer reviews help people make purchase decisions and they help SEO. So you need to have a customer review element on your product pages and a strategy to get reviews for your products. Send emails directly after purchases and reminders after an interval of time. Make sure to include incentives whenever you can, but don’t ever get confused and pay for false reviews. 

You can invest in events like giving away a gift card to incentivize people to write reviews for products they’ve purchased. Influencer marketing is another way to think about and get reviews. Having your product on social channels can end up boosting your overall SEO signal for a product, too. Ask bloggers to write about your products and do what you can to get product reviews in as many forms as possible.

Level up your digital shelf data

You can uplevel your digital shelf strategy by focusing on the right products, maintaining competitive prices, investing in SEO strategy, and getting reviews. Remember that your product information has to be accurate if you want customers to trust your products on the shelf. With consistency, hard work, and the right technology, you can win the coveted space that’s front and center on the digital shelf. 

Widen’s combined product information management (PIM) and digital asset management (DAM) solution can help you optimize your digital shelf. Schedule a demo of the Widen Collective® and see what it can do for your digital strategy.

Topics: Content Strategy, PIM, e-commerce

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