How to pick the best digital shelf analytics solutions for your brand

Digital shelf analytics solutions have different strengths and weaknesses. To determine the ideal DSA technology for your brand, you first need to decide your goals. But first, ask yourself these following questions:  

How to select the best digital shelf analytics solutions

1. Do you need insights just for hero products or a broader view? 

Is your product strategy focused on a select number of hero products and how resellers perform in specific countries or markets?  

Or would you instead track hundreds or thousands of SKUs in multiple regions across lots of reseller channels? Or is it a mixture of both?  

You may only want to monitor out-of-stock for one hero product in one region for now, but your requirements may soon change. That’s why it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of choosing a scalable digital shelf analytics solution that grows with your business requirements.  

2. What KPIs would you like to measure?  

Brands need to monitor the right KPIs to discover where sales opportunities are being lost in their indirect sales channels. Market-leading DSA technology should be able to watch the following KPIs;   

3. Who will use your DSA solution? What insights do they need? 

Raw data is useless to the end-user. The best digital shelf analytics solutions provide meaningful real-time insights that your employees can leverage when talking to resellers.   

These solutions also enable users to slice and dice data in different ways to reveal insights relevant to their role. It can achieve this using a series of data filters and overlays.   

High-quality insights can help key account managers and resellers promote your products, convert more customers, and protect your brand. 

For example, key account managers need to know how to improve product findability when speaking to resellers. Meanwhile, your legal team may need extra support tackling counterfeit goods.  

You can tailor and deliver all of this information via user-friendly dashboards and push notifications so that key personnel can improve a wide range of reseller metrics.   

4. What technologies are you currently using?  

Even though most digital shelf analytics solutions are cloud-based and don’t need to integrate, it makes great sense to choose a compatible solution with your existing technology platform.  

Ensure you can quickly scale up or scale down your chosen software without switching to new technology. It is also advisable to avoid bespoke or home-built solutions as these can be hard to implement, difficult to fit into your current tech ecosystem, and are less agile as your needs grow.   

5. What are the best digital shelf analytics solutions to achieve your goals?  

When choosing a DSA solution, it pays dividends to determine what technology they build the platform upon. That’s because the methods used to gather and process reseller data can affect crucial factors such as accuracy, reliability, and scalability. Are you going for a cloud solution or a high-frequency data scraping spider?  


Download our beginners guide to digital shelf analytics. 


High-frequency versus ethical spiders 


High-frequency data-scraping spiders: Problems 

DSA technology harvests product data from online reseller channels the same way as Google’s search engines crawling the web.  

We call this software which ‘ visit’ eCommerce sites to collect relevant information “spiders.” What is less well known, however, is that good and bad spiders exist.   

High-frequency spiders scrape data from reseller websites multiple times a day to update KPIs. This may sound like a good idea, but this approach causes actual problems for resellers and brand manufacturers alike. 

High-frequency spiders often operate at peak trading times and arrive in large numbers, reducing website speed and cutting site conversion rates.  

In response, resellers often install protection software, which produces a torrent of false data to confuse and deter spiders. The result is that high-frequency spiders collect inaccurate and untrustworthy data—precisely the opposite of what brand manufacturers want.  

Brands that condone this behavior also risk upsetting valuable reseller relationships. Ultimately, brands should question the value of hourly price data, not least because, in most countries, it is illegal to control pricing. 

High-quality, ethical spiders: Solutions  

Compare the effectiveness of high-frequency spiders with the ethical alternatives used by market-leading DSA solutions. These spiders may be more expensive, but that’s because their algorithms are more accurate and more sophisticated. 

For example, they customize them for each reseller website and only visit during low-traffic flows to ensure they don’t interfere with website speed or sales conversion rates.  

The best-designed ethical spiders analyze product content, digging down into primary, secondary, and even tertiary content to provide the high-quality insights that brands need.  

They can analyze first pages, category pages, product pages, descriptions, prices, images, and out-of-stock statuses. They can also check whether products appear in the relevant internal and external searches and categories.   

Leading digital shelf analytics solutions can also double-check all the data collected by their spiders using artificial intelligence. If a single piece of data still seems out of place, it can flag it up for a manual check by a human. 

In this way, leading DSA technology can achieve an accuracy level of up to 98%. It’s safe to say that you get what you pay for digital shelf analytics like most areas of life.   

Cloud digital shelf analytics solutions: Good? 

If you’re looking for an agile, scalable, and easy-to-implement DSA solution, look for one built and hosted on a secure cloud platform such as Microsoft Azure.   

Azure is one of the most trusted cloud platforms available thanks to its stability, speed, and reliability.  

It is also compatible with other systems, doesn’t limit technology development or your chosen DSA solution’s functionality.   

Killer insights about cloud solutions: What they look like  

Raw data is useless to an end-user. The best DSA technology provides meaningful real-time insights that your employees can leverage in their reseller relationships.  

For example, on day one, market-leading DSA can spot if you have a broken link to your hero product on Amazon, Germany. Or alert your crucial account manager if an item is out of stock for click-and-collect at a specific store.   

It’s the case that different employees in different roles need additional insights. A product manager may need a unique set of reseller visibility insights than a regional marketing manager or the management team.   

The best DSA technology can enable users to slice and dice’ data to reveal relevant insights into their role. They also allow employees to set up personalized notifications within a few seconds. The aim should be to automate as many of these insights as possible.  

Some key insights you can automate using notifications.   

  • Monitor the visibility of your new hero product during its seven-day launch among 100 of your leading resellers.  
  • Receive an alert when any of your 10 best-selling grocery products in your top 10 German resellers disappear from the shelves. 
  • Receive an email at 8 am every morning showing where your products are out-of-stock.   
  • Show all the exposure violations by your leading reseller during 2019   
  • Show the fluctuation in average consumer price for product X during the past two months.  

Taking the next steps on your DSA journey  

The eCommerce explosion has created enormous opportunities for brand manufacturers, enabling them to break into new markets and reach more customers. But it also comes with considerable risks for the uninitiated and unaware.  

Ecommerce is more dynamic than physical retail, and it requires brand manufacturers to adopt smarter reseller management and auditing techniques. It helps to think of the digital shelf as a living organism that is growing. 

This means it needs constant oversight and management. It should not surprise brand manufacturers who take their eye off the ball when their products fall off the digital shelf.  

As a brand manufacturer, you may start small if budget or resources are a barrier, for example, by identifying out-of-stocks in a particular region. 

This will reveal how you can increase sales opportunities by providing proof of concept and return on investment. You can then use this success as a launchpad to game-changing DSA adoption. 

Originally published Mar. 08, 2021, updated Mar. 08, 2021

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