Brands, is the digital shelf stacked in your favour?

Five ways to ensure your products get found, look sharp and fend off threats online

As lockdown was lifted across Europe this summer, leading management consultants McKinsey warned that we may all be suffering from whiplash. No, this wasn’t a new Covid-19 symptom. McKinsey was referring to the fact that the pandemic fast-tracked ten years of ecommerce penetration in just three months. During the same period the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that a third of retail sales took place over the internet – the UK’s highest level ever.

This size and complexity means it is impossible for brands to monitor the digital shelf without serious tech support. Digital shelf analytics (DSA) tools, powered by machine learning however, offer a compelling solution.

Learn more about how to optimise your online merchandising with digital shelf analytics

Here are five ways that DSAs can boost brands’ conversion rates by transforming your ecommerce sales and marketing efforts:

1. Maximising product ‘findability’

Consumers won’t buy your product if they can’t find it. Market-leading DSAs check your product is being sold in the most logical location and it hasn’t been mis-categorised. For example a laptop computer should be listed in a home electricals category with similar products and brands. DSAs also ensure the retailer or marketplace is using the desired keywords for your product and they have given it the correct level of prominence on their platform.

Leading DSAs not only reveal your product’s search ranking, but also how it ranks in comparison to similar products made by your competitors. Having established this, you’ll know where there is a need to improve your product’s search ranking.

2. Harnessing smart content management

The most advanced DSA solutions enable you to control your rich product content and alert you if a retailer’s site deviates from your preferred images, video and written content.

When it comes to auditing your product pages, qualified DSA providers do more than scratch the surface. They don’t just check there’s an image in place, they ensure it’s the right image and any secondary images are correct as well. The same applies to your titles, unique selling points and granular product information. This detail is checked the full length of the customer’s buying journey – from category, search and product pages all the way into their cart.

This approach has been shown to directly improve conversion rates. That’s because consumers quickly lose trust in brands and products, and are more likely to abandon a purchase, if they’re faced with inconsistent or incorrect content online.

3. Monitor product pricing

Pricing intelligence is worth its weight in gold – no matter what sales channels you’re using. The challenge with the digital shelf is that it can be vast and prices constantly change, so effective human monitoring is virtually impossible. DSAs, however, use artificial intelligence to automatically analyse pricing and promotions in near real-time right across the digital shelf. This data can help you understand how retailers are pricing your products and it can enable you to benchmark your prices against competitors’.

“DSAs can also monitor pricing and promotion compliance and alert you if retailers are breaking pricing agreements – for example selling your product for less than the minimum advertised price.”

4. Strengthening stock and assortment

Consumers can only buy your product if it is available. Online, 70% of consumers choose another product if they run into out-of-stock issues. Focusing on eliminating out-of-stocks is a good start to drive up online sales.  

DSAs can provide you with early warnings to potential out-of-stocks so you can take action before you lose your search results positioning due to a lack of product availability.

5. Winning the ratings and reviews battle

Research suggests 94% of online shoppers read reviews before making a purchasing decision. It also suggests a product listing with at least five reviews is 270% more likely to convert a customer. For a higher-priced product, this likelihood increases to 380%.

In short, product reviews are now a big deal. DSAs can warn you when product listings don’t have enough customer reviews compared to competitors’ listings.  They can also alert product owners to negative reviews that they can potentially respond to on the retailer’s site, depending on the site’s functionality.

5 steps

Choosing the right digital shelf analytics tool

When it comes to selecting a DSA solution, accuracy is essential. Market-leading solutions are able to achieve an accuracy level of around 98%. That’s because they don’t just search and fetch product data, the most advanced DSAs also feature a validation loop that ensures data is correct.

The best DSAs use customised bots to dig deeper into product detail, analysing product content. They don’t just check primary product videos, photos and descriptions they go deeper to ensure secondary and tertiary content is fully optimised.

Another very important consideration is that leading DSAs search for and fetch data in an ethical way, without slowing down the retailer’s ecommerce platform. They do this by ‘following the sun’ around the world, analysing websites when traffic is at its lowest, usually during the early hours of the morning. All of this information is presented in the form of real-time actionable insights using user-friendly dashboards and push notifications.

The digital shelf presents an increasingly large and complex sales environment. To successfully convert a growing number of sales opportunities, brands need to automate and analyse data capture right across the digital shelf using a market-leading DSA.

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Originally published Sep. 09, 2020, updated Nov. 24, 2020
Joakim Gavelin
Joakim Gavelin
CEO, Detail Online

Joakim has spent 25 years in merchandising and conducting audits in physical stores, and for the last 5 years he has been applying the same principles online. The tactics include promotion, presentation, visibility, stock situation, position on shelf, share of shelf etc., which all affect conversion in e-commerce.

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