Blog header image: How to Win on the Digital Shelf article.
Digital Asset Management

Understanding the Digital Shelf

June 29, 2023 8 minute read
What exactly is the “digital shelf” and how can you ensure your business is competitive on it? We share some digital shelf best practices.
Blog header image: How to Win on the Digital Shelf article.

Instead of a physical retail shelf full of choices, the digital shelf is made up of every experience your buyers have with your product — search results, mobile apps, websites, social media, etc. If you want to win on the digital shelf in e-commerce you need to stock every channel 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 customer 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 virtual tubes, portals, and chutes between aisles and shelves. To avoid getting lost, 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 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. Most brands tackle this challenge with the use of product information management (PIM)

Components of the digital shelf

The digital shelf is made up of multiple parts. Consider what you would see on a physical store shelf. You’d have the physical product, packaging, pricing, sales notifications, stock information, aisle number, product categories, and more, all in an effort to make your shopping experience easier. Well, the same applies to the digital shelf. On the digital shelf you can expect to find: 

  • Primary and secondary images: These hero images and other imagery help online shoppers visualize the product they’re looking at in a way nothing else can. This content offers different angles and views of a product to replicate what visitors could experience when picking up and touching a physical item. 
  • Pricing: An item’s price is incredibly important to in-person and online shoppers, so it needs to be easy to find on the digital shelf. If something is on sale or included in a promotion, that’s helpful to include as well. And it’s even better if you can indicate when the sale or promotion ends in order to avoid customer disappointment if the price is higher the next time they visit the site. 
  • Product details: What are the item’s dimensions? What color is it? Does it come in multiple sizes? Product details include everything from retailer specifications to keywords, product titles, and descriptions. 
  • Stock indicators: Nothing promotes a sense of urgency quite like knowing there are only a few items left in stock. Whether you’re looking to inspire a purchase or just provide your customer with helpful information, stock levels can be an important part of your digital shelf. 
  • Ratings and reviews: The opinions of past purchasers is highly valuable information these days. And it’s not just about good and bad reviews either. The way a brand responds to their reviews is also a consideration point in a buyer’s journey. 

Why is the digital shelf so important?

Brands spend $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 80% of shoppers turn to their smartphone to help them shop while in a store. 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. 

The number of pages consumers are willing to scroll through to find a product will vary by industry, from nine pages for energy purchases to 31 pages for groceries and 26 pages for fashion. So, not only is it important to get your product on the digital shelf, you also need to make it desirable at a glance, otherwise those shoppers will pass it by. To do that you need a recipe that combines a focus on your most important products, high-quality product content, SEO strategy, and product reviews. 

How to win on the digital shelf

The first step to winning the digital shelf is getting your products in front of customers with accurate product information. 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. 85% of consumers say that product information and pictures are important to them 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. Launching a new product will take some extra investment of money and human resources upfront to get it moving and selling. Once you know your priorities, you can focus on getting your product noticed on the digital shelf and keeping it highly visible. 

2. Maintain competitive prices at all times

Many consumers are looking for the best value or products that fit their budget. If that aligns with your business strategy and you’re selling the same products as your competitors, then you’ll want to keep your prices competitive or offer a price match option. But if you have similar — yet not the same — products available, providing clear product information and differentiators will be key to winning a sale when your product has a higher price point. 

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 of Google search results. 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. Posting on your blog and social channels at regular intervals will also contribute value to 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 pay for false reviews. 

You can invest in events like gift card giveaways 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 boost 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 strategy

You can level up 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. 

Acquia’s combined product information management (PIM) and digital asset management (DAM) solution can help you optimize your digital shelf. Request, watch, or click through a demo of Acquia DAM (Widen) to see what it can do for your digital strategy.


Keep Reading

View More Resources