8 Tips for Winning the Digital Shelf

For brands that sell products online, the digital shelf is a battleground. There’s fierce competition to rank for product searches, accumulate the most reviews and best ratings, and look like the best choice in your product category. 

If you can master the online shopping journey and provide the best customer experience, your products can go toe-to-toe with the biggest brands in your niche or claim an even bigger lead over the competition. 

Here are eight tips for winning the digital shelf.

1. Take time to understand your customers better

The brands that know their customers best have a big advantage when it comes to the digital shelf. They know what their customers are trying to accomplish, how each product fits into their customer’s story, and what their product detail page ultimately needs to communicate.

If you want to win the digital shelf, use marketing exercises like creating a customer journey map and surveying your best customers to make sure you understand your target audience better than anyone else.

2. Be concise—and thorough!

If it takes too long for someone to understand what your product is or what it’s capable of, they’re going to look for what they need somewhere else. A lot of product pages bog down important details, use too much jargon, or are simply too cluttered for shoppers to quickly understand.

Products that win the digital shelf have clear, concise copy that lets customers immediately confirm: this is what I need.

But being concise isn’t the same as being brief. If you want to rank for your category and make people feel confident you have what they need, then your product detail page should provide convenient ways for people to see all of your product’s features, specs, and use cases.

3. Continually optimize your product detail page

Sometimes ranking in search and presenting your product as the best option feels like a moving target. Search rankings and top products often fluctuate over time, and your product detail page may need regular adjustments to stay on top. If you want your pages to perform the best they possibly can, you should make a point of identifying potential improvements and regularly testing changes. Does a new product page feature improve your conversion rate? What happens when you change the order of your images, lead with a different benefit, or focus on highlighting other features?

4. Take advantage of enhanced content

It takes a lot of work to create 360-degree images, videos, GIFs, and other types of enhanced content. But depending on your product, that content could be crucial in helping your customers confirm that your product has what they need or is a better fit than a similar product. And it certainly makes your product page look better than your competitors who don’t use it. As consumers compare options, enhanced content can leave people feeling like your product is more legitimate or higher quality—simply because your product page provides a better experience.

5. Answer the questions people ask about your competition

A lot of retailers allow customers to ask questions about products directly on the product pages. When a retailer, another customer, or a brand answers these questions, it helps the questioner make a decision, and it answers the question for future customers as well.

Right now, potential customers are asking questions on your competitor’s product pages. These questions give you valuable insight into what consumers are looking for, how they’re comparing your products to competitors, and what information you may want to make more prominent on your own pages. 

Use your product descriptions to answer the questions people are asking about your competition.

6. Be responsive

When a customer has a bad experience and leaves a review on your product page, it can have lasting consequences for your brand integrity. A lot of brands don’t address negative reviews even though they’re often based on a misunderstanding (like not knowing how to use your product properly) or a negative experience that wasn’t your fault (like an item that was damaged in shipping). Negative reviews might also reveal changes you need to make to your product detail page. 

Whenever possible, make sure you remedy the frustrations people express through negative reviews and respond publicly—remember, your future customers might be reading!

And of course, if customers ask questions on one of your product pages, answer them promptly and make changes to your page if necessary. Customer questions often reveal that there was a specification or feature you forgot to highlight.

7. Tell a story with your assets

People buy your products for a reason. There’s a problem they’re trying to solve or a goal they’re trying to reach. Make sure your descriptions, images, and enhanced content work together to tell a story—one where your customers are the protagonist and your product helps them accomplish their mission.

8. Encourage customers to review and rate your products

Ratings and reviews can directly impact how your products stack up in search rankings. Some customers filter their results based on ratings, but at the very least, the products with the highest number of reviews and best ratings are going to be more appealing to consumers—especially if they don’t already have a brand or product in mind.

So you want as many legitimate ratings and reviews as possible. Some retailers have review programs that send people free products in exchange for reviews. Take advantage of these! And even if a retailer doesn’t offer a review program, you can use packaging materials, confirmation emails, and other marketing assets to encourage reviews.

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