Winning the Digital Shelf: How to Decide if You Need Software, an Agency, or Both

Vanilla ice cream or chocolate? Some might say, “Chocolate, of course! What kind of monster chooses ice cream as their treat AND opts for vanilla?” Others may find chocolate as overkill. “Hey, I want a little treat, not to dump a bucket of Hersheys on my head.” Point is, each exists for a reason: what works for one doesn’t necessarily make sense for another. This basic truth holds true for hot dogs versus hamburgers, PC versus console gaming, and creating the ultimate customer experience. Allow us to explain.

Winning the digital shelf is vital for ecommerce brands. If you want to be successful online, you need to pull out all the stops to optimize the customer experience, control the path to purchase, and ensure that consumers choose your brand over the competition.

But with the sheer volume of things to track, monitor, and improve in the online buying experience, you can’t win the digital shelf without digital shelf analytics. You need the right combination of tools and expertise to evaluate your online distribution network and make data-driven decisions to optimize every channel.

And for that, most brands need some support. Because when you sell through multiple online retailers and marketplaces, there’s only so much you can learn from your in-house data. If your internal team doesn’t have the right skill sets or capacity to invest in the digital shelf, you need to find outside help to take that load off your plate.

As a global leader in digital shelf analytics software, we find that it can be difficult for brands to distinguish between the situations where they need to invest in software and the situations where they need to invest in services — and it’s understandable. Ecommerce software companies like PriceSpider tend to have a wealth of expertise to help clients get the most from their tools, and some ecommerce agencies have developed their own tools to fill gaps in their clients’ capabilities.

Thankfully, if you’re exploring digital shelf analytics solutions, there’s a fundamental difference between these two options. Knowing that difference will help you make the decision that’s right for your organization.

Basically, it comes down to this: do you need better data, more expertise, or both?

Do you have the data you need to be effective?

The right team can take you only so far. In the world of ecommerce, data is crucial. If you don’t have deep visibility into transactions and the path to purchase, you simply can’t make informed marketing decisions and measure the impact of your campaigns — no matter who is making the decisions or evaluating your success. 

It’s like having a bowl, a scooper, and a spoon, but hey … who forgot the carton of ice cream? 

Brands turn to PriceSpider’s digital shelf analytics platform for our unparalleled access to in-cart data from major retailers and marketplaces, our proprietary tracking technology that collects information like pricing and stock availability in near real time, and our ability to track sales in international markets. 

With our tools, it doesn’t matter where someone buys your product, we can track it (and show you what else they purchased). And by giving you near real-time data, we help you avoid sending customers to a dead-end and prevent sellers from violating your price undetected.

Here are some of the things that are only possible with robust digital shelf analytics software.

Marketing attribution

The more your customers buy your products through retailers and marketplaces, the harder marketing attribution becomes. Without universal tracking, you can only measure the impact your various marketing campaigns and channels have on your D2C sales. If you’re like most brands, those sales only represent a tiny piece of the pie, which means you’re missing a lot more data than you’re getting.

A lot of software solutions give you better visibility into sales — maybe they track in-cart data from a handful of retailers, or track your website visitors until they reach checkout — but if you want to know what’s happening on the digital shelf, you need complete visibility into your digital shelf. You need tools that track sales through every retailer you work with and end-to-end tracking capabilities so that you can see which marketing efforts are supporting your customer journey.

If your organization isn’t equipped for marketing attribution, it’s a lot more difficult to double down on the channels that are working and pull the plug on ones that are not.

Conversion optimization

Similarly, you won’t make the most of your website traffic if you can’t identify the best places to direct your visitors. You need to know what your retail partners are doing with the traffic you send them. Which sellers have the highest conversion rates? Which sellers are redirecting that traffic to your competitors? Who is recommending related products from your catalog and increasing the average transaction value?

Even the best ecommerce experts can’t definitively answer these questions without tracking data. 

The right digital shelf analytics software enables you to present website visitors with your highest-converting retailers, so you have greater control over the customer journey and can strengthen your digital shelf experience.


The digital shelf requires a lot of maintenance. To maintain your presence at the top (or climb your way there), you need to react quickly to changes in the marketplace and your distribution network. With the right data and platform integrations, you can rely less on manual processes and ensure that your brand is able to pivot quickly.

For example, you can create triggers that notify you when a competitor is out of stock on a particular site so that you can ramp up (or reduce) your ad spend there. Or, you can have the sellers listed on your site automatically swapped out based on factors like pricing, ratings, and availability. You can even automate enforcement of your brand guidelines.

On the digital shelf, there are countless optimizations you could constantly manage to improve your standing in the market. But relying on manual processes to identify and capitalize on opportunities leaves you to make difficult decisions about which opportunities to let go.

PriceSpider lets you slice and dice your digital shelf data to extract the most value for your brand. For example, you can check how your ratings and conversions changed during a particular time frame, or how a particular product page aligns with your brand guidelines and best practices. 

Get as granular as you like while maintaining a more holistic perspective on your digital shelf performance. 

So great — we’ve established that attribution, optimization, and automation all require a software solution.  

But how do you know if you need an agency?

Do you have the expertise you need to be effective?

Optimizing your brand for the digital shelf takes a lot of time and effort. Mountains of data won’t do much good if you don’t actually do anything with it. Your brand needs both to be agile enough to react to what’s happening on the digital shelf, and the expertise and bandwidth to monitor the metrics that are most vital to your success. 

It’s like having a bowl of chocolate scoops all ready to go, except what good is it if you don’t have a spoon to eat it?

If your team doesn’t possess the right skill sets or the capacity to execute your digital shelf strategy, an agency can help to close the gaps. Here are some of the reasons brands should consider partnering with an agency.

Campaign management

Assuming you have the data you need to track and optimize your marketing efforts, you may want to enlist an agency that can orchestrate, launch, monitor, and evaluate specific campaigns. This is especially valuable for organizations that don’t have deep ecommerce experience and expertise on their marketing team. With universal tracking and real-time data, an agency can measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and react accordingly.

If you’ve ever thought, “Making the most of [marketing channel] sounds nice, but we just can’t deal with that right now,” an agency is probably a good fit for your brand.

Managing a campaign takes strategic planning, thoughtful execution, regular maintenance, and the ability to pivot based on performance. With an agency that specializes in ecommerce, you could even decide to let them completely handle PPC advertising, lead generation, and other campaigns.

Asset creation

Asset creation can consume a lot of in-house resources, but many brands can’t dedicate enough design or development time to marketing. Such bottlenecks frequently hold back marketing teams, but that doesn’t have to be the case. With an agency at your disposal, you can bypass the challenges of fitting your ideas into an already overflowing queue and equip your team to follow best practices so that your brand looks the best it can on the digital shelf.

Digital shelf analysis

Sometimes you have all the data you need, but you don’t know how to make the most of it. Now you need someone who can tell you why your rankings are slipping or your most successful sales channels are shifting. How should you react to the data? What adjustments do you need to make?

Digital shelf analytics software can help you get familiar with various metrics and learn how to find the data you need. If you aren’t sure what to do with all the information at your fingertips or struggle to see the big picture of your digital landscape, you may want to have a consultation with an agency. Agencies work with many brands, so they will have plenty of relevant experience to draw from as they help you assess your situation.

What if you need better data and more expertise?

When faced with the choice between chocolate or vanilla, sometimes your best answer is “both.”

In other words, this doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. You don’t want a software solution that doesn’t give you the data you need or feels tacked onto other ecommerce services. And if you don’t have the human resources you need to win the digital shelf, an agency can give you the expertise and capacity to manage, execute, and evaluate your ecommerce landscape. 

Get a free demo of PriceSpider

Nearly 2,000 brands use PriceSpider to optimize the digital shelf. Effective digital shelf analytics isn’t possible without true universal tracking and real-time data crawling. Want to explore what we can do for your brand?

Schedule a demo to see PriceSpider in action.

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