Remember what we were always taught in school? Fail to plan, plan to fail. Turns out the teachers were right: careful planning does make for great success. But most often in real life scenarios, there are some things we just can’t always plan for. You know the drill, you painstakingly put together your five year plan only for life to throw you a curveball. So, long-term success comes from a practice not just of planning but of reacting and adapting.
But even when we do plan, curveballs will ensue. Such is life and such is guaranteed changes in ecommerce and customer behavior trends. Bottom line, you’ve got to be able to adapt quickly and be ready for sudden changes. As the saying goes, the only thing guaranteed not to change is that change is constant, or maybe we just butchered a quote from an Ancient Greek Philosopher, either way…the bottom line is, change is inevitable, so, get to it.
Digital shelf management is the discipline of planning, monitoring, and optimizing your brand’s presence on the digital shelf. Things change quickly in ecommerce, so in order to attract customers’ attention and generate sales, your products need to stand out from the competition. Accomplishing this involves manual and automated processes in four key areas:
- The product pages you control
- The ecommerce retailers (who are in control)
- The product pages your resellers control
- The product pages your competitors control
We’ll take a look at how to approach each of these components in your strategy for digital shelf management.
Your product pages
Your product page content needs to accomplish two basic goals: One, it should ensure your product listings rank well in search results so that customers see and click on your product pages in the first place. Two, it should offer customers a seamless experience, providing everything they need to know about your product to determine whether it will meet their needs.
To rank in search, you need to anticipate what your customers are searching for so you can optimize your content accordingly. What keywords are they using that you can target? Are they including descriptors like size, color, or features?
Everything about your product page content should reflect what customers are trying to find. Include the most relevant target keywords in the title, and then incorporate them throughout the product description, along with any additional relevant keywords that don’t fit in the title.
Customer trends change over time. Different seasons of the year mean different shopping expectations. Your competitors will also be doing their best to keep up and innovate, changing the landscape of the digital shelf as a result. So you can’t just optimize once, and then leave your pages alone. This has to be an ongoing process. As mentioned: plan as best you can, but plan to adapt when things change too.
Once a customer finds your listing and clicks through to your product page, you don’t want to simply confront them with a barrage of keywords. Creating the perfect product page means structuring the content to flow naturally. Provide genuinely helpful information that helps customers know at a glance if your product is what they’re looking for. It should be thorough enough to answer their most pertinent questions without being overly verbose.
Then supplement that information with compelling images and enhanced content. Try to do more than present pictures of your products from different angles. Tell a story with your images. If you’re selling sports equipment, show it in action! Let customers see real people having fun while using your products. Where relevant, you can also incorporate things like comparison charts or before-and-after images to help your customers understand what your product does or why it stands out.
Optimizing your product page content can be difficult without the right tools. Brand Monitor can help by tracking your Share of Search—how your product ranks next to competitors for a given keyword. You’ll be able to see at a glance how effective your fine-tuning has been, as well as where there’s room for improvement.
Unless you’re exclusively selling your products on your own direct-to-consumer channels, you need to pay attention to what’s happening on your retailers’ sites as well. Tracking what goes on within those retailers can help you manage your products within their online storefronts.
You’ll want to start by tracking your search rankings over time. There will be some better days and some worse days, but with time you can establish a baseline for where your products normally rank. From there you’ll be able to see how your real-time stats compare to the baseline, and you’ll know if something out of the ordinary occurs.
Similarly, you should track your customer ratings. The occasional one-star rating may not mean much by itself. But if your ratings as a whole start trending downward, that could indicate a more serious issue.
You’ll also want to keep a close eye on the Q&A and reviews sections. Customers tend to let you know what they love about your products, as well as what’s frustrating them. And if you’ve been tracking those ratings over time, you can see the point where they started going down and compare that with the reviews from the same time period. Chances are you’ll discover the issue that prompted the negative ratings.
One additional thing to track is stock availability. When your product goes out of stock, you’ll want to immediately cancel any ad spend on that product, or divert that ad spend to a different product. No sense paying to send customers to a dead end. And if you notice a product frequently going out of stock, you may want to increase its stock availability.
These would be monumental tasks to accomplish by hand, but Brand Monitor makes it easy. It tracks all of your ratings and rankings for you, letting you see at a glance where your products stand. It also pulls customer reviews and questions from across different retailers together into one dashboard, allowing you to filter the results, and highlighting frequently used terms and phrases. It even monitors your stock availability, letting you know the moment a product runs out, so you can take immediate action.
Resellers’ product pages
In addition to going through ecommerce retailers, your products likely also pass through the hands of any number of individual resellers. And that means you need to keep track of how those resellers are upholding your brand integrity. In particular, you should monitor their product pages for consistency and pricing.
Having put so much effort into fine-tuning the content on your own product pages, it’s important to make sure that content finds its way onto all your resellers’ product pages.
Your customers deserve a consistent experience from one seller to the next. They should expect the same level of quality any time they encounter your brand, no matter where or from whom they buy. And you never want to confuse or mislead your customers with outdated or potentially inaccurate information.
Your products also need to be priced within the same range across different sellers. Your price doesn’t just ensure a profit. It also positions your products in the marketplace.
Is yours a premium product meant to compete at the highest levels? Or is it a budget option intended to give customers the best bang for their buck? Or somewhere in-between? Regardless, your price says something about your product, so you need to be intentional about what it says.
You can do this by establishing a minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policy. This lets sellers know that there will be consequences if they drop the price below your MAP policy. Ideally, all of your sellers would partner with you to ensure your brand integrity. But if they don’t, you may need to cut off your working relationship with offenders. Because when one seller sets their prices too low, others tend to follow suit, resulting in the overall devaluation of your products.
Brand Monitor can keep track of all of this for you. You input a master copy of the product description and images, and the content compliance feature automatically compares it across all online retailers, showing you exactly where any discrepancies may lie. Likewise, you set the minimum price, and Brand Monitor alerts you the moment any seller goes below it.
Competitors’ product pages
Part of digital shelf management involves more than tracking your own products. It can often be beneficial to track the products of your competitors as well.
For example, one way to anticipate what your customers are searching for is by looking at the search terms your competitors have optimized for. They may have figured something out that you missed. That’s not to suggest you should just copy everything they do. But it’s worth being aware of their strategies and utilizing insights where applicable.
And just like you track your own ratings, reviews, and questions, you should also keep an eye on what those look like for your competitors. What problems are their customers facing? Maybe you could highlight how your product avoids that particular issue. What do their customers really love? Maybe that’s something to lean into with your product as well.
You’ll want to track your competitors’ stock availability too. When one of them goes out of stock, their customers are going to be looking for an alternative. If you’re quick enough, you can run an ad campaign using branded keywords to position your comparable product as the first viable option.
And the good news is that Brand Monitor can track everything about your competitors’ products just as easily as it can track your own.
Get equipped for digital shelf management
To really get the most out of digital shelf management, you need a tool designed specifically for the job. There are so many things to keep track of, including:
- Your product page search rankings, both over time and in real time
- The customer ratings, reviews, and questions for your products
- The stock availability of your products
- The consistency of product pages across different retailers and individual resellers
- The implementation of your minimum advertised pricing policy
- And all of the above for your competitors’ products as well as your own
Brand Monitor tracks all of this and so much more, turning an insurmountable pile of data into easy-to-digest insights you can apply right away.