Blog Post - Dennis Peek , Jun 10 2020

Ensuring the best product experience on the digital shelf

Ensuring the best product experience on the digital shelf

Ten years of digital development within two months? We’re actually experiencing it right now! Whilst around 85% of every euro used to be spent on traditional retail, brands now see double digit growth in their online sales. This is at the expense of many physical stores that have had to close their doors or experienced a significant drop in visitors.

So, if you are an online seller, what is the best way to profit from this growth? The answer is to optimize the product range in the digital shelf on every sales channel. Make it very easy for consumers to find product information for an assortment that is relevant to the situation they’re in.

For our recently published Future Shopper report 14.000 online consumers across Europe were interviewed about their online shopping behaviour. The following channels were listed as must influential when it comes to buying products online:

  • Amazon: 52%
  • Search engines: 51%
  • Traditional retail online shops: 20%
  • Marketplaces (other than Amazon): 19%
  • Social shopping channels: 19%
  • Brand websites: 18%

Many brick & mortar stores are currently suffering a loss in turnover which can be partly compensated by shifting focus to online sales channels. If you are not already active on the above channels, we’d advise you to start as soon as possible, with a tactic to connect all these channels. To set up the digital shelf on every sales channel, you need at least the following:

  • Products to sell online (assortment)
  • Data and product information to fill all product listings with content
  • A relationship with the market parties to make price agreements, retrieve requirements and to set up marketing campaigns

1. Select relevant products
Which products are most valuable for the consumer? Which items do you expect to do well now with people forced to buy online? These items should have a prominent spot in your digital shelf. Also check stocks of retailers that now sell less; try to offer these products via another channel, such as via social campaigns, your own online shop or via the store or online shop of a retailer still selling.

More than ever, consumers are looking for products they need at home. Considering the key drivers for this, which products do people need now during a complete or partial lockdown? There is of course data on categories that are currently seeing growth, and which are being bought less. Recent research from VisualCapitalist.com shows that food, gloves, kitchen appliances and indoor sports items are showing enormous growth. This is at the expense of products such as travel accessories and luxury goods.

2. Publish unique content across all sales channels
Each product detail page must contain unique pieces of content. When your products are being sold through multiple sales channels it has a negative impact on your search engine rating if all these pages contain identical content. To convince consumers to buy your products, use reviews and search behavior to adjust product content to the needs of the consumer.

Example:
A seller of cosmetic products sells the same product via a number of online retailers in the Netherlands. All these 'etailers' want the content to be delivered in a slightly different way. For example: one would like the content description to be written in milligrams while the other retailer would like the same content to be written in millilitres. Apart from that, each retailer likes to receive a different format of the packaging shots. If you want to adjust all this manually, delivering the content takes a lot of time. The solution is to set up all these publications in a PXM tool, so that the delivery of content becomes an automated process. This provides the manufacturer with time savings of almost 75% compared to the time the process normally takes.

In addition, some retailers would like to receive significantly more data than others. For the same antacid medicines for example, you need to supply 200 information fields to Amazon, yet for the health & beauty category in Bol.com, a Dutch online marketplace, you just need to fill in 55 fields. It is therefore highly advisable to use a PIM or PXM tool to store and centrally manage the content, after which you can easily create a channel from which you can publish unique content for each retailer.

In addition to publishing, it is necessary to continuously monitor the quality of the content that has been published. Don’t forget to check whether this content is actually published on the product detail pages. In reality, the content you provide to retailers and marketplaces is often not adopted in the way you provided. Make sure to create reports that analyse product detail pages so that you can quickly publish new content to improve product detail pages.

With regard to the cosmetics manufacturer mentioned above, an analysis yielded some interesting insights. One of the brands of the cosmetics manufacturer was most searched for in combination with pregnancy, and conversion of the product went up immediately once this extended product content was added. The lesson? It is important to write the product content of your products in such a way that consumers get direct answers to the most frequently asked questions.

3. Adjust the relationship with marketplaces to the current COVID-19 situation
Every sales channel needs to adapt to the new reality. For example, Amazon currently buys fewer or no products that are considered non-essential for the Italian and French markets. In this pandemic era, it is therefore an excellent time to consider continuing to sell via a marketplace platform as a seller (3P) yourself – that is, if you’re able to take care of the distribution and customer service.

In any case, you need to re-evaluate the efforts you are currently making to drive Amazon product detail pages. Don't waste energy on a page with a lack of stock which makes it impossible to order products.

For example, an online store with stock that you would otherwise have wanted to sell via Amazon vendor central (1P) or via traditional retail could sell a great deal right now if you provide the right channels. Adjust the content accordingly. Many companies currently avoid discounting products, but you should definitely promote products through new channels. Also, try not to save on marketing, instead reinvest the budget to boost the channels that you are still converting.

Conclusion
These COVID-19 impacted times require a different approach. It is not ‘business as usual’ so don’t sell your products ‘as usual’; instead listen to the consumer demands. Start to sell products which can be used at home and are truly relevant to people today. Publish customized content to channels which can deliver to consumers and ensure that those sellers have sufficient stock. Then measure the quality of the content and research the questions that consumers want answered, so that you can adjust your product information accordingly. Last but not least, keep promoting your relevant product offering. Now that most shopping can only and most reliably and conveniently be done online, it pays to optimise the customer experience. Your customers deserve nothing less…

A winning online formula is all about data! Download our latest report 'How brands optimise the digital shelf' to find out how to PXM helps you to win online.

Download the report