5 optimization tactics to grow digital shelf sales

Presented by: 
Josi Mathar2022

This post has been updated and was originally published May 14, 2020.

Consumer goods companies (CPG) continue to grapple with enormous shifts to the industry as the eCommerce boom continues and shopper habits evolve at lightning speed. Statista's digital market outlook forecasts that by 2025, online shopping revenue in the U.S. will exceed 1.3 trillion dollars.

With the digital shelf predicted to remain the focus of today’s shoppers what sales optimization tactics can commercial managers apply to boost their conversions across online retailers?

We’ve asked our eCommerce experts in the Customer Success team to share their advice. Read on and bookmark this article; the following five sales optimization tactics will last well beyond any crisis.

  1. Your key online sales optimisation tactic: ensure visibility on the digital shelf
  2. Achieve consistency with your eCommerce brand assets
  3. Get your digital shelf promotions right
  4. Don’t be out of stock, ensure availability across your range
  5. Differ your digital shelf strategy for Pure Play vs Bricks and Clicks

1. Ensure visibility on the digital shelf

Your brand's visibility on a retailer’s website is of crucial importance to driving sales on the digital shelf: When shoppers search for a product on the retailer’s site, opportunities to convert decline dramatically if your product appears on page three and below the competition. You want to be seen on the first page of their search results through an effective eCommerce marketing strategy.

Optimizing for this search ranking is key to driving visibility and, more so, to significantly impact your brand’s ability to increase sales” comments Mandy Critchley, Customer Success Director at e.fundamentals.

Focusing on digital shelf visibility ensures you are also positioning yourself against your competitors. For any search term, there is a limited number of space available a retailer's search results page. Retail SEO keyword optimization for your product names and descriptions prevents your competitors stealing a march. Our Customer Success Managers help brands understand the keyword search terms shoppers use every day and how to optimize their product detail pages for retail search.

How to improve your online retail search strategy

  1. Seek to understand the differences between each online retailer you are listed on
  2. Carry out a search audit, map out where you rank today and what keyword terms you are showing and not showing for. Speak to us if you want this to be automated.
  3. Create a strategy that’s unique to each retailer you’re selling your products through and in accordance with their algorithms
  4. Determine which digital categories and shelves you want to rank on and adjust your product names to align to the retailer taxonomy
  5. Ensure your products are on the first page of search. Apply ‘gold standard’ naming conventions and optimize product titles you know the shopper is looking for

Half your sales online will come from search and improving your retail search ranking is the single easiest way of growing sales today and favourites tomorrow”, explains Mandy Critchley, Customer Success Director e.fundamentals

But there’s more: a) being found in more searches and b) being found in the right searches. Optimizing for search on retailers websites is a balancing act between your brand’s key products being present in the right category searches e.g. your highest profit SKU being present in the biggest search at position 2, versus making sure the tail of your portfolio is present in the specific searches.

Once you understand the mix of these and the value that they play in your strategy you can start understanding which need attention first as they have the biggest gap and highest importance, Becky Curtis-Hall, Customer Success Manager e.fundamentals

With the e.fundamentals platform we track search terms for our clients and prioritize them as part of their personalised set-up to allow easy understanding of exactly what it is they need to focus on. Becky Curtis-Hall illustrates this with an example demonstrating the search optimization focused fundamental Easy to Buy, one of our 8 fundamentals in the framework.

“With easy to buy, our clients can quickly see what products are ranking by retailers or search terms. In the image shown we can see clearly that the product in position 2 “Magnum Ice Cream Classic 4x110ml” has been ranking consistently in position 4 for several weeks and an increase in rankings for the term “Ice Cream” coincided with a price cut promotion. Our tool helps our clients see where they rank vs where they think they rank. Informing current performance and highlighting potential drops or gains in visibility due to in category changes.“

Scrutinize your product description pages against relevant keywords and check your product’s shopper ratings and reviews. Improving both can impact rankings positively.

2. Achieve consistency with your eCommerce brand assets

effective-brand-imagery-execution-for-online-retail

With the e.fundamentals platform CPGs can ensure their branded imagery is displayed as intended.

To make your brand stand out on the digital shelf, look no further than your product imagery and content. As your second online sales optimization tactic, images optimized for mobile shopping can considerably improve your conversion. Similarly to how a brand would pay great attention to designing packaging and ensuring the details match the shoppers’ expectations in store, attention to high quality imagery and its digital presentation on a retailer’s search results page is essential to drawing attention.

After all, shopping online is about convenience. A major element that’s missing from the digital shelf shopping experience is the ability to touch your product. To substitute this, brands can leverage outstanding imagery, ideally from multiple angles to fill this immanent gap. Enhancing the design element with detailed product descriptions can further entice shoppers to purchase your product. Make it clear and easily accessible, shoppers will more likely become repeat purchasers.

Focus on accurate descriptions and the visuals

  1. Guarantee all your product names, images and descriptions enable and encourage basket conversion. You wouldn’t expect a consumer to buy a product in store that had no imagery, ingredients listed or pack size details.
  2. Different online retailers may have differing methods of displaying products, from zoomed images, to 360 views to AR integrations. Do your product assets make the most of every retailer's product page real estate and functionality?
  3. Make sure that your brand assets and descriptions are consistent across all retailers or tweaked accordingly to maximize visibility.
  4. Check that your image and description details include what shoppers expect such as pack and serving size, brand name and category.

It is vital that the shopper can tell straight away what your product is, what it contains, how it meets their needs, what pack or format it is in and how it should be consumed. Getting the basics across your product portfolio implemented well is the key to executing an effective eCommerce strategy.

3. Get your digital shelf promotions right

To understand the effectiveness of your promotions and how it influences shopper behaviour, you need to look at your category as a whole.

How to understand your category’s promotional landscape

  1. Check if your pricing and promotional strategy is in line with the category or not. Be sure that either way this is intentional.
  2. Be clear about shopper behaviour per category: In some categories, shoppers tend to stock-up and thus want cross category multibuys, whereas in others you will want to deliver price cuts at a time when none of your competitors are on promotion.
  3. Maintain a holistic view. Continuously monitoring your competitor’s activity will allow you to promote your range effectively, driving revenue gains across target retailers.

Digital shelf analytics allow you to view both a complete calendar of promotions in your category and pricing over time. Customer Success Manager Becky Curtis-Hall illustrates this point with an example looking at the fundamental Winning Campaigns which gives you this said holistic view.

In this example of our product, if you were a competitor brand to the product displayed you could see that in the later part of March promotions decreased. Putting this trend into action you’d adjust your promotional plan accordingly and shift some of your future activity into late March.”

ecommerce analytics for price and online promotional data across online retailers

4. Don’t be out of stock, ensure availability across your range

avoid-empty-digital-shelves-through-effective-range-and-availability-management-with-online-retailers

Product conversions can only happen when you’re in stock. Supply chain issues have persisted in the recent past and will continue to do so. So here's what CPGs can do.

Know yous SKUs availability at all times

  1. Understanding availability on a day to day basis allows you to anticipate risks.
  2. Daily checks will help you identify trends and so help to improve sales and highlight where you have a problem before you risk losing sales opportunities.
  3. Understand how promotional activity impacts your out of stock performance across retailers. Helping you know where to overstock for future promotional activity.
  4. Our clients achieve this by accessing daily range reporting through the e.fundamentals’ Availability feature. An insights report that sits within our fundamental Deliver Value that Counts.

Customer Success Manager Becky Curtis-Hall illustrates the importance of the availability report in this example:

“Looking at the below chart you’ll notice the colour coding which gives you an at-a-glance-view of which products are green (In Stock), yellow (Out of Stock) or red (Delisted). The action I’d take is to ensure that none of my products were in the yellow bar (Out of Stock) to prevent them of sliding into the red bar in the future”

Get online product availability in real time with e.fundamentals. so you can optimise your ecommerce strategy

With Amazon you run the risk of being delisted when out of stock, the availability report helps you identify the risks to your range on Amazon.

What’s more, this report can show you by retailer which of your competitor’s products are out of stock and thus offering a good opportunity to make commercial changes to pounce on the opportunity. A key competitor being out of stock can also act as a potential early warning that demand will be stronger on your product lines.

5. Differ your digital shelf strategy for Pure Play vs Bricks and Clicks

amazon digital shelf growth

Pure plays such as Amazon and Ocado, have unique challenges and also unique opportunities. For the vast majority of Bricks and Clicks promotions have to run across both online and instore. Pure play offers the opportunity to run online promotions that won't affect in store and are more versatile in the types of bundles that are on offer, particularly in Ocado.

On Amazon, sellers compete for the Buy Box as notably 82% of Amazon sales happen at this point. Adjusting your performance variables to Amazon's algorithm will increase your chances of being awarded the precious Buy Box.

Avoid a one size fits all approach to your retailer strategies 

  1. Think about providing Amazon with unique pack configurations that are better suited to the Amazon shopper mission. Only by having different pack configuration can you ensure you don't automatically get priced against the lowest price in the market. Should this happen and Amazon doesn’t gain enough profit, your product may then be delisted.
  2. Increase chances of winning the Buy Box by checking your eligibility status in the Amazon Seller Central. Also ensure you're products are in stock. If the aren't, the Buy Box goes to another seller. Less profitable but great for visibility are the options 'Other Sellers on Amazon' and 'The Offer Listing Page'.
  3. For Ocado, there are particular opportunities around running bespoke promotion strategies and bundling opportunities.
  4. Evaluate your pricing and promotion strategy to ascertain the criteria your shoppers use to assess value for money against your range

Conclusion

Ecommerce requires brands to pay careful attention to the supply chain, listings, promotions and their digital shelf strategy as a whole. For commercial teams looking to grow their online sales on retailer' websites now and in future, we’ve provided the following fives sales optimization tactics:

  1. Ensure visibility on the digital shelf
  2. Achieve consistency for your eCommerce brand assets
  3. Get your digital shelf promotions right
  4. Don’t be out of stock, ensure availability across your range
  5. Differ your digital shelf strategy for Pure Play vs Bricks and Clicks

Following these steps, CPG brand will be able to chart a winning course online at speed and scale.

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