What is digital shelf analytics?

Digital shelf analytics (DSA) is the software solution that lets brands sell smarter online, fueling profitability at every customer touchpoint.

The world buys online these days. E-commerce is no longer a new thing; it’s the done thing. However, while our shopping habits may have changed, our expectations haven’t. Customers are still looking for that in-store shopping experience, even from the comfort of their own home, or phone. But how can brands respond smarter to customer needs and build a resilient digital shelf that drives profitability?

The answer? Digital shelf analytics.

Digital shelf analytics (DSA) uses smart automation to constantly monitor products on the digital shelf, delivering essential, real-time insight into buyer behavior, product performance, and channel competition. This information lets you respond to any issues you might have on your product listings, such as adding a missing image or changing incorrect text. This closed-loop feedback ensures your product detail pages are always optimized for your customers, your brand, and the channel.

If you’re selling online without digital shelf analytics, you’re flying blind and your profitability could be suffering. Read on to discover how digital shelf analytics can help you better understand your customers, stay on top of reseller requirements, optimize your products’ online presence, and drive profitability at every touchpoint.

What is the digital shelf?

The digital shelf is the online environment where customers interact with your brands and products. This includes all digital touchpoints, such as product listings on reseller sites, search engines, social channels, and your own brand website. At these touchpoints, customers discover, learn about, compare, and purchase your products, or take their interest offline to a retail outlet. Whatever they do, it’s informed by the information they have acquired on the digital shelf.

Unlike more traditional retail, there is typically no linear buying journey on the digital shelf. Customers can encounter your products at any one of these digital touchpoints. This can make it challenging to build a coherent customer experience, as you have no control over how, where, or why a customer interacts with your products. This means it’s essential that every product listing is optimized, accurate, and ready to tell a product story that matters.

How to win on the digital shelf

Similar to traditional brick-and-mortar stores, competition for space on the digital shelf is fierce – and it’s only getting more competitive. To be the best, you need to consider how your products appear on search results pages (SERPs), online marketplaces, and anywhere else potential customers might find your products. Only by doing this will you be able to maximize conversions across your touchpoints.

78% of product searches on Amazon do not include a brand name.
Source: Inside the mind of an online shopper

To create a winning strategy for your digital shelf, there are two main components you need to consider for your product content: syndication and evaluation.

Syndicating product content on the digital shelf

When selling online, product information is your greatest asset. Without a physical store to experience products, it is this information that customers need to make an informed purchase. In order to win on the digital shelf, it’s essential you create rich, engaging product detail pages (PDPs) across all your customer touchpoints. Not only should this include all the specifications, multimedia assets, and other product content, but also meet all requirements of the host channel, whether a reseller or a marketplace.

Distributing this content manually is simply not possible in today’s omnichannel world. The only way to syndicate your product content to all your channels efficiently is with product data syndication (PDS) software. This software can distribute your product information to all your digital sales channels quickly and effectively. Read our guide for more on product data syndication.

Evaluating product content on the digital shelf

Think having optimized product content across the digital shelf is enough to keep those sales ringing in? Think again. The digital shelf is constantly shifting, and product listings can fall foul of these shifts without warning. An image might become distorted. A word might go missing that impacts your product detail page’s SEO. The entire listing might suddenly disappear. To ensure your product content remains optimized, relevant, and even visible, you need to constantly monitor your product listing performance to avoid it being left behind.

Manually monitoring all of this content is simply not possible in today’s e-commerce environment. The only way to successfully keep track of this product performance is with a digital shelf analytics solution that constantly monitors your digital shelf. You will then be alerted to any underperforming listings, such as those with product stock-outs, inaccurate information, or falling category page rank. For more information, read about inriver’s evaluation capabilities.

Closing the loop on the digital shelf

To truly build for success on the digital shelf, it is essential that you have both syndication and digital shelf analytics capabilities in your omnichannel selling strategy. This is the only way you can ‘close the loop’. But what do we mean by this?

Put simply, this loop refers to constant flow of information between you and your digital shelf touchpoints. Product content is distributed across all channels, and then product performance is monitored by digital shelf analytics. These DSA solutions feedback this information, allowing you to make changes and distribute optimized content back out onto the digital shelf. And so the flow of insight and data continues.

It is only through closing this loop that you can maximize profitability at every customer touchpoint: today, tomorrow, and always.

Why is digital shelf analytics important?

If you’re looking to win on the digital shelf and develop a successful omnichannel commerce strategy, a digital shelf analytics solution is essential. Only a DSA solution can close the loop between getting your product content out onto the digital shelf, understanding how it’s performing, and responding accordingly to maximize profitability at every touchpoint.

69% of shoppers have decided not to buy a product due to a poor product description
Source: Inside the mind of an online shopper

Digital shelf analytics constantly monitors your product performance to provide insight on a number of issues, including:

  • Product performance: real-time information on whether listings are visible, accurate, complete, and competitive.
  • Buyer behavior: showing why your products are over-performing, underperforming, and how you can improve.
  • Channel competition: highlighting how you measure up to the competition at a category level.

For more information, check out our look at the benefits of monitoring your digital shelf.

Do I need digital shelf analytics?

In short, if you’re reading this then you probably do.

If you’re selling products online, then digital shelf analytics should already be an integral part of your e-commerce strategy, otherwise, you’re flying blind. However, it’s never too late to integrate a DSA solution into your value chain and realize the benefits of smarter selling thanks to the latest advances in digital shelf engagement intelligence.

Are you still deciding whether selling online is right for you? Then now is the perfect time to start exploring digital shelf analytics. Not only will you be able to see how your competitors are performing on the channels most applicable to your products, but you’ll also be in a great position to truly take advantage of all the DSA insight when you do start selling online.

To give another angle on the benefits of DSA, let’s take a look at a few different sectors:

Digital shelf analytics for brands

For branded manufacturers, the possibilities of DSA are endless. Whether you’re a brand selling shoes, sofas, or slow cookers, chances are your products are listed on more than one website. And all those listings probably have a lot of content included, such as specifications, customer reviews, and multimedia assets. This is where digital shelf analytics can make the difference.

As well as getting actionable insight into product performance across all your channels, it will also ensure your listings remain consistent with ever-changing marketplace and reseller requirements. In addition, DSA technology can help maintain brand and product consistency across all your digital touchpoints, fueling customer loyalty and securing a coherent product story on the channels you don’t manage.

Digital shelf analytics for manufacturers

If you’re an industrial manufacturer, digital shelf analytics software might not high on your wishlist. But it should be. DSA solutions can give performance data on your product listings even if you’re only selling on a small selection of niche websites. It can also help you understand how your customers are shopping on these sites. For example, are they typically buying other related products? DSA can give the insight you need to build product relationships that help maximize profitability.

Furthermore, even if you’re not currently selling online, high-level DSA solutions can still provide important insight to shape your strategy and help you meet your KPIs. For example, maybe you’re thinking about opening up direct-to-consumer (D2C) channels? This is where DSA tech can help you not only get an idea of how the competition shapes up, but also provide detailed market intelligence, freeing up manual resources.

How does digital shelf analytics work?

The benefits of digital shelf analytics might be hard to ignore, but how does this DSA technology actually work? Good question.

DSA technology uses software known as ‘spiders’ to trawl the digital shelf, in much the same way Google trawls the web for its search engine results. As they scrape these sites, such as marketplaces, reseller channels, and more, these spiders collect relevant information that is then relayed back to update the user’s KPIs.

However, these spiders are not all created equal. Some DSA solutions employ ‘high-frequency spiders’ that trawl websites several times a day. While this might sound like a good thing, these spiders typically operate at peak trading hours and often arrive in large numbers, slowing down websites and actually cutting conversion rates. Not only is this not great news for your products, but it also skews the data, giving you inaccurate insight.

In order to avoid the significant pitfalls of these high-frequency spiders, many of the leading DSA software providers, including inriver, employ ‘high-quality ethical spiders’. These spiders are individually customized for each of your online channels and only visit during low-traffic times to avoid impacting website speed or conversion rates. The DSA software then uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the primary, secondary, and even tertiary product content crawled by these spiders, giving you the most accurate insight into your digital shelf performance.

What does digital shelf analytics measure?

We know how digital shelf analytics software works, but what is it actually measuring? In part, this will depend on you and which key performance indicators (KPIs) you want to measure. For example, do you want to stay on top of how your digital assets are being displayed? Or maybe you’re more interested in product stock-outs? Or maybe it’s both and a few more besides. Only by choosing the right KPIs can you properly understand where your digital shelf is performing well, and where you’re losing sales opportunities.

Here are three universal issues digital shelf analytics software can address:

Product findability  

It might sound obvious, but if a product can’t be found, it can’t be bought.

You might spend hours perfecting your product content and syndicating it across your online channels, but that doesn’t always mean your products can be found easily. Simple errors like a broken or missing link can derail your product’s visibility, as can other issues like alterations to Google’s algorithm for your SEO keywords or changes to marketplace requirements. DSA intelligence can help you discover these issues in real time and make the necessary changes to get your products seen.

Lost revenue calculator: Find your lost sales with digital shelf analytics

Product content

When buying online, shoppers want to see as much product information as possible. Inriver’s recent e-commerce report, Inside the Mind of an Online Shopper, found that 53% of shoppers will look elsewhere if the product listing is not up to scratch. Missing or incomplete product information erodes consumer confidence precisely when you want them to trust you enough with their purchase.

DSA solutions can provide insight into a number of product content issues, such as missing or incorrectly displayed images, inconsistent information, and much more. This level of detail is key to ensuring your digital shelf is optimized for your customers.

Product stock-outs

If your product is out-of-stock, online shoppers will simply click elsewhere to make a purchase – and you’ll be left with a lost sale.

Unfortunately, product stock-outs are a common challenge on the digital shelf, particularly when supply chain issues impact product flow. However, the right DSA solution can help mitigate these issues by alerting you whenever stocks run low, ensuring you can keep up with demand and maximize profitability.

For more information, read our look at the three universal truths for growing your e-commerce sales.

How to choose the right digital shelf analytics solution

If you’re in the market for DSA software, it’s important to get the right solution for your needs. After all, you don’t want to waste time and money on a DSA solution that isn’t the right fit for your company. So, what are your options?

Standalone DSA solution

If you’re only interested in discovering how your products perform online, you might want to look into standalone DSA solutions. These can be great if you want a deep level of performance monitoring, but many standalone options don’t offer the closed-loop functionality online sellers require.

Integrated DSA solution

Alternatively, you might find investing in a solution with integrated digital shelf analytics better meets your needs. For example, choosing a PIM that has built-in digital shelf analytics not only provides the product performance intelligence you need but also gives you the closed-loop functionality that takes advantage of this data intelligence.

A brand's guide to digital shelf analytics

Find out more with our ebook, A brand’s guide to digital shelf analytics.

PIM + DSA

Product information management (PIM) solutions provide even the most complex value chains with a single source of truth for all product-related data. A PIM solution empowers brands, manufacturers, and retailers to deliver the right product information to the right audience at the right time.

However, when you’re selling online, distributing your product content to the right audience is only half the story. Things change quickly on the digital shelf and without constant monitoring, your products could soon be missing out. Issues like product findability, product stock-outs, missing content, and more, can impact on the buyer experience, and soon give your digital shelf success story an unhappy ending.

This might all sound like a headache waiting to happen. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Not with PIM + DSA

The value of PIM and DSA

Having a PIM with built-in digital shelf analytics capabilities gives you the best of both worlds – all from a single, centralized platform.

A PIM lets you distribute product content optimized for your customer, brand, and channel, and DSA software tells you exactly how it’s performing out there on the digital shelf. You can then ‘close the loop’ by using this data intelligence to enrich your digital shelf, re-optimize your product listings, and stay one step ahead of the competition.

Want to know more about the difference a PIM can make? Read our product guide to the inriver PIM.

inriver’s digital shelf analytics capabilities

Whether you’re a brand, manufacturer, or retailer, the data intelligence provided by digital shelf analytics can be a game-changer when it comes to understanding your products, customers, and sales channels. That’s why inriver has embedded DSA into the heart of our PIM solution, with not one, but two digital shelf analytics solutions: inriver Channel Insights and inriver Evaluate.

inriver Channel Insights

Inriver Channel Insights provides high-level DSA insight for all our PIM users. The solution uses pre-scraped data to provide flexible, easy-to-use category-level insight for user-determined products across the leading e-commerce sites. The freemium version of Channel Insights is automatically enabled in the inriver dashboard. A premium version is also available.

inriver Evaluate

Inriver Evaluate offers more granular DSA intelligence. It provides a deeper level of insight into digital shelf performance and content compliance. Evaluate gives brands comprehensive oversight of all the products managed in their PIM, with personalized spiders crawling user-specified sites to provide real-time, actionable insight.

Channel Insights + Evaluate

Not sure which inriver evaluation solution is right for your needs? Why not try both? The two inriver DSA capabilities are built to be complementary, meaning you don’t have to choose. In fact, the different benefits of the two solutions mean you can take advantage of both to build a personalized DSA capability that meets your unique needs.

Digital shelf analytics: watch the on-demand webinar

Want to know more about digital shelf analytics and the influence it can have on your performance online? Our webinar Why your competition is crushing you on the digital shelf and how to solve it, fast has the answers.

Webinar: Why your competition is crushing you on the digital shelf and how to solve it, fast

Featuring guest speakers Sucharita Kodali (VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester), and Joakim Gavelin (VP of Customer Accounts and Digital Shelf Services at inriver and Co-Founder of Detail Online), the webinar explores the latest trends impacting e-commerce. Watch now to find out:

  • How to identify your digital shelf weak spots
  • What your digital shelf needs to meet buyer expectations
  • How to stay ahead in an increasingly global marketplace
  • And much more…

Why inriver?

Experience matters. Inriver started the product information management space and has grown by helping customers drive more revenue with PIM.

Customers like Cartier, Estée Lauder, Bugaboo, New Balance, WE Fashion, and many others rely on inriver to meet the changing needs of a digital-first world.

Partnerships, connectors, and integrations ensure inriver is a future-proof solution. You know today’s challenges, but you need to prepare for tomorrow’s. Change is constant, especially in digital commerce. Be ready with inriver.

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