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What is the digital shelf?

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From third-party marketplaces and resellers to owned websites and social media channels, the potential of online sales on the digital shelf is limitless.

Over the last few decades, the rise of e-commerce has flipped the script of retail. The dominance of traditional in-person retail is being contested. The physical shelves of brick-and-mortar stores are now rivaled by 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, third-party resellers and marketplaces, social channels, and your own brand website. 

At these touchpoints potential customers discover, learn about, compare, and purchase your products. They can even take their interest offline to a retail outlet and purchase or compare there. Whatever they do, it’s informed by the information acquired on the digital shelf. 

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The rise of the online shopping

Although digital sales had been growing steadily for decades, the impact of COVID-19 accelerated the shift to e-commerce. This acceleration is set to continue over the next few years. In fact, e-commerce revenue in the U.S. alone is projected to climb to 1.4 trillion dollars between 2023 and 2027.  

However, this growth isn’t only occurring in traditional e-commerce areas of B2C. The increasing consumerization of industrial and manufacturing buying means the digital shelf is becoming more influential in B2B buying journeys than ever before. 

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How consumers find your products online

Unlike more traditional retail outlets or showrooms, there is typically no linear buying journey when it comes to e-commerce. Customers can encounter your products at any digital touchpoint. This can make it challenging to build a coherent customer experience.  

The path that consumers take to find your products online may vary significantly, from a tag on social media to a Google search result. Depending on the extent of your omnichannel digital shelf strategy, possible online touchpoints might include: 

With no control over how, where, or why a customer interacts with your products, to create a winning omnichannel strategy all these digital shelf touchpoints need to tell the same product story. This consistent product story includes all visuals, specifications, product descriptions, compliance information, and more.  

Furthermore, if your digital shelf strategy is complemented by an in-store strategy, the same product stories should also be told across all in-person touchpoints. 

couple looking for appliances in store

Advantages and challenges of the digital shelf

An entity as powerful and omnipresent as the digital shelf comes with a number of advantages and challenges. Brands, manufacturers, and retailers wanting to build a successful omnichannel strategy must appreciate both. Here are some of the key advantages and challenges that selling online brings. 

Advantages of selling digitally

There are countless advantages to putting your products on the digital shelf, including the ability to:  

Challenges of selling digitally

With such a powerful e-commerce tool comes its challenges, such as:  

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How do you win on the digital shelf?

Although the advantages of selling online are clear, so are the challenges. That’s why it’s essential to have a winning omnichannel strategy in place to ensure you’re ready to succeed in this competitive sales environment.  

There are two key parts of any winning digital shelf strategy: the right data and the right software to get the most value out of this data. 

Essential software to power online sales success

The first step to digital shelf domination is choosing the right software solutions for your needs. To succeed in e-commerce, brands and manufacturers require software that manages, distributes, and analyzes all the product-related information that supports all products across online channels.  

If you’re looking to elevate your digital shelf strategy, there are three key software solutions: 

  1. Product Information Management (PIM): PIM is your single source of truth that collects value chain data and transforms it into rich, reliable product information. 
  1. Product Data Syndication (PDS): PDS is the messenger that delivers this enriched product information to each digital shelf touchpoint.  
  1. Digital Shelf Analytics (DSA): DSA monitors your digital channels, feeding back critical insights into product performance, buyer behavior, and channel competition. 

This technology should work together, not separately, to extract the most value out of your product information, ensure a successful omnichannel strategy, and transform every touchpoint into a profit maker. 

How to sell products on the digital shelf

With the right software solutions in place, you can then focus on the product data that will power your omnichannel strategy and take your digital shelf to the next level. There are four key processes for this data:  

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Analyzing the digital shelf

Once your product information has reached all your e-commerce channels, it’s essential to keep analyzing each and every listing. Always-on analysis can alert you to any issues that may arise. This ensures your products are optimized at all times. It can also extract the most value from your product information at every touchpoint. 

Monitoring the digital shelf

Given the dynamic nature of online sales, numerous unseen factors can risk diminishing product visibility or introducing listing errors that can decrease the likelihood of sales. That’s why digital shelf monitoring is essential to maintaining the integrity of your digital listings, getting real-time feedback on product performance, and ensuring conversion optimization.  

Optimizing the digital shelf

Insight into your online performance provides data at a moment in time. However, to truly succeed in an omnichannel world, digital shelf optimization is key. Using real-time analysis and insight from your digital touchpoints, you can then optimize each and every listing to boost conversions and maintain brand and product integrity. 

Managing the digital shelf

To get the most out of the many facets of e-commerce, brands, manufacturers, and retailers must ensure they have comprehensive digital shelf management. This means seamless data syndication across all touchpoints while maintaining product data accuracy. It’s a continuous process, one that ensures product pages are: 

This final step closes the loop, facilitating a resilient and effective digital shelf strategy. 

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Closing the loop on the digital shelf 

As competition for online shelf space intensifies, a closed-loop approach that efficiently enriches, syndicates, and analyzes product performance becomes increasingly crucial. Given the complexity and vastness of the digital shelf, you need to ensure every touchpoint is always optimized for conversion. 

This complexity is why so many brands and manufacturers are choosing a PIM solution with built-in PDS and DSA technology to ensure they have the means to manage their entire omnichannel trategy. This means not only distributing content across their online touchpoints but also analyzing and responding to actionable insights from a centralized platform that acts as a single source of truth for their omnichannel operations.  

inriver: The complete digital shelf solution 

As digital expectations grow, so does the need for an agile, scalable solution that can meet diverse demands and drive revenue for even the most complex omnichannel strategy. To meet these evolving expectations, inriver offers the complete PIM solution for winning on the digital shelf. The inriver PIM has market-leading API-based syndication and digital shelf analytics, letting you ‘close the loop’ on your online sales and curate every byte of your omnichannel output.  

The composable inriver PIM goes beyond e-commerce. Our multi-tenant SaaS solution turns raw data into rich, valuable product information for every digital and in-person touchpoint. From sourcing and manufacturing to sales and recycling, the inriver PIM supports the entire life cycle of your products. This means you can extract the greatest value from your product data by always delivering accurate and reliable product information wherever it matters most. 

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frequently asked questions

what is digital shelf software? 

Digital shelf software (PIM, PDS, and DSA) is a tech stack that allows brands, manufacturers, and retailers to analyze, monitor, optimize, and manage online channels. With inriver, this can all be done within the same singular platform.  

why is the digital shelf important? 

The digital shelf is where brands, manufacturers, and retailers win the customers who are shopping online more often than ever. Those who are not utilizing online channels risk missing out on these sales—if they haven’t already. 

what is digital shelf data? 

Digital shelf data provides valuable and actionable insights into the e-commerce efforts of brands, manufacturers, and retailers, which may include: 

  • Product performance 
  • Search ranking 
  • Customer reviews 
  • Competitor insights 

What is digital shelf data able to be used for? Robust DSA solutions, such as those built into the inriver PIM, use these data points to provide clear, actionable insights.  

what is digital shelf marketing? 

Digital shelf marketing is a valuable aspect of a brand, manufacturer, or retailer’s omnichannel strategy. It is the optimization of digital touchpoints to ensure a consistent brand experience and a personalized customer journey on and off the digital shelf.  

what does a good digital shelf strategy consist of?  

A winning digital shelf strategy consists of two key aspects: the right data and the right software to get the most out of this data. PIM (product information management) is fundamental software for online success. However, to ensure an elevated digital shelf strategy, this should be coupled with PDS (product data syndication) and DSA (digital shelf analytics). The inriver platform combines all three solutions into one comprehensive solution for a winning omnichannel strategy.