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The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally altered how brands attract, engage, and sell to consumers — seemingly overnight. Gone are investments in almost all “physical” forms of marketing, including out-of-home advertising, event promotions, and in-store displays.
“We have fast-forwarded everything onto the digital shelf,” said Roald van Wyk, creative lead and managing director at digital agency Accenture Interactive.
The digital shelf may be the “only shelf,” according to van Wyk, who shared his insights on the latest Digital Shelf Virtual Summit session. He stressed that elements like product pages now carry the weight of the entire purchase funnel — from awareness to consideration and purchase to advocacy.
This rapid evolution has become a mandate for brand manufacturers everywhere to rethink how they approach the digital shelf, as well as the range of teams involved in its success. van Wyk offers five refresh focus areas for teams to help them meet and exceed customer expectations.
Now that research, vetting, and purchasing are all being done through product pages on major retail sites like Amazon, your product pages' purpose is fundamentally different from what it was only a few months ago.
Not only do brand manufacturers need to ensure that all the information required to make an informed purchase decision is up-to-date and accurate, but they also need their brand story to shine through and align with the values of the consumer.
As van Wyk puts it, it's a Venn diagram, and brand manufacturers need to live right in the middle between commerce content and brand content.
Van Wyk recommends a two ways brands can begin to think differently about product pages:
Those paying attention to the news may have seen Facebook’s recent foray into digital storefronts and marketplaces, and van Wyk notes that China has seen a rapid increase in social commerce adoption since the start of the pandemic.
Social media represents a significant opportunity for brands willing to invest in those channels. It also represents new opportunities in terms of how they think about content.
van Wyk has noticed that consumers expect more raw, honest content on social platforms, which may be easier for brands to create and distribute during social distancing than highly polished creative content.
The way brands think about creative content has been up-ended due to the crisis. Advertisements showcasing social events or get-together — or even having more than one actor in the same physical location — has proven to be all but impossible.
van Wyk recommends that brands look at rethinking how they leverage existing content, and consider the following questions:
van Wyk sees the pandemic as also being an accelerant for technologies related to content production. In addition to CGI, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) platforms, 360-degree configuration, and new personalization and customization content technology may all see rapid leaps in innovation.
One of van Wyk’s clients in the alcoholic beverage space recently told him that the pandemic forced them to go “from having five people deal with ecomm to technically being an ecomm brand.”
How should brand manufacturers think about their teams’ structures in the face of such rapid change? One significant aspect, according to van Wyk, is the breakdown of traditional organizational silos.
For example, historically, brand manufacturers have different teams focused on social, design, public relations, and retail.
But for the consumer whose primary engagement with the brand is via the digital shelf, all of those teams need to work together and have common goals and metrics for which they all share common incentives. It is only through that tight alignment that the consumer's experience will drive sales and loyalty.
Along similar lines, because different teams have historically cared about different data and metrics, there is little cross-pollination and insights sharing across data repositories owned by disparate organizations.
This, as van Wyk notes, is a missed opportunity for the company at large. Instead, brands should have one central digital shelf data hub that includes data around content scoring, customer insights, product page performance, and more. Through the centralization of this data, greater collective insights can be generated, and more collaboration across teams will occur.
Will the digital shelf truly be “the only shelf”? The answer for most brands — particularly those with a legacy of physical retail and brick and mortar locations — is “probably not.”
But its role as the primary driver of customer engagement for brands has accelerated tremendously over the past couple of months, requiring a complete refresh over how brands think about their approach to the digital shelf’s various facets.
Those that can think creatively, collaboratively, and with an eye towards the future in terms of the technology required will be the ones that define a modern brand experience that drives sales.
Watch the full session, “Digital Shelf Refresh With Accenture Interactive,” to walk step-by-step through conceptualizing, creating, testing, and deploying new and engaging brand experiences online.
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