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    June 15, 2021
    5 minute read

    Here’s Why You Need a Digital Shelf Strategy

    by: Chris Caesar

    There are many of us who still harbor fond, nostalgic memories of the 1990s, but let’s be honest — would any of us want to shop that way again? 

    Of course not — and for good reason! The customer holds more sway now than at any other point in recent economic history: in particular, the ability to research hundreds of products, along with different prices, features, and third-party reviews, all from the ease and convenience of our smartphones. 

    The increasing popularity of online retail now provides shoppers with a virtual “endless aisle” of options, whose shelves (the ever-present digital shelf) can be accessed by nearly anyone, anywhere, at any time. 

    While providing a welcomed improvement to the shopping experience, these rapid shifts in consumer behavior present some obvious challenges for marketers.

    No longer are brands trying to stand out on a shelf amidst four or five competitors; instead, they face a theoretically infinite amount of competition online, fighting for the attention of a discerning consumer class armed with more information at their fingertips than ever before. 

    Bottom line: The sooner brands embrace and excel at managing their digital shelf strategy, the better positioned they’ll be for profitability in the long run. 

    A Flash in the Pan, or a Paradigm Shift? 

    It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the way we shop overnight: Services like Instacart, Drizzly, and Grubhub all saw dramatic increases in first-time and repeat users.

    Many legacy brands who once resisted dipping their toes into ecommerce spaces were now taking their first, reluctant steps toward embracing their place on the digital shelf. 

    It’s important to note, though, that the pandemic only accelerated what was, by then, a well-identified trend. In other words: We were always heading in this direction — we just got there a few years earlier. 

    So, while the pace of growth may slow as the pandemic winds down, this trend is just getting started. 

    According to market research firm Statistica, retail ecommerce revenue in the U.S. jumped from $360 billion in 2019 to $432 billion in 2020, a dramatic 17% increase. By 2022, Statistica projects this figure will reach a staggering $502 billion — another 14% increase in just two years, even (presumably) without an ongoing pandemic affecting consumer behavior. 

    And by 2024? EMarketer.com forecasts that ecommerce will account for almost 20% of all U.S. retail sales — nearly doubling in just six years. Companies simply no longer have the luxury of taking a “wait and see” approach to ecommerce. 

    The Importance of Standing Out 

    The digital shelf isn’t new, or going anywhere — which is why it’s crucial that your brand take steps now to ensure you not only remain present, but prominent, upon it. 

    It’s an important goal, but one we’re the first to admit isn’t easy: ecommerce marketers have to manage product pages across potentially hundreds of channels, maintain an accurate and up-to-date repository of centralized information, and oversee a streamlined process that allows for quick updates — without excluding important stakeholders. 

    Not only that, but those hundreds of channels all have their own constantly changing rules. When you consider that Target had 180 changes to its retail requirements in 2020 alone, it becomes clear why optimizing your products for success across the digital shelf can quickly become all-encompassing — operating a small, secondary “ecommerce project” or alpha/beta site is no longer a viable approach for businesses in 2021. 

    Remember that increasingly, customers are no longer going to brick-and-mortar stores to compare and contrast your products with competitors’ (and in fact, 85% of consumers even report consulting “the digital shelf” when making in-store purchases). In many cases, this will be your one shot at converting a potential customer. 

    Embrace Your Space on the Digital Shelf 

    Standing out on the digital shelf will require flexibility, dedication, and investment — of both material resources and time — in your digital shelf strategy.

    But despite the hurdles and headaches, businesses can take steps to thrive in an infinitely competitive marketplace — and it’s an essential undertaking for any business looking to thrive well into the 2020s, and beyond. 

    Learn more about how your brand can win on the digital shelf with a strong ecommerce team by downloading our customizable job description template to get a detailed breakdown of the role and core skills, and requirements to start the hiring process.


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