The rise of the digital shelf

The commerce landscape is undergoing rapid transformation. Whether it’s on an ecommerce site or in a social media post, today’s shoppers create their own personalized journey. The shopping journey, from discovery to purchase, is non-linear, random, and happening all the time. Consumers no longer “go shopping”; they “are shopping” all the time on an interconnected digital shelf.

We are shifting from a mass-market approach where brands owned the point of discovery (through marketing/advertising) and then distributed large volumes of product to a finite set of retailers, to a “masses of markets” approach where brands can be discovered and sold over a variety of channels, in a variety of ways and through a variety of formats.

The “shelf” is no longer just a physical structure. It’s the moment you see an Instagram story that compels you to buy the sneakers with one or two taps. It’s when you place an order for drill bits on Amazon while shopping in Home Depot. Or maybe it’s the moment you send a text message to buy a birthday cake from the local bakery on WhatsApp.

This buying moment may be the last touch for the brand, but it represents the start of the customer’s experience with a product.  Unlike brick-and-mortar shopping, the consumer’s encounter with the brand on the digital shelf relies on a tailored experience based on where the buying moment occurs, as well as tight collaboration between “back-office” functions like supply and inventory and “front-office” functions like marketing and experience management.