Just as you wouldn’t drive a car without a speedometer, fly a plane without an altimeter, or go scuba diving without a depth gauge, it simply doesn’t make sense to take action in eCommerce without the right set of digital shelf monitoring capabilities in place to tell you how you’re doing.
And just as an altimeter isn’t much use without an airplane, a speedometer isn’t much use without gas and brake pedals, nor a depth meter much use without a scuba tank, it’s essential to have the right tools to setup new items, update your content, and make sure your items stay in stock.
And just as a speedometer, a brake pedal, a headlight and a seatbelt warning indicator aren’t much use on their own, the factors that impact consumer purchase behavior are simply too interconnected to manage and monitor separately. It’s when you put them all together that you get something that’s bigger and more powerful than the sum of the parts.
Consider pricing as an example. There are a number of tools that monitor pricing, from price changes to MAP violations. Similarly, there are digital asset management tools that store brand content, but don’t syndicate it to retailers. And there are tools that monitor on-site search rankings—but don’t tell you anything about the number of reviews you have. There are even tools that will report on sales data, but not tell you anything about search rank or inventory.
When it comes to eCommerce brand success, all of these factors are intertwined. If you get the price right but your product is out of stock; if you have great content on your product pages but the shipping speed for your item is a couple of weeks instead of a couple of days, your shoppers are going to go elsewhere. It’s imperative to get all of these interrelated factors right.
So what are these interconnected factors?
- Search rank
- Buy Box
- Product content
- Product quality
- Paid traffic
Elements Driving Brand Success
Having your products carried on the right eCommerce sites gets your products in front of more shoppers. And unlike in-store inventory, you don’t have to ship tons of physical product to each store.
Getting your items ranked high is the difference between lots of sales and no sales at all. Just as consumers rarely look past the first few search results on search engines like Google, shoppers rarely look past the first few search results when shopping on Amazon, Walmart and other sites. Optimizing your listings—from content to keywords—matters a lot. Some of today’s most successful brands are upstart brands that simply didn’t exist a few years or even a few months ago. They’ve optimized to ensure that their products show up at the very top when shoppers do their searches.
When finding the lowest price is as easy as opening another browser tab, price matters a lot. Almost 80% of millennials say they are influenced by price, according to Forbes. Price is also important when it comes to winning the Buy Box—more on that in a little bit.
The "Buy Box" is important due to its prominent placement on the upper-right hand side of the product page, especially because around 80% of sales happen through the it. That means if you’re not winning this element you only have a 1 in 5 chance of making a sale. This is only relevant on sites that have a marketplace component, like Amazon and Walmart—but as the top two sites, they make up the lion’s share of the market. Monitoring the Buy Box, understanding how and why you’re losing it, and making immediate changes to ensure that you win is critical to your product page performance.
If you aren’t in stock, shoppers can’t buy your product. Even if your supply chain system says you have inventory, there’s no telling whether that inventory is actually available for purchase on the retailer’s website. Just because the product shipped from your warehouse to the retailer’s doesn’t mean it arrived, got logged in correctly, or didn’t suffer from some other system glitch or configuration issue. It’s also possible that items are selling faster than you anticipated or that a buyer neglected to reorder. As a result, it’s imperative that you have out-of-stock alerts to notify you when your products become unavailable for purchase.
If there’s one thing that online shoppers care about as much as they care about price, it’s delivery—speed and cost. With some 90 million Amazon Prime members and around 100 million items eligible for Prime shipping, according to Quartz, many consumers have come to expect second-day free shipping. Some 43% of shoppers report free shipping as the most important factor when shopping online, according to CNBC. In line with this, our clients tell us that sales decline when items don’t have Prime shipping. Monitoring “Prime” shipping availability on Amazon is key.
It’s remarkable how many product pages have only one image, a small image or even no image at all. Product images are the online substitute for going into the store and interacting with an item. More than two-thirds of shoppers say that product images are very important when making purchase decisions. So it’s foolhardy not to have the absolute best product images you can on your product pages.
Sometimes small images are used when an item is setup because the item is being set up before the full imagery and product description content is ready. Other times, a supply chain image is used (some are as small as 100x100 pixels). Still other times an image is missing because a system glitch on the retailer’s end caused the image to fall off the site. And in some cases, product content gets overwritten by another source—such as a marketplace seller or an automated feed that’s uploading content that brands never intended to have appear on websites.
Product descriptions go hand-in-hand with high quality product images, because they help shoppers understand what they’re buying, and accurate product information can also help reduce return rates. The right solution will not only show you where the opportunity is to improve, but it will also help you get your content live and let you know if the content on your item pages change so you can take action.
Product quality, meaning the quality of the actual product the consumer is buying, often isn’t mentioned when it comes to commerce. But product quality, including not just the product but the packaging the product comes in, matters, because it’s easy these days for consumers to share their opinions about products via reviews. The right analytics platform can monitor for negative reviews across many different retail channels—not just Amazon—and notify you when a negative review appears. That way you can take immediate action to respond and correct the problem. Delivering products that consumers love is critical. The best products quickly rise to the top in eCommerce search results, especially when sites sort their search results by “Best Match” rather than “Best Price.”
Nearly 95% of online shoppers read reviews before making a purchase decision, according to Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center. The purchase likelihood for a product with just five reviews is 270% higher than for a product with no reviews. So having at least a few reviews for all your products is extremely important. That said, not every review needs to be (or should be) perfect. Studies show that too many five star reviews (or all five star reviews) reduces credibility in the eyes of consumers, resulting in lower conversion rates.
While Google and Facebook still dominate the online advertising market, Amazon’s ad business is growing faster than both of them. Google and Facebook together account for more than half of the online advertising market, while Amazon accounts for just 2.5%. But that means it’s all upside on Amazon. So if you aren’t happy with your product rankings, then while you wait for the effects of content optimization to take hold, buying ads may be your fastest route to increasing product visibility.
As you can see, there are a lot of interlocking factors to maintain manage, all of which are critical to closing the sale, and all of which have enormous impact on the shopper at different stages of the purchase funnel. Without the right tools, operating at web speed and web scale is nearly impossible. An end-to-end platform is the only way to manage the complexity and optimize for success.
Why Point Solutions Have No Place in the Modern Brand Organization
For many years, point solutions reflected the silo’d nature of the organizations in which they were used. Supply chain, content management, brand marketing, shopper marketing, planning, and retailer sales teams talked to each other only infrequently. Their jobs, for the most part, were sequential in nature—new product launches were planned months, if not years ahead, and the business as a whole operated on an annual or semi-annual planning cycle. Once an item was sold, responsibility shifted to someone else to make sure it was delivered.
Prices didn’t change all that much, except during sales events, which were also planned months ahead, and even those events weren’t that different from year to year. Inventory could be relatively well forecasted. TV ads were the primary source of content outside of the product packaging itself. Thus, there was little reason for all these different functions in the organization to interact, and so point solutions were all that was needed—if any technology was needed at all.
But then, as eCommerce caused the rate of change in retail to accelerate—with prices changing every hour and new products from upstart brands launching every minute, organizations were forced to change as well. Teams had find a way to operate smarter—fast. And so the leading organizations, the ones I refer to as “Bricks to Clicks”companies in my book of the same name, changed.
Two years ago, when we sold into a brand, eCommerce was the job of a summer intern, or the part-time job of a national sales manager. Today, when we sell into these same organizations, they have heads of eCommerce, sometimes at the national level, sometimes at the account level, sometimes both.
Organizations have changed, and so too have their needs. No longer is it enough to have a stand-alone pricing tool. Now a full set of capabilities is required. No longer is it sufficient to be able to store product images in a digital asset management system—now those images need to be delivered reliably to retailer partners, with the assurance that an alert will be triggered if the images don’t go live within a specified amount of time.
eCommerce isn’t a once-a-year job nor is it a one-function job and eCommerce brand success means getting all the variables right—from price to shipping speed, from inventory to product content, from rankings and reviews to consistently winning the buy box.
If you’re still using one-off tools or no tools at all, you risk ceding not just a few points of share but entire categories not just to the competition you know—but to the competition you don’t know, the competition that doesn’t yet exist but that will exist tomorrow.
If you’re looking for a platform that can help you take control of all these inter-related factors, let us know. We’d be happy to share with you the way the world’s leading brands—large and small—are using our platform to win in eCommerce.