“Digital shelf” is a term that’s frequently used in tandem with Amazon and e-commerce. In a nutshell, the digital shelf encompasses the various ways shoppers browse and discover products online. It seems simple, but understanding the nuances of the digital shelf and how shoppers interact with it is very important for brands that want to break through online.
Amazon’s digital shelf in four parts
Amazon is the US’s most popular digital shelf. A survey conducted by Wunderman Thompson found that Amazon is the preferred starting point for online shopping amongst consumers— 65% of respondents chose Amazon as their starting point.
The digital shelf on Amazon can be divided into four parts: search engine pages, promotional pages, brand stores, and product listings.
Amazon’s search engine
Unless a shopper is just browsing, most people begin their Amazon buying journey with a search. The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) displays 50 or so products per page and is the digital equivalent of a brick-and-mortar shopping aisle.
Just like in a physical shopping aisle, placement plays an important role. It’s estimated that around two-thirds of product clicks come from the first page of search results, and more than one-third come from the first two rows. The further down a brand is in search results, the less likely that shoppers will click through. This can’t be stressed enough: brands need to be ranking in top positions to win shopper attention.
Content also plays a critical role in search engine appearance. On the backend, a product’s content influences how a listing will rank and what it will rank for. On the front end, product titles, photos, star rating, and price are the first elements that shoppers interact with on the SERP and significantly affect the likelihood of getting a click through.
Learn tips for creating great product listings in our Content is the Conversation article.
Promotional pages — like Amazon’s Today’s Deals page — are the digital equivalent to brick-and-mortar end caps and promotional displays. Amazon has several different types of promotions including Lightning Deals, 7-Day Deals, Deal of the Day, and so on.
Participating in promotions will land products on Amazon’s promotional pages, which is great for increasing brand awareness, launching new product lines, or clearing out old inventory. However, running promotions can also be damaging for a brand if done for the wrong reasons.
Promotions come with risks, like appealing to shoppers that would have bought anyway. Or if a promotion is run too often, shoppers might begin to hold off and wait for price drops. Promotions are most effective when they’re used to achieve a specific purpose other than increasing sales.
Curious what each promotion is best at? Learn more about Amazon discounting in our Discounting Playbook.
Amazon Brand Stores
Amazon Brand Stores provide brands with a home base for their catalog. It’s a plug-and-play space the brand can use however they see fit, and the user experience of it resembles that of a D2C website. In brick and mortar, brand stores would be a section of the store dedicated to a single brand.
Brand Stores used to be notoriously difficult for shoppers to find, but over the last six months, Amazon has made improvements. Links to brand stores can now be easily viewed in product listings, which makes them ideal for cross-selling products, building brand awareness, or drawing attention to specific product lines.
Product listings are what shoppers see after they’ve clicked into a product. In brick and mortar, this is the equivalent of a shopper picking a product off the shelf and examining it.
Product listings are all about content: images, videos, feature points, and reviews.
Images are the first thing shoppers see when they click into a listing. The first and main image is called the “hero” image, and it’s usually a clear, isolated photo of the product. Additional images should display more angles, provide information about the product, and help answer customer questions.
Videos should be 30-45 seconds long and provide helpful information about the product. A video might demonstrate how to properly size a product, or it might highlight the product’s top benefits. Whatever the case, our research shows that videos are most effective if they show a product within the first five seconds.
Feature points contain the bulk of information about the product. Instead of a long-winded description, feature points should be broken up into smaller, skimmable sections that highlight the product’s selling points. This can be done using headlines and short, skimmable fragments. Keywords should also be naturally worked in to improve searchability.
Most customers read reviews. According to the same Wunderman Thompson survey, 65% of shoppers said that they check Amazon reviews, even when they’re shopping on other websites or standing in an actual store. It’s important for brands to check and respond to their reviews. If shoppers don’t like what they see, competing products are only a few clicks away.
When we talk about the digital shelf, what we’re actually talking about is the way shoppers discover and interact with products online. There are several different parts to the digital shelf, and each plays an important role. To win on the digital shelf, brands need to have a thorough understanding of each piece and how to coordinate them in a way that reaches their audience.