The Digital Shelf

When someone walks into a retailer like Target, Home Depot, or Best Buy, they may or may not know exactly what they’re looking for. There might be a particular product category they want to browse, or even a specific brand or product they need. They might need to ask an associate for help, or they may just head to the section they need and start comparing products on the shelf.

The digital shelf is the online equivalent of how someone shops in a brick-and-mortar store. It’s the collection of digital experiences consumers use to find, learn about, compare, and purchase products. That includes everything from search engines and product pages to your website and other online content.

Let’s take a look at your digital shelf.

How consumers find your products
When consumers want to find products online, they usually either start with Google or their preferred retailer. Depending on what they’re looking for and how specific the search was, Google will likely direct them to specific product pages or search results pages from a variety of retailers.

Either way, the first touchpoint on the typical online shopping journey is usually a search engine—because every online retailer is also a search engine.

Whether someone wants to find a specific product or a general product category, the search bar acts as an online store associate, directing customers to the products they’re looking for. But even when consumers are looking for a specific product from a specific brand, Google and retailers will typically highlight a range of similar products that might also meet each person’s needs.

This process is all part of the digital shelf. And if you want to stand out on the digital shelf, you need to make sure your product pages are the ones customers find in search—whether they’re looking for your products in particular or not.

Every search engine is a little different, and although you can’t completely control rankings (low ratings, poor conversion rates, and other factors can all impact rankings), you do have a say in what winds up on your product pages—and that can have a big impact on how well you rank.


Customer Journey Maps: The Beginner’s Guide

No matter how much you optimize your website, your customers rarely take a straightforward path to your products. There’s a lot that happens on the journey from awareness to purchase. And that’s what customer journey maps are for.

In this guide, we’re going to cover what a customer journey map is and how to make one. Along the way, we’ll discuss a few ways you can improve your customer experience. We’ve also included a simple template you can use to start mapping your customers’ journeys right now.

First, let’s talk about what customer journey maps actually are—because it can be a little confusing.

What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is a visual representation of how your customers move from awareness to purchase. In its simplest form, this is just a table, with the stages a customer progresses through across the top, and some things to help you understand each stage from their perspective along the side.

This is a tool to help you see the entire process from your customers’ point of view. The whole point of customer journey mapping is to understand your customers better, so you can do a better job meeting their needs at every stage of the journey. It’s a helpful practice to go through as you develop a customer-centric strategy.

For example, here’s a customer journey map an athletic shoe company might create for a high-school football player:

Customer Journey Mapping Example
Customer Journey Map Example

(It’s OK if this doesn’t feel perfectly clear right now. In the next section, we’ll explain more about what each section is doing.)

This example is pretty generic and may apply to more types of athletic-shoe customers than football players, but customer journey maps can be a lot more refined and specific than this, too. As you can imagine, a shoe company may want a range of maps to represent and understand their full range of customers.

Someone who needs a wrestling shoe isn’t going to have the exact same motivations, questions, and needs as someone looking for football cleats or basketball shoes. There’s plenty of overlap, but while these athletes may be on parallel journeys, they’re completely different customers. The same goes for a parent shopping for their kid versus an athlete who can buy their own gear.

A customer journey map might also cover a broader range of steps and stages than you can directly impact. For example, an athlete will likely get recommendations from their teammates, their coaches, athletic trainers, or professional athletes. In that case, your journey map might help demonstrate why your business needs to develop relationships with influencers or create content that exposes your brand to people who affect the decision making process.

More elaborate customer journey maps also dig deeper into what your customers are thinking, feeling, and experiencing during each phase of the journey. You might want to indicate how important each possible action is to your customer.

You’ll notice that a customer journey map is not simply a path from one touchpoint to another. It’s not a flowchart of the paths a customer might take to buy your products. The customer journey is almost never completely linear, and there are infinite possible paths they could take.

That sort of map might help you eliminate some barriers between you and your customers, but it won’t help you understand the overarching journey from awareness to purchase. Customer journey maps are about understanding your customers and putting yourselves in their shoes.

Now let’s look at how you actually make one.

How to create a customer journey map
Creating a customer journey map is an exercise in understanding your customers. Here’s a quick overview of the steps you might take:

Create buyer personas
Identify all your customer touchpoints
Establish the phases your customers go through
List potential motivations, problems, and aspirations
Highlight current obstacles
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
Streamline the customer journey
Review your map regularly
Depending on your goals and how in-depth you want your map to be, your process might look a little different. As we talk through each of these, feel free to modify, add, or remove steps as you see fit.

1. Create buyer personas
Even if you only have one product or service, you likely serve a range of customers who have different desires, questions, and challenges. Buyer personas (also known as marketing personas, customer personas, or simply personas) are research-based profiles that represent specific slices of your customer base.

In the example we used above, the athletic shoe company might have buyer personas for each type of athlete they serve, or for broader categories of people who might buy their products, such as parents with young children, high school athletes, college students, etc.

You don’t have to do this step, but there’s a lot of overlap between personas and customer journey maps, and having personas will help you create more useful customer journey maps. Ideally, you want to develop personas for each of the main demographics your products attract. And every persona will have its own customer journey map.

Creating a persona requires you to synthesize everything you currently know about your customers and usually involves surveying current or potential customers. You’ll want to use sources like:

Feedback from customer service and sales reps


8 Reasons Your Customers Buy from Retailers

No matter how much you optimize your website, and no matter how little exposure you give your retail partners, some customers are going to buy your products from retailers instead of directly from you.

Every person who comes to your website has their own shopping preferences and loyalties, and you can’t overcome them all. If you want to create the best shopping experience for your website visitors, then it’s important to think about why your customers may prefer to buy from a retailer instead of your site.

To help you understand your customers better, we’ve put together a list of eight reasons they buy from retailers.

You might have some exclusive perks people can only get when they buy from you, like bonus products or unique colors, flavors, and sizes. But retailers have perks, too. And some of them give consumers pretty compelling reasons to buy exclusively from a particular retailer. Here are just a couple of the big ones.

1. Free two-day shipping
Amazon Prime members get free two- day shipping on most purchases. They get their online orders sooner and they don’t have to pay for a premium shipping option. Some manufacturers offer free shipping, but it rarely matches Amazon’s delivery time.

If someone has never purchased from you before, they may also be wary of your shipping. With big retailers, consumers know their order is typically processed immediately (unless they buy from a third-party seller), so the shipping timeline starts from the day they made their purchase.

That’s not always the case when you buy direct from a manufacturer. Some brands take days or even weeks to process an order before they ship it. Even if you don’t do this, the fact that other brands do makes potential customers hesitate to buy directly from you.

2. Rewards programs
Most large online retailers have some form of rewards program. They may have a special credit card that gives customers discounts or points with every purchase. Amazon’s Visa, for example, gives five percent back on every purchase on! From the customer’s standpoint, that’s like getting five percent off your price. Other rewards programs might include automatic discounts, gift cards, access to exclusive sales, and additional perks that are tough for manufacturers to compete with.

Convenience is one of the biggest factors consumers use to decide where to buy a product. It’s also one of the main advantages major retailers have over manufacturers. In many cases, they’re simply easier to work with—and their customers are already used to shopping with them.

3. Account creation
At the very least, creating a new account with you adds several clicks and some manual typing to the checkout process. There are more digital barriers between your customers and your products. If your customers don’t have their credit cards handy, that makes this process even more time consuming—and depending on the situation, it may simply not be possible at the moment.

Consumers often buy products from retailers instead of manufacturers simply because they already have accounts. They may even already be signed into these accounts on the devices they use regularly, so they don’t even have to remember their username and password. In that case, retailers like Amazon even offer a one-click buying option, making the checkout process extraordinarily convenient.

4. Local pickup
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what perks you offer or even if you have the best price—your customers need your product right now. Or maybe they already have plans to stop at a local retailer for other purchases. Major retailers have thousands of brick-and-mortar stores across the US, and some of your customers prefer the convenience of buying products from local, physical locations. They don’t have to wait for shipping, and they can examine your product before they buy.

Many large retailers also have unique buying options like BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store) which blend the advantages of online shopping with the convenience of in-person shopping. Unless you have thousands of stores of your own, it’s hard to compete with this as a manufacturer.

5. Return policies
You might have a great return policy. 30 days. No questions asked. Original packaging not required. Items accepted in any condition. But if someone’s never been through that process with you before and doesn’t have a relationship with your brand yet, they may be reluctant to trust your returns to be as hassle-free as a major retailer they buy from all the time. Some major stores (like Costco) have even more generous return policies, extending the time for returns up to 90 days or more.

If a consumer goes through that process with a retailer once, they’re going to be a lot less stressed about purchasing new products and buying from new brands when they go through that retailer. And if they’re dealing with a large retailer with a local presence, they don’t even have to re-package and mail anything—they can just drop it off at their local store.

6. One-stop shopping
Obviously, retailers generally carry a wider variety of products than manufacturers. And when someone can get everything they need—household items, groceries, electronics, toys, clothes—from Target or Walmart, that’s a lot more convenient than purchasing individual items directly from manufacturers.

7. Price
Sometimes you don’t have the best price on your own product. Retailers are constantly adjusting pricing for sales and promotions, and while you might price products based on your MSRP, a retailer’s pricing will often fluctuate between your MSRP and your MAP policy.

You probably publish product reviews on your website. But consumers are often wary of the reviews they see on a manufacturer’s website. Some brands hide bad reviews, so the ratings are skewed and potential customers can’t see if there are consistent problems. Even if you publish every review on your site, consumers generally trust reviews on a retailer’s site more because they consider retailers to be unbiased third parties.

8. Social proof
Major retailers have tons of customers. And that means popular products in any product category can easily accumulate hundreds or even thousands of reviews. Taken together, these reviews and ratings provide social proof, so consumers can see a more reliable picture of the experience they can expect to have with your products.


Grow an eCommerce Brand in 2020

If you want to stay ahead of your competitors on social media platforms then influencer marketing can be your most powerful weapon.

The consumers of today are smarter than they used to be. Now people do a lot of research before buying anything.

However, if someone whom they trust recommends a particular product to them then they are more likely to buy the product.

And that’s where influencer marketing works the best.

In a nutshell, influencer marketing is when brands collaborate with influencers for boosting their sales and brand awareness among a targeted audience.

Influencer marketing has become one of the most preferred marketing strategies in recent years and so 89% say ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other marketing channels.

But how to leverage influencer marketing for your eCommerce brand in 2020?

Here are a few best tips that you can use to leverage influencer marketing to grow your eCommerce business in 2020-

Have a Marketing Persona
Don’t just get started, first have a marketing persona. A marketing persona is a detailed report of your targeted audience. It can include demographics like location, gender, interests, etc.

The more you know your audience the better you can choose the influencers. But why do you need to choose influencers as per your niche?

Suppose, you own a women shoe brand and want to leverage influencer marketing. Now will hire a male influencer from the cooking niche going to help? No. You need someone who is popular among women on your targeted age otherwise it won’t help.

Understand who your target audience is and create a marketing persona. Once you create it choose the influencers accordingly.

Choose your Platform
Choosing the right platforms is as important as choosing the right influencers. While Instagram ranks number one in terms of the most effective influencer marketing channel, YouTube and Facebook are also impactful channels.

Once you know your audience, it’s time for you to know where your targeted audience resides most of the time. If you deal with B2B then LinkedIn is the best for you and for B2C, Facebook and Instagram are your spots. YouTube works for both B2B and B2C.

You can also try experimenting with the platforms in order to understand what works best.


Strategies to refine marketing for ecommerce

With over one billion monthly active users, Instagram is a great place to find potential customers. In fact, more than 25 million businesses from across the world use Instagram to drive traffic and sales.

This is great news for ecommerce businesses, considering that 60% of Instagram users say they have discovered products through the platform and have been more open to purchasing them.

With such an opportunity, it’s important to take Instagram marketing seriously.

You might already be using Instagram to grow your followers. In order to generate optimal results, it needs to be done right.

Here are some strategies you can try to refine your Instagram marketing for ecommerce.

Going live

Remember that Instagram is a social network. The platform is not only for posting your offers. It provides an opportunity to engage with your audience with two-way communication.

Interacting with your followers helps to build trust, which can convert to future revenue.

One way to authentically communicate with your followers is by broadcasting live video with Instagram Live.

When you “go live”, your story gets prominently featured for your followers. You can use Instagram Live as an opportunity to promote products, educate your followers, or tell them your story to increase brand awareness.

An AMA (Ask me anything) session is one popular way to go live and attract an audience. It’s also common to do a live stream discussing industry news related to your niche.


5 Ways To Be A Stand Out

5 Ways To Standout In A Digital World

The digital shelf is where consumers go to discover, research, compare, and purchase products online. Even in brick-and-mortar stores, shoppers often spend time reviewing products on the digital shelf while they examine them on the physical shelf.

If you can stand out on the digital shelf, you’ll become the brand people find first and prefer to choose, whether you’re an unknown brand or a household name.

Here are five ways to help your products stand out on the digital shelf.

1. Use seasonal copy

Holidays and seasonal events often change the terms consumers use to discover products. Searches like “graduation presents,” “Father’s Day gifts,” and “Valentine’s Day gifts for her” will pull products from a wide range of product categories, but the products that show up will have one thing in common: seasonal copy.

If you want your products to show up in seasonal searches, then you’ll want to add seasonal keywords to your product title and description a couple of months ahead of the relevant holiday. Not only will this help you show up in seasonal searches, it will help people confirm that your product is the perfect choice for the holiday when they read your product page.

2. Create videos that enhance the shopping experience

Videos are a great opportunity to make your products more appealing than the competition. But it’s important that you create videos that actually improve the shopping experience–don’t just throw a repurposed video ad on your product page! Use a 30- or 60-second clip to explain or show something you can’t adequately communicate in your copy and images. Show people how your product works, or what it looks like to use it in a variety of settings. Walk customers through each of the features or benefits.

3. Experiment with new types of content

Your product page doesn’t need to have every type of enhanced content. But you should experiment with the options each retailer gives you because using enhanced content can give you a major advantage over your competitors.

And don’t forget: your product pages on your own website are part of the digital shelf, too. When consumers arrive on your site, you should aim to provide a shopping experience they won’t find anywhere else. You could use guided selling tools to help people make the selection that’s right for them, or interactive pages to let them explore your products in unique ways. When you provide a superior experience, consumers will remember that (and be thinking about it) as they try to learn about your competitors.

4. Fill the gaps your competitors leave

Most retailers have a space for customers to ask questions about products. These questions often reveal information that should’ve been included in the description or another section of the product page, and they highlight things your potential customers are looking for as they compare options in your space. So see what people are asking on your competitors’ pages! 

If your competitors aren’t doing a good job of answering these questions, all the better, but even if they are answering them, the questions will likely reveal information that should be more visible. By elevating those features, specifications, claims, and use cases, you’ll be doing a better job serving your audience.

5. Create product pages that rank

Obviously, the surest way to stand out on the digital shelf is to rank for the terms consumers use to find products in your category. Every retailer has their own algorithm (and you should get familiar with them all), but one of the biggest things that will always determine how well you rank is the keywords you include in your product title and description. Create a prioritized list of the most common terms your customers use to find products like yours, then work them into your title and description. Just make sure that you don’t force them into your description if it lowers the quality of your copy.