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.

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