4 Best Practices to Ensure Your Product Stands Out on the Digital Shelf

Ecommerce success isn’t just about the buy button

U.S. consumers will spend over $1 trillion in digital retail channels in 2022, according to eMarketer. Securing your share of that payday will hinge on how well you can engage, convert and retain digital shoppers by creating an impactful presence on the digital shelf.

Just like in-store, the digital shelf has to be about a lot more than the purchase. It must communicate your brand story and values and engage consumers in the experience that is your brand. If done right, you can get a leg up on your competitors and create repeat customers.

So, how can you optimize your presence on the digital shelf to stand out from the pack and drive conversions? Here are four best practices.

1. Tell a story

No matter what kind of business you’re in, your brand and product needs to tell a story. Your descriptions, images and every other controllable element on your product page should work in concert to efficiently communicate that story, your brand essence, the value proposition and your overall aesthetic and tone.

Be thoughtful about the words you use and the tone you take in your descriptions, as well as with the colors, angles and context of your images. Think of these elements as building blocks that come together to tell your full story. Don’t make the consumer work to figure it out. Use clear language and don’t get too into the weeds.

Remember, in this increasingly ecommerce-centric world, your product page is often the first point of contact someone will have with your brand and all that it encompasses. So, don’t make the mistake of thinking of your product page as just a means to an end.

2. Be consistent

Making sure your brand story resonates and is remembered comes down to keeping it consistent across platforms. This is logical—if your product looks different or your descriptions highlight different benefits or features on different sites, your customers will be left scratching their heads and wondering what exactly your product is.

The first and easiest way to ensure consistency is making sure your imagery is the same across platforms. If you have a zoomed shot of your nutritional information on Amazon.com, you’ll need the same image on Walmart.com. You’ll also want to make sure the quality of your images is the same. If you have high-quality digital renderings and 3D features on one site, you need to have them everywhere your product shows up.

The same goes for your product descriptions. Yes, your audience might be slightly different on different platforms, but don’t change your value proposition to try to match them. Most people use a variety of sites, and you don’t want them to see you shape-shifting just to make a sale.

And of course, these images and descriptions should all be consistent with your physical presence. The emotions and information a consumer gets from your digital shelf space should align completely with what they would see and get in the store from holding and viewing your actual product.

3. Create a robust product display page

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s crucial that you build out a complete product page and use every tool available to you to get a consumer to click “add to cart.” To start, fill all of your slots in the product photo gallery and include a short description video if the site allows.

One area some brands neglect is the below-the-fold or A+ content. This is the additional product information, images and videos that appears in the “from the manufacturer” section on Amazon. While not all sites have this as an option, if it does exist you want to be thoughtful and intentional with what you place there. About a third (33%) of online shoppers surveyed by Olberding said that it is very important to have additional information to help select the right product. It’s an opportunity to go into more detail about how your product is used, put your brand front and center and restate your value proposition in a new way. Use a variety of photos, videos and messaging to make your content as engaging and helpful as possible and be careful not to be repetitive with what information you put up top.

Another part of a complete product page is clearly communicating how much of a product someone is buying. Not being able to tell size or number is one of the biggest frustrations for ecommerce customers—but also easily avoidable. Use clear language at the top of the product page to state exactly how much in size, weight, number of packages etc., a customer is getting. Any confusion in this area will detract from the story you are trying to tell and make your page much less sticky.

4. Optimize for your first impression

When searching for your product or a general category, the first image a consumer will see is your hero render. In layman’s terms, that’s that photo that pops up in the grid of your search results. This photo has a lot of work to do. It needs to accurately represent your product while being visually interesting enough to pull someone in. But it also can’t be too busy or visually overwhelming. It’s your key to breaking through the competitive shelf set and the first step to getting someone to add your product to their cart.

So, a few best practices. Make sure it’s the highest quality possible and that it’s been properly rendered to the specifications of the site. Keep it simple, the hero image is not the place to zoom in on details or show your product in action. The image should be as close as possible to what it looks like on a physical shelf. Invest in 3D rendering because you want the consumer to feel as close as possible to the product. Also, make sure that your brand name is visible or that there is some obvious marker consumers can easily spot as they scroll.

While ecommerce has been around for years, brands big and small are just starting to think about how they show up on the digital shelf. It’s likely the space will see a burst of innovation as dollars continue to shift online, but for now, being intentional about how you tell your story and investing in high-quality images is your key to standing out from the pack.

As chief creative officer of the Olberding Brand Family, Tony Neary provides creative oversight across the entire portfolio, including Amplify’s digital adaptation services. Prior to joining Olberding, Tony worked in leadership roles at Deskey and Interbrand and ran his own boutique agency, Traction.