Don’t Let Your Digital Shelf Space Go Untouched

The experience matters just as much as in-store

It’s not news that consumers experience your brand differently online. Without the opportunity to pick up your product, interact with the packaging, feel its weight or smell it, the experience is just not the same.

This might not have mattered a few years ago, but with more and more shopping shifting online, marketers are finding themselves hard-pressed to recreate the kinds of emotional connections that come through physical interactions with a product.

The solution is to rethink what can be done on the digital shelf.

Marketers have outdone themselves over the years creating intricate physical shelf displays and packaging and now it’s time to apply that same focus to the digital shelf. So, what really is the digital shelf and what do you need to know to revolutionize your presence on it?

The digital shelf and why it matters

The digital shelf is anywhere your product is bought and sold online, whether Amazon, Walmart, Kroger or any other retail site. It is the first image the consumer sees when they search for an item or are browsing, along with the panel of small images (tiles) and product information that comes up when they click on your product page.

The specifics of how products show up on the digital shelf can vary widely across ecommerce sites. The images and product information that work on one site might be unsuited for another platform and vice versa.

Brands that have invested heavily in their product packaging and their product image often find that the renderings on the digital shelf don’t do their products justice. It can be quite a challenge to convey the feeling and values of your three-dimensional brand via a simple, small, two-dimensional image. In the past you might have just pulled the wool down and told yourself it didn’t matter; that’s just how things worked. But with so many transactions now happening online, this simplistic interface needs to be rethought and conquered.

Consider a product like Dr. Bronner’s soap. In the store, the label and bottle are instantly recognizable. Once you pick it up, you are pulled into the quirky messaging that wraps around the bottle. In just a few seconds, it communicates that Dr. Bronner’s is different: it’s not just about soap, it’s about caring for the world and those around you and not taking yourself too seriously. 

Now think about how this same product would show up on an ecommerce site. The colors are muted and the signature text around the bottle is too small to read and connect with. Sure, there’s the product description, but with just single-space black text, it’s more likely than not that the consumer will skip it. So, you see the issue—as it stands now, the digital shelf is just not suited to communicating your brand values and creating an emotional connection with the consumer.

So, what’s a marketer to do?

Luckily, solving the issues the digital shelf creates is not a lost cause. Although you might not have control over the parameters across the different shopping and buying platforms, you do have control over what goes into your tiles, renders and product descriptions.

To start improving how you show up on the digital shelf, do some brainstorming on what parts of your brand story are getting lost. For example, a juice brand that prides itself on having lower levels of sugar than competitors would want to make sure that fact is one of the first things a consumer sees when they click on the product.

Investing in high-quality digital renderings, 3D features, 360-degree views and texture-enhanced imagery is another easy win. Put yourself in your consumers’ shoes for a moment. If you were choosing between a product that had several images and content highlighting the uniqueness of your product and brand versus one that just had shots of the front and back of your package, which would you choose?

Yet another way to make sure the product stands out is to put it in context. If you are an olive oil brand, your product can only be so exciting in its bottle. But what about dedicating a tile to show the olive oil being poured over some ripe tomatoes and burrata? This kind of in-place imagery helps differentiate your brand and ensures it can stand out on an increasingly crowded digital shelf. Tactics like these are just the start. The digital shelf is ripe for innovation and an opportunity to change how consumers engage with your product in a digital environment. Stay tuned for more insights on how to optimize your presence on the digital shelf to create deeper connections.

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.