The Future of Digital Shelf: 5 Ways to Improve Your Ecommerce Strategy

The digital shelf is transforming at a rapid pace, requiring new capabilities for brands to win.

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It’s no secret: ecommerce trends and consumer needs evolve rapidly. This is especially true across Asia Pacific and specifically in Southeast Asia, a largely mobile-first region where an estimated six years of transformation has occurred since 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with no sign of slowing down. 

Since ecommerce is expected to generate growth unmatched by any other retail channel throughout the region over the next five years, the digital shelf – the diverse and fast-changing collection of touchpoints shoppers use to discover products, research brands, and make purchases – will be key in reaching Southeast Asian Asian consumers, who will drive US$60.7 million 2.5 trillion in ecommerce marketplace sales, according to Edge Retail Insight.

Recently, Ascential Digital Commerce hosted a webinar about the future of digital shelf, where the speakers discussed the evolution of retail, digital shelf transformation, and how businesses can strengthen their digital strategies. 

 

Listen: Nicholas Lee, Vice President & Market Leader Asia Pacific, Philips Domestic Appliances, Jill Meng, Customer Success Director, APAC, Edge by Ascential, and Robert Gregory, Research Director, EMEA Advisory, Edge by Ascential. Fill out the form below to get a full recording of the webcast and PDF presentations. 

 

Making sense of ongoing digital shelf transformation with Philips

Though necessary for ecommerce success, the digital shelf often poses a challenge for brands trying to navigate it due to its ever-evolving nature, the impact of the region’s rapid digital transformation – which continually brings more people online and requires the digital shelf to advance – and the emergence of omnichannel retail trends, including quick commerce.

One company that has excelled at transforming its digital shelf is Philips. Nicholas Lee, Vice President and Market Leader for Asia Pacific at Philips Domestic Appliances, joined the webinar to share details about the company’s ecommerce journey.

The digital strategy Philips has successfully used to futureproof the company and grow ecommerce sales from a single digit to one-third of its business includes understanding consumer needs, thinking of the offline and digital shelves as one shelf rather than separate entities, and ensuring that top SKUs are never out of stock.

“You must be on shelf 100% of the time,” Mr. Lee said during the webinar, adding that a focus for Philips over the past year has been growing availability of its top products  from 93% to 100% to ensure items are never out of stock. “If you are never out of stock, you don’t lose the advantage that you have in algorithms and search.”

However, this can be a major hurdle for brands: providing omnichannel and quick commerce services often require businesses to work with micro-fulfillment centres, which stock a limited number of in-demand, best-selling products. This goes to show that thinking of the online and offline retail realms as one shelf is crucial in ensuring products are never out of stock. 

Beyond this, Philips is working continuously to maintain a deep understanding of its customers, including how they consume media and which social media platforms they use each day to shed light on online preferences. 

“Information is organised differently digitally, especially in mobile shopping platforms” Mr. Lee said. “Consumers are not going to scroll up and down forever. Ideally, they want to see information quickly and ideally on one screen.” 

According to Lee, Tik Tok has done a great job of this, by compressing the consumer decision journey into one moment, and it’s the approach other platforms, including Meta are now striving for. 

Employing a strategy that starts with customer needs has helped Philips understand where to focus as well as build a seamless customer journey where merchandising is great both online and offline. 

Transformation Characteristics

5 keys to improving your digital shelf strategy

Though navigating the digital shelf can be difficult, it is not an impossible task, and there are steps businesses can take to thrive in an increasingly online shopping landscape while improving or maintaining their digital shelf strategy. Here’s how to make it happen:

Top APAC Retailers

1. Focus on customer needs

Whether it’s the products a company prioritises or the experience they provide, brands should strive to have a deep understanding of customers and what they need. Currently, omnichannel options in the form of online-to-offline (O2O) capabilities and quick commerce enable customers to choose an experience that suits their preferences at that time, be it ordering online and picking up in-store or choosing the speed of rapid delivery.

By focusing on what customers need, brands can not only prioritise the products that they must consistently stock across channels and platforms, but deliver experiences that will not only satisfy but delight shoppers.

2. Strive for 100% availability of top SKUs

One thing that a brand cannot afford in the world of ecommerce and quick commerce is for a product to be out of stock. Unlike offline shopping, where a person would likely search for an out-of-stock product by going to another store to find it, online shoppers will switch brands rather than visit another ecommerce platform. 

“Everything depends on whether you have the right SKUs listed in store or on the digital shelf, and whether your product is currently available to buy,” said Jill Meng, a customer success director, during the webinar. “You have to make sure your hero SKUs are always optimised and prioritised so that they are at the very top of your overall supply chain system, and you have to monitor and forecast before the SKU is running out of stock.” 

3. Invest in data and analytics

As the iteration between brands and retailers becomes shorter, measurement must come into play – this makes data and analytics absolutely crucial. It goes beyond monitoring stock availability and optimising forecasting, ensuring that your brand can succeed. Ecommerce platforms evolve quickly – sometimes daily – so being constantly on top of how the algorithms have changed ensures business survival.

4. Embrace engaged and enthusiastic shoppers – then learn from them

Though branded content created by online personalities and key opinion leaders in partnership with a business is a great way for brands to reach a target demographic, organic content created by customers can also be effective. 

“There are a lot of creators out there who may be creating content around your brand whether or not you choose to work with them because they love your brand and product,” Mr. Lee said during the webinar. “I think brands need to let go a little bit and repurpose that content – open up to a much more engaged community of promoters.” 

By doing this, businesses can better grasp online behaviours, which can help them understand how they should position themselves across ecommerce spaces. As social shopping options like livestreaming, shoppertainment, and in-app stores and payment continue to rise and bring new avenues for brands hoping to encourage impulse purchases online, it’s especially important to start with the customer and “work backward,” as Mr. Lee put it, to understand the last customer touchpoint before making a purchase. From there, brands can run A/B tests on social platforms to learn how to reach a desired audience and prompt them to take action.

5. Digital transformation is an organisation’s foundation

While adopting digital practices and embracing digital tools is crucial for businesses today, the technology is the foundation while the people are the house built upon it. It’s imperative that businesses maintain the change management curve and invest in training its workforce to prepare them for more digital roles where data and analytics are in play. Brands must prepare their people to translate that data into actions to drive results. 

By keeping these five diverse recommendations in mind, brands can better navigate the digital shelf and take the steps they need to strengthen their ecommerce strategies and prepare for continued ecommerce growth, regardless of where they are in their digital transformation journey.

 

Meet our experts 

Nicholas Lee, Vice President & Market Leader Asia Pacific, Philips Domestic Appliances 

Mr. Nicholas Lee is Vice President and Market Leader Asia Pacific, for Philips Domestics Appliances. He is responsible for the overall strategy, direction and management of the Domestic Appliances business in 14 countries across the region. Prior to assuming this role, Nicholas was the Personal Health Leader for Philips ASEAN Pacific based in Singapore. Before moving to Singapore for his Personal Health Leader role in June 2018, Nicholas was Vice President and Business Leader for Espresso. In this role, he turned the global Espresso business to profitable growth, creating new innovations such as Philips LatteGo and Saeco Xelsis, and implementing lean business transformation.

Jill Meng, Customer Success Director, APAC, Edge by Ascential 
Jill is an expert when it comes to analytics, data mining, modeling, and all topics related to retail analytics. She prides herself on anticipating her clients' needs and wants, and delivering those results before they asked for them. Jill has over 12 years of experience with analytics and consulting, with 5 years focused specifically on the ecommerce space in both China and Korea. Prior to her time with Edge by Ascential, Jill was employed with Nielsen Analytical Consulting for 7 years, beyond that Jill boasts 6 years of experience in a biomedical lab. Jill is passionate about helping her clients find success through our data and insights.

Robert Gregory, Research Director, EMEA Advisory, Edge by Ascential

Robert has over 20 years’ experience in analyzing research trends and is an expert on global trends and the changing retail landscape. Robert previously worked for Retail Intelligence and Mintel’s European retail team. As part of his current role, Robert helps FMCG companies maximize the opportunities by helping them align themselves against future trends. He is a regular contributor to global industry events.

 

Fill out the form below to access the full presentation and the event recording now!

Jill Meng
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Jill Meng
Customer Success Director
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