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Interview

Interview: Introducing the Content Strategy Pillar of the Digital Shelf Playbook

Continual optimization of the product page is the holy grail of driving discovery, conversion, and brand impressions and loyalty in this digital-first age. However, not everything can always be optimized. Choosing where you place your investments, efficiently and with transparency, takes a strategy. And that’s where we are focused in this podcast episode, featuring Lauren Livak, Director of the Digital Shelf Institute, and our special guest, Anu Bliss, General Manager of the eCommerce Practice at The Emerson Group.

Peter Crosby:
Welcome to Unpacking The Digital Shelf, where we explore brand manufacturing in the digital age.

Peter Crosby:
Hey everyone, Peter Crosby here from the Digital Shelf Institute. Continual optimization of the product page is the holy grail of driving discovery, conversion, and brand impressions and loyalty in this digital first age. But in reality, you can't optimize everything at all times. Choosing where you place your investments and do it efficiently with transparency takes a strategy. This is a podcast presentation of a recent Digital Shelf Playbook Series webinar, featuring two experts who are deeply experienced in driving this process across multiple organizations. Lauren Livak is the director of the Digital Shelf Institute and the driving force behind the Playbook Series. And Anu Bliss, general manager of the e-commerce practice at The Emerson Group, joined us in a really thoughtful examination of building the right strategy for the business outcomes you are driving towards. I was along as MC.

Peter Crosby:
Anu, thank you so much for joining Lauren and me to contributing to the DSI community.

Anu Bliss:
Thanks for having me today.

Peter Crosby:
And what we're here to talk about today is I mentioned the Digital Shelf Playbook Series, and you can kind of see where we've ticked off the chapter so far on the things that we need to get good at in order to be able to move through the digital shelf maturity curve, to that place where you are on the channels that you want with the content that you need. And you're in that mode of continually optimizing for performance and success on the digital shelf. So today, as we said, is about content strategy and to get us kicked off, I'm going to hand it off to Lauren.

Lauren Livak:
Great, thanks so much, Peter. I'm really excited. We have one of our biggest crowds today on the webinar. So really excited to have everyone. Thank you so much. Excited to talk with Anu today. So in terms of what we're going to be covering, we are going to be talking about the building blocks of your content strategy, examples of specific content strategies, because I know that's always a question. How should it look? How should I be handling it? How to build a content strategy that scales with your business. And then content strategy as you grow. So let's jump into this. So I always like to start with, why does it matter? Peter covered this a bit in his intro, but managing the digital shelf is difficult because it's always changing and there's multiple competing priorities. So you really need to have a clear content strategy that sets you up to focus on the SKUs that matter, and that are going to drive growth for the business.

Lauren Livak:
80% of shoppers check the internet before deciding where and what to buy. I don't know about everyone on the webinar, but I always go to Amazon and I say, "Okay, how much is it?" And then I might go to the store, or when I'm in a store aisle, I might search Amazon to see if it's cheaper. So you really need to have a presence online, especially for this SKUs that would be most important to you. Traditionally 20% of SKUs do 80% of the volume online. And Anu and I are going to dive into that a little bit deeper, but it's important to remember that, because you really want to focus on the SKUs that are going to drive the most growth and the most profitability for you. We wanted to kick off the conversation with a poll really to kind of get the audience involved and really understand where everyone is. You should see it pop up on your screen. Do you currently have a content strategy in place today? So either yes, no, or maybe it's in development. We want to hear from you.

Peter Crosby:
The poll is running.

Lauren Livak:
Awesome.

Peter Crosby:
And we've got great participation. I'm going to close it out in, it's still moving, I hate to close anyone out of this, but three, two, one. And the poll is done and here you go.

Lauren Livak:
Awesome. All right. So 45% have a content strategy. 39% it's in development. Okay. This is great. I'm really excited about these results because it looks like people either have a content strategy or have acknowledged that it's really important and really need to focus on it. So for those that are developing, you can use all of these insights to help you. And for those that already have it, maybe you can use this to tweak some of the strategy if you need to. So in terms of benefits of having a content strategy, there are both internal benefits to your organization and external benefits for your outer facing customers. So in terms of internal benefits, it really helps with efficiency. You have cross-functional alignment to help you figure out what you're focusing on, why you're focusing on it, and what is really important. And that really drives consistent messaging and structure.

Lauren Livak:
So you know how your teams are working, what your brand is showing up like online. And it's reducing a lot of risk. There's reducing risk for investment. So if you don't have a content strategy, potentially you could be spending duplicative money on the same thing across brands. Or you could think that you don't have content, but you do have content and recreate it. So it helps internally to really get everyone on the same page. And then from an external perspective, brands are showing themselves consistently. So consumers, when they go to let's say an Amazon page or a D-to-C page or another retailer, like a Target, they see all of the same content and it's telling the same story. And therefore you're educating the consumer on the brand, no matter what touchpoint they go to. And ultimately that can help increase your conversion, increase your sales, increase the ability of your consumer to identify your brand.

Lauren Livak:
So those are just some of the pros of having a content strategy and really how that will benefit your organization. And the content strategy is a delicate balance. It's a balance between what the consumers want, what they want to hear about, what they need to know, and the retailer requirements. So if you're a consumer, you want to see certain things about a product such as why is it different than a competitor? Where was it made? Where was it created? What are some of the distinguishing factors about the product?

Lauren Livak:
So that needs to be built into your content strategy, but you also have to focus on what the retailers are asking of you as a brand to provide. You need to have enhanced content. You need to have video. You need to have the right title, the right bullets, basic supply chain information, and all of that feeds into the algorithm so that the consumers can find your products. So it really is a delicate balance where you do need to focus on both of those things to make sure that your consumers can find your products based on what the retailers are actually requiring. I'm actually going to pass it over to Anu, and she's going to start talking about the different phases of what you need to work through as you build your content strategy.

Anu Bliss:
Thanks Lauren. So when you're establishing your strategy, definitely consider making stages. I always think like ages and stages here. I think, try to steer clear of just focusing on the actual result and give context, especially to your brand marketer partners, as well as management, on improvement. Because if you establish your baseline, and you show continuous improvement, you can then directly tie that to performance, which is super important because it gives energy and kind of air to the continuous loop process. I think in the traditional brick and mortar world we were so used to setting the planogram maybe once, at most, twice a year, if not even longer, and forgetting about it. And that is clearly not the case. And it's the beauty of the digital shelf. I would also encourage that you not only educate your brand partners, but your finance folks, your supply chain folks as well, make sure that everybody's part of the conversation.

Anu Bliss:
We always talk about e-commerce as it's not just around education, there's change management, there's therapy involved as well, and make sure that all the cross-functional folks have skin in the game here. And they're not just being told, "This is what we're doing, and this is how we're doing it." That's how you can really help people along the change curve. Why do you want to go to the next slide? Great. Here you're defining like what you want to implement. Ask these questions in order to determine your size and scope. It's less overwhelming if you do this and learn from me. When I first started on this journey, six or seven, eight years ago at J&J I was at a big CPG. I made the mistake of banging a drum around every brand team and saying every one of your SKUs or ASINs needs to have basic and enhanced content and needs to be fully loaded.

Anu Bliss:
And I got met with a lot of very overwhelmed faces. And it makes sense to take a look and see who your top performing retailers, I mean, go back to the 80/20 rule that Lauren spoke about earlier today. How many retailers are you looking to build content for? How many are you selling online? And again, just take it one bite at a time, and really establish where you are today. And then what does good look like? Like where do you want to get to? And instead of feeling like, "Oh my gosh, we don't have the time, the budget, the resources, the people to get this done." Bite it off in small chunks, and then move from there. You'll be really surprised at how quickly you're able to scale.

Anu Bliss:
We talk about this lowest common denominator exercise. I mean, I've worked primarily in the health and beauty space and the usual typical partners are Walmart, Target, Amazon. And we know that they have the longest lead times when it comes to receiving content. We know that the attributes that they require are the most robust. And really, if you can kind of determine that, and go after those, as well as where you derive the most sales and enormous profits, that will actually really help you scale this very quickly. Again, it's just all about making sure you're prioritizing. I'll tell you, I learned that the hard way. Nobody has unlimited budgets. And so this is ORF people. I can imagine, like many of you, it's not easy to hire talent these days. We're all basically in a talent crunch and a race to get great folks. Obviously, most of you are those folks on this call, but you're in a very high demand.

Lauren Livak:
And one thing I'll add here, Anu, is when you think about identifying the lowest common denominator, no matter what industry you're in, think about the top five, it could be the top seven, depending on who those retailers are. And a very common question I often get is, "What are the retailer requirements? I don't know all the retailer requirements for my 50 different retailers." The majority of the time, your top five or seven retailers, everything that they require, the long tail of your retailers require as well. So when you figure out the lowest common denominator, meaning for example, let's say it's Amazon, Walmart and Target, and they require bullets and titles and six images and enhanced content. If you create that for all of your SKUs, then you will also meet the requirements of let's say Home Depot or Dollar General.

Lauren Livak:
That is a made up example. But the, that is the concept of the lowest common denominator exercise. If you're meeting the requirements of those top retailers, you're usually meeting the requirements for everyone. And if there is a one off where maybe they ask for something crazy, like, I don't know, like when Amazon added the batteries question, "Does this contain batteries?" Even if it's lotion you can add that into your content strategy as you build, but that's just the example of what that means from an exercise perspective.

Anu Bliss:
Well said, Lauren.

Lauren Livak:
Thank you.

Anu Bliss:
The other piece that's important to remember and recognize is that you should focus on the SKUs that drive e-commerce profitability. And we always say, "It's all about that balance." But look at your distribution list. Sometimes we call them hero codes or power codes, and look at content completeness. Again you may have to push some off to a later stage. You want to make sure you're driving the ones that are profitable and sustainable for you as well. But also to make sure that you are communicating and conveying to your shopper for those items that they are looking for and love the most. There will be more details at the next webinar coming up. So stay tuned for more details on that.

Lauren Livak:
Thanks for the teaser Anu. That is the next one up in our series, where we're going to talk specifically about assortment and distribution. And how you pick some of those SKUs that are making the most impact online so that you really can balance out how you create that content and getting the most bang for your buck. I'm actually going to go through two example content strategies. So we thought it would be helpful to actually make it a bit tangible with how can you develop a content strategy that works for your business. So the first one I'm going to tackle is content tiers based on SKUs. So it consists of three tiers plus an entry level kind of tier about when you're thinking about your content. So the first piece of the strategy is that every single item should have basic content. When I say basic, it just means content that you need to post something on the retailer site.

Lauren Livak:
Usually that's one image, a title, and the supply chain information, and the logistics. Just having that available on all of your retailer sites. Now, again, these are example content strategies. Take what you want from each of them to help you kind of sculpt yours. This is an example of one that I have seen out in the world. So establishing just the basic content first, and then looking at all of your SKUs, no matter if you have 2000 or 50,000 and determining which tier they fall into. So the first tier being high performing digital shelf SKUs. These would be the most profitable. The ones where you're winning in the category, where you're winning in search. Those are tier one and you want fully built out content. So that means above the fold, below the fold, multiple images in the carousel, really building out every element of the product detail page for whichever retailer is the priority. Those all fall in tier one.

Lauren Livak:
And now if you have 2000 SKUs, all 2000 SKUs should not be in tier one. You're talking about maybe 100 to 200 that are in your tier one. Again, thinking about that 80/20 rule, which ones are driving the most profitability for your business. Then tier two, those are those mid tier digital shelf SKUs, where you know they do have some profitability. They could potentially grow. You are winning in search. There's an opportunity to play in that category. That's where you have complete above the fold content in terms of the carousel and optimizing all of your texts, your description, your bullets, and maybe you have a comparison chart in the enhanced content, but it's not fully built out because you don't have budget to meet that.

Lauren Livak:
Then the third tier, those are for low performing digital shelf SKUs that you just need to have some presence for online. That's again, just basic above the fold content. Maybe you'll build out a couple of more images in the carousel. That's more than just the basic content before the first tier, but really not focusing a lot on driving more content for those specific SKUs. And then once you define a model like this, it's really important to make sure that your budget matches that. Meaning for those tier one SKUs, those 200, if you have budget to make enhanced content, it should be going to those tier one SKUs because they are going to be driving the most profitability for your business, so that money invested will give you the most return. So, that's one example strategy.

Lauren Livak:
Now we're going to talk about another one, and this is content grading for level of prioritization. It's slightly different, a little bit similar, and you'll get the concepts as we're talking through them about how you can work through your SKUs. So again, if you have 5,000 SKUs, all 5,000, should that be number one in this strategy? Maybe it should be 300 and then the rest kind of cascade down. So for this specific strategy, if you have a SKU that's designated as a green number one, that means fully built out PDP, every element above the fold, below the fold. It also means that is where you're focusing your time on organic and paid search.

Lauren Livak:
That is where you are testing new experiences. Say there's a new way of shopping and the retailer is testing that out. You use those SKUs to be able to do that. The second tier fully built out above the fold content, optional enhanced content, and really focusing on organic search because these number two SKUs are the ones that could potentially be number one in a couple of months or a couple of weeks, depending on how much you can put into it and how much you can focus on it.

Lauren Livak:
Then number three, being basic above the fold content with the focus on really driving those carousel of images and making sure that you're capturing the consumer when they're there. And then number four is only content needed to be live on the retailer, not a lot of focus on those SKUs. So those are just two examples, but hopefully you'll be able to see how it is broken down by content strategies and what pieces you can take from it. And then the other really important factor is that you have to match your strategy to your measurement. If you have 200 SKUs that are in the number one category and say you have 1,000 SKUs that are in the number three category, you should not be measuring your content the same way.

Lauren Livak:
So when you think about content completeness, if you consider content completeness to be full above the fold content, full below the fold content, and a certain paid search element or certain organic search rank, those criteria are not going to be the same for SKUs that are on a level one versus a level three. You need to be very clear when you're reporting that out what good looks like for that tier of your content strategy, so that you are holding yourself accountable to the strategy overall, and you're not giving yourself kind of minus points for not having a fully built out PDP when that doesn't match your overall strategy. So you really need to make sure that you marry those two things together, no matter what your content strategy looks like.

Lauren Livak:
And another thing is consistency across all of your channels. So this is just an example of an Amazon PDP versus a D-to-C PDP. Make sure you're using the same content across the board. I like to call it creative stretch. We talked about that in a previous webinar. How are you making sure you're using the images from your D-to-C site on your Amazon PDP? Again, brand consistency. You are not recreating the wheel, which means hopefully that you are saving budget because you are not creating additional images. And it's really keeping that brand story clear and concise across any channel that your brand visits.

Peter Crosby:
Hey Lauren, can I throw a surprise question at you?

Lauren Livak:
Sure.

Peter Crosby:
I'm listening to this.

Lauren Livak:
I'm ready.

Peter Crosby:
So people also talk about, in a content strategy, having some room to specialize content by retailer for their consumer. How do you sort of align that with, I mean, I understand the value of brand consistency and all that, but I'm wondering where that comes into play in a strategy like this.

Lauren Livak:
That is a great question, Peter, and we have a slide about that. So I might pause until we get to that part of the [crosstalk 00:22:57] so we can talk about it.

Peter Crosby:
Please do so that. My curiosity took over. Thank you.

Lauren Livak:
It's a great question though. And we are going to talk about that. Actually I don't know, it's actually this slide. Thank you so much for that transition.

Peter Crosby:
I knew that, I knew that.

Lauren Livak:
Great question. But it's a very popular question. When Anu and I were preparing for this, we were talking about it. Should you have retailer specific content? When do you pivot to retailer specific content? And Peter, to your point, I think it's really important when you're in the beginning stages of your content strategy, retailer specific content should not be considered. You need to first be present. You need to establish your content strategy, and you need to start kind of getting that in motion and figuring out which SKUs are driving the most profitability, and where you should focus from a content perspective. Then when you're more mature in your content strategy, you can think about, "Is the content I'm putting on each retailer answering the questions of the consumer that is going to that retailer?" And that's a really great question to ask, to see if you need retailer specific content.

Lauren Livak:
And it does matter by category and by product. It doesn't make sense for every category. You want to make sure you're having that consistent brand experience. And one reason why you might need retailer specific content is because you need to feed the algorithm of the retailer itself. So maybe a retailer is requiring a specific type of content to rank you higher in search. That's a reason why you should definitely think about having a retailer specific element or retailer specific content. Or if they have a specific keyword strategy that you need to implement, that's where you can add that different element per retailer. And Anu, please feel free to add. I know we talked a bit about this in our prep.

Anu Bliss:
I think you've covered the major pieces here. Most of the brands that we are working with right now are more in the beginning phases. And so I'm trying to keep it simple and make sure that they show up first on the page. But you know, if you have a drastically different consumer touchpoint, I think then, or usage, and you want to convey that particularly in an image or a video example, I think that's where it could warrant some kind of over and above customized content.

Lauren Livak:
And I also think, when you think about why would people go to a D-to-C site versus a retailer site, they might go to a D-to-C site for discovery, to better understand the brand, the story, the mission. And maybe your content on your D-to-C site has more of that brand story included, and then they can find it on Amazon. And that's where they convert. So you really need to think about for each channel, "For my category, as a consumer why are they visiting? And am I providing them with the information that they need?" And again, once you already have an established content strategy, this is something to start thinking about, but if not start with the basics. And that shouldn't include specific retailer content,

Peter Crosby:
Hey Lauren, we have a couple of questions in the Q and A that I thought might be worth tossing out at this moment. Gary asked, "If you have SKUs with variance, should you tier by parent or SKU, when you think of your tiers?"

Lauren Livak:
I think that depends on your category. And the reason I say that is because if each of those SKUs are so unique, even though they are attached to a parent, then they might need to have a different content strategy. And I also think it depends on how you report out on those metrics, which is another important factor. Do you have e-commerce data that is specific to the variant SKU versus the parent SKU? Can you see if one is more profitable than another? I think that's another element that I would also consider. I don't know. Anu do you have any other additions to that?

Anu Bliss:
I don't think so, Lauren, I think you covered it.

Peter Crosby:
And then John asked, "Can you share any thoughts around where or how to prioritize mobile optimized content?"

Lauren Livak:
That is a fantastic question. Whenever you are creating your content and you're working with your agencies, that should always be a part of the brief. Meaning if you are creating enhanced content that is not mobile optimized, then it isn't considering the full content strategy because most people search on their phone. So the content you should create should be for desktop and for mobile always.

Lauren Livak:
So if you have a banner that's going across the screen and when you see it on mobile, it's completely shrunk. Even though that might be an amazing brand experience on a computer, it is not on the phone and the majority of people are searching on that. So I would say at all points, when you are creating content, with your internal or external agency, when you are briefing, it always should be prioritized because right now it is the majority of how people shop, and it is projected to be even more the way that people shop in the future as we have these little computers in our hands. So I would say briefing, working with your agencies, and figuring out how all of your content should be mobile optimized.

Lauren Livak:
All right, let me, now we are in a poll and we're actually going to talk a little bit about content creation. So thank you for that question. So another poll should be popping up on your screen shortly. This one is we want to get a sense from everyone on the call, do you create your content in house or with an agency? So in house, with an agency, potentially both. I know a lot of people have some complex structures.

Peter Crosby:
All right, I'm going to close it out in three, two, one.

Lauren Livak:
All right. So the majority of people use both, both agency and in house. That's really interesting. And a lot of people have in house agencies. That is a trend that we are seeing a lot of actually, and it is a perfect transition so that Anu can share some of the work that her and her team are doing from content to creation perspective.

Anu Bliss:
Yeah, I was kind of wishing I could vote in the poll, but I guess presenters are not able to do that. We feel so strongly at Emerson Group. Just a little background, we are a CPG Equity company. And what that means is not only do we represent over a hundred brands, but we actually have ownership in many of them. When you're responsible for brand management, forecasting, supply chain, working with your manufacturers, there are so many touch points. And we've decided to take the plunge and in Morristown, New Jersey, in about year from now, they're actually doing demo on the building as we speak. We are building an agency space, a studio in house called Emerson Studios.

Anu Bliss:
We think this is important for a lot of reasons, but one is around more control over the content. And like Lauren was talking about earlier, when I came to The Emerson Group, I found that we were developing different content and using a different agency for Amazon, for Walmart, for D-to-C and nobody has unlimited funds and resources. And this is a great way to drive some efficiency and some scale, and also be able to adapt. Like we keep saying implement and pivot, implement and measure and pivot. When you have to keep going to an outside agency, or one agency to do this, one agency to do that, not only do you have to spend a lot of time and energy and duplication of effort, it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And we love the fact that we'll be able to turn around quickly.

Anu Bliss:
What I think is really awesome is not only will we be doing imagery for product detail pages, but we'll have the ability to do short form video, not just for retailer platforms, but for D-to-C, for live streaming events. We're also looking at how can we actually change the way our sales teams go to market, our insights teams, with our brick and mortar retailers. So we're looking at how to develop category stories through video, which is not exactly e-commerce content, but we feel like a lot of the elements will overlap up and we'll be able to leverage those and scale them very efficiently. So super excited about that.

Anu Bliss:
Importantly, once you've established your priorities, your strategy, you have to make sure it's all in one place. This conversation around dams and pins, and how you syndicate data. It's super important to get everybody on board. I think right now, what we're looking at at The Emerson Group is we have a specs team separate from a product content team, and how do we merge those all together? Right now the biggest focus, and I would urge all of you if you're not in this process already, is to really make sure you have everybody on the same page and centralize as much of it as possible. The benefits are reducing duplicate efforts. I think even in a smaller company, or midsize company such as ours, we're seeing that there's a lot of duplication and look, everybody needs to free up time.

Anu Bliss:
So just every day go to work and say, "What makes sense?" When I go to bed, I want to make sure that what I did that day makes sense, and what doesn't make sense is doing the same effort in multiple places. When you can syndicate your data, you can speed up time to market, which is key, right? It's completely critical. And you can be on top of consumer sentiment that way as well. And the other, especially is around reducing fines, which we are enjoying, or not enjoying, a lot of those on the leading marketplace platform this year. So anywhere we can look to reduce that is a great thing.

Lauren Livak:
And we've been talking a lot, this whole webinar about pivoting, right? You've established your strategy and maybe you need to update or pivot in a month or a couple of months. When you update that, if you have a central source of truth, then everyone's going to continuously check that. Then you don't have to do a whole effort to say, "Okay, now use this document, or now access this, or now look at this website." If you have a central strategy where everyone is accessing as a part of their day to day job, you can update it on the fly. So you're not reeducating the entire organization. And to a news point, it just saves time and reduces a lot of that duplicative work. And that could look anything like a SharePoint, or it could be a shared folder. It could be an internal website, really simple things, but just having one place to go to where if someone in the organization says, "Oh, digital shelf, I know to go here." And that's where all of the information they need to find is there.

Anu Bliss:
Yeah, to Lauren's point, it's all about building capabilities so your teams have CAPAS. I think that's how you become a hero. And something I'm really, really passionate about, like a lot of you, I work with legacy brick and mortar teams that have been incredibly successful in their careers. And it's so important to empower and educate your folks to be able to have conversations. And right now I'm speaking specifically to about sales reps or key account managers that we have in the field at our traditional brick and mortar retailers that are really have been forced to, or forged into the e-commerce space. One simple example is, do your teams know what questions to ask? They don't have to have the answer, but it's really important that they know what questions to ask.

Anu Bliss:
What we're finding successful is just like one page. They can even print it out and stick it on their monitor and say to the buyers, instead of being so focused on when the planogram reset is, "What are the online requirements? When are they changing? What are the goals you have for digital shelf conversion? Or do you have a scorecard? What are you being measured on? What's important to you?" If they have five or six questions like that, where they can start to feel comfortable and be in control by being able to ask their category manager or their buyer, these questions, they won't feel so afraid. And when we talk about digital commerce, I suspect that most of the participants on this call are ones that have been on this journey for a while, know what they're talking about, and then often bang their heads against the wall because they feel like they're constantly having to educate, right? Where leadership truly comes from in the space is being able to bring everybody else along in a non-intimidating way.

Anu Bliss:
So I would encourage you all to come up with those five or six questions that either your management should be asking, or your sales folks that are your counterparts, to make sure that they're asking the right questions of the retailers, and then they can come back to you with what's important to the retailers as well. And lastly again, feedback loop like we are focused on readings and reviews. We measure them, we know we should have four plus stars and we should have recency and relevancy. But are we reading them?

Anu Bliss:
Another piece, big piece of work that we're looking at is how do we gather insights from customer support center or customer service, because that's truly where all of the rich information is coming from. Making sure you're exploring seasonal content. I'm really, really personally excited about the studio that we're building, because we'll be able to enhance and pivot on a dime is what I'm hoping for, because we'll have fewer touch points going outside to an agency that may do great work, but we're just trying to shorten the number of communication steps that we have here. And continue to enhance your strategy. I mean, you don't need to touch every single day by any means, but pick a couple of meaningful points during the year where you can really measure and refine and revise as necessary.

Lauren Livak:
I always think of, for larger traditional organizations, you have strategic planning or you have joint business planning, and that's always built into your plan. You need to build into your plan a time to assess your content strategy. That can be quarterly, that can be bimonthly, whatever it is you define. But it needs to be built into the strategic plans that your organization already has because that content strategy affects profitability. It affects sales and it connects into that strategic plan and into all of your joint business plans with all of your retailers and all of your partners. So getting into the rhythm of making this a standard practice within your organization will be really helpful to get everyone on the same page. And I actually, I saw a question, I was just scoping out the Q and A section, and someone asked about user generated content.

Lauren Livak:
I think that's also a really great kind of enhance and pivot, but I would say it is once you have already established which PDPs are the most important, and they have the built out above the fold and below the fold content. I think user generated content is really important for certain categories because it makes a product real. And then the consumer actually feels like they are experiencing it from someone who's using it day to day.

Lauren Livak:
When you think about user generated content, not every retailer accepts it. Some retailers have different requirements for it. So I would take those tier one or those level one SKUs and I would test and learn. Those are the SKUs where you can try out new and different things because you know they're going to be the most successful online and therefore the most high traffic. So if you come up with an idea that you want to do user generated content, do a test and learn. That really is the best way to figure out any kind of new pivot, because if you were to ask Anu what she did, and me when I was at the brand, we would've had two separate answers and we both could have been successful.

Lauren Livak:
And I know that is not usually the answer people want to hear because they want to follow kind of the check boxes, but it really is testing and learning and figuring out kind of what works for your business. And that kind of leads me to this quote that I wanted to talk through, but it's not about checking the boxes. So you don't just want to say, "Okay, I have ratings and interviews. Check. I have enhanced content. Check." It's about really building a full experience for the consumer, for the specific retailer, taking them on that journey, and trying to understand where you can pivot and change to make it the most impactful.

Peter Crosby:
Hey Lauren, a lot of questions coming in the chat, specifically around that test part of the test and learn, and you can take a look at them in the chat, essentially, "How can you measure content strategy success if you can't get conversion rate data? How should brands test the efficacy of content creation across, on retailers outside of Amazon? What analytics would you test and how can we measure that?"

Lauren Livak:
All fantastic questions. Let me try and tackle some things that might cover off on all of them. So in terms of analytics and test and learns, we all know that every single retailer doesn't always give you the data that you want. We totally understand that. And I think the difficult piece is that it might not be as prescriptive as say, brick and mortar data. Meaning if you go to a store and they've listed your end cap, or they have your promotion, you can say, "Check, okay, success." It has led to sales. On e-commerce, it's not like that. If you are working with a retailer who potentially doesn't give you the data that you need, you might need to check daily and see if you've jumped up in search. You might need to look at, or partner with your brick and mortar team and see if it's influenced in-store sales.

Lauren Livak:
So there's a lot of different elements to a test and learn. It's a lot easier for something like Amazon, because have the functionality built in. But my suggestion to a news point about working with your retailer teams is I would involve them in the process because they also want to be successful and they want to sell more products on their site. So if you go to them and you lay out, "Hey, I want to test this out and we want to see maybe the key metric is, how can I move up in search?" If you work with your retailer partner, they could potentially provide you with that data. If not, it is more of a manual process where you're going to have to check weekly or biweekly or partner with analytics tools that you might be using. There's a lot of different analytics tools out there that can scrape a lot of that content.

Lauren Livak:
I know I kind of threw a bunch of things out there, but I would say if you're doing a test and learn one, share it with your retailer team, see if they would be interested in participating. Two, I would either use the data you have, or try and partner with your internal analytics team or another software that can help scrape that data. And then three, I would start small in terms of metrics. Don't go, "I want conversion and search and content completeness." Pick one. Pick one, A/B test it, see if it works, and then kind of pivot from there.

Peter Crosby:
Thanks so much to Lauren and Anu for allowing us this crossover episode of the Digital Shelf Playbook Series. If you would like to see or share the original source webinar, we have the link in the show notes, or go to digitalshelfinstitute.org/digital-shelf-playbook. All the webinars of the Digital Shelf Playbook Series are posted there. If you have questions about any of this or hate using show notes, you can reach out to Lauren Livak anytime on LinkedIn or at lauren@digitalshelfinstitute.org. Thanks for being part of our community.