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Interview

A Guide to Digital Shelf KPI & Benchmark Measurement

With Molly Schonthal, CEO of the Digital Commerce Institute, Mike Black, CMO of Profitero, Wayne Duan, Vice President of Ecommerce and Digital Commerce, Constellation Brands, and Dean McElwee, Director of International Ecommerce Strategy - Global Tools & Storage, Stanley Black & Decker

 

In today’s new era of digital commerce, it can be incredibly difficult for executives at brand manufacturers to know how to measure their performance on the digital shelf and to make decisions on what metrics to use. 

To answer these questions, the Digital Shelf Institute partnered with Profitero, a leading ecommerce Analytics Platform, and brand executives from the DSI Executive Forum, to create A DSI Member’s Framework for Digital Shelf Measurement. 

This podcast is a rebroadcast of a DSI webinar featuring, Molly Schonthal, now CEO of the Digital Commerce Institute, Mike Black, CMO of Profitero, Wayne Duan, Vice President of Ecommerce and Digital Commerce, Constellation Brands, Dean McElwee, Director of International Ecommerce Strategy - Global Tools & Storage, Stanley Black & Decker. A rollicking conversation about how to start winning the ongoing battle to measure what you manage.

Show Notes:

The DSI & Profitero Present: A Guide to Digital Shelf KPI and Benchmark Measurement
https://www.salsify.com/resources/webinar-2022-04-06-dsi-digital-shelf-measurement-webinar

The DSI Member’s Framework for Digital Shelf Performance
https://www.digitalshelfinstitute.org/framework-for-digital-shelf-performance?hsLang=en

Transcript:

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

Peter Crosby:
Hey everyone, Peter Crosby from the Digital Shelf Institute. In today's new era of digital commerce, it can be incredibly difficult for executives at brand manufacturers to know how to measure their performance on the digital shelf and to make decisions on what metrics to use. To answer these questions, the Digital Shelf Institute partnered with Profitero, a leading E-commerce analytics platform and brand executives from the DSI executive forum to create a DSI members framework for digital shelf membership. This podcast is a rebroadcast of a DSI webinar featuring Molly Schonthal, now CEO of the Digital Commerce Institute, Mike Black CMO of Profitero, Wayne Duan, vice president of E-commerce and digital commerce at constellation brands, Dean McElwee, director of international E-commerce strategy for global tools and storage at Stanley Black & Decker, a relic in conversation about how to start winning the ongoing battle to measure what you manage.

Molly Schonthal:
Hello. We are gathered here today to talk about digital shelf measurement. So welcome, welcome, welcome to our webinar and a topic that I'm sure you're all interested in, have been interested in or are currently interested in. First, I'm going to tell you a little bit about the digital shelf Institute executive forum. The group that made this, we are an invite only senior cohort of executives who've been meeting for two years now. We got together during the pandemic as a way to check up on each other and find out how our businesses were doing. And we've grown since then to a group of 200 who meets once monthly and we share best practices and open conversations.

Molly Schonthal:
A research report comes out from this group when I start to hear the same conversation happening again and again, and I started to hear a ton of the membership saying, how are other people measuring digital shelf performance? What metrics are they using and how do they get it done? And so when that happens, I know that we've got a research report on our hands. And so in this case, I called my buddy Mike Black, who's the CMO of Profitero and an expert in this space. And we ended up speaking to about 15 execs from different brands and putting together a group opinion on what it's important to measure and why.

Molly Schonthal:
So this is how the report works. It is divided into three sections. The first section I'm going to go through quite quickly, and it is around understanding the things that you need to determine whether or not you have the right level of investment. The second question that we ask in this report is, is that investment paying off? Meaning is what you're putting against it against digital shelf growth worth it and why. And then finally, a common question we ask ourselves in this report is how do we improve the return? So if it is good, how do we make it better?

Molly Schonthal:
This report can be used in a couple different ways. So if you are a digital shelf beginner, you're going to want to take what we're saying and write it down and give yourself a head, start on your baseline for measurement. It's going to save you a lot of time and effort. If you're an intermediate brand in measuring, you are going to want to use this to sort of say, we're not measuring it that way, but we're measuring it this way, but maybe that's okay as a point of comparison between yourself and your peers. And you may find a couple things that you want to add to your practice or interrogate about your measurement practice. And if you're an advanced practitioner, this is something that you might use to be able to communicate the value of these practices across your organization, or reassure yourself that you're on the right footing.

Molly Schonthal:
The panelists that we have today, who will introduce themselves as they begin to talk. Wayne from Constellation and Dean from Stanley Black & Decker are at sort of the more advanced side of the spectrum, which is why we've got them on the panel today and will be sort of fully and freely sharing their point of views. In addition to those two that you'll hear from, we did get input from several on other brands, including the ones that you see here. I thought briefly about adding little mustaches to this slide, because one thing that we like mustaches as in disguise, one of the things that we like to do when we address a question as a group in the executive forum is everyone gets to speak, but then the answers become anonymized. So no one feels implicated, but we can all learn.

Molly Schonthal:
This is what the report looks like. You will be able to download the report. I'm not showing you the whole report. I'm showing you sort of a piece of the visual that you can then use, take away, bring to your organization as well as some of the texts that will go through will be there for you as a follow up as in the narrative. So don't worry about catching everything. It's all available to you. So now let's dig in, we're going to go through this in the following order, beginning with what Mike and I and the panelists and the research participants think is clear or fairly well known about digital shelf measurement. Then Mike is going to take us through a pretty in depth conversation about what is hard about digital shelf measurement, and that's where our panelists are going to share some of their experience. That'll hopefully help to enrich your understanding.

Molly Schonthal:
And then we're going to go into what's next. So what are the next things on people's mind for measurement? All right. So here we go. A really normal question to ask yourself about digital shelf measurement is how big should our E-commerce business be? Should we be looking at it as fair share, or should we be outperforming offline sales? However, in some categories even fair share may not be a fair metric depending on buying behaviors. So we've kind of collected a list of these really meta or high level questions that our members are asking themselves around overall performance.

Mike Black:
Yeah. And Molly, I'll just jump in and say I think the common denominator, I think universally, we found that most brands are really looking for competitive benchmarks. Market share is one of those metrics that is really especially critical if you're coming out of the pandemic. And even now as shopping behavior changes and reverts a little bit more balance to online and physical can be really hard to comp what success looks like. So the thing that really ranked true was just this need for market share data and understanding both what is the size of the prize. And also how are we doing relatives to competitors? And admittedly, you can get a lot of different information from different sources. And I think the other thing we saw that brands are taking a federated data approach where they're trying to get whatever data they can get directly from the retailer through E point of sales.

Mike Black:
They're using sources like Nielsen to get some of that they're using receipt data. And I think the effort is worth it. If you go to the next slide, one of my favorite anecdotes of what we saw, and this is reflecting after a year of the pandemic, 2020 to 2021, it became very clear that in all of the growth that was happening organically with E-commerce, not everyone wins equally. And what you're seeing here in this chart, it's a bubble chart. That's showing you every circle is a brand. The brands in the lower left all grew. They had great growth, but they didn't grow faster than the category. It was only the two brands. And this is looking at the almond not milk category, the two brands at the top, really the ones that were winners. So it really helps to separate the sort of organic growth and helps you look at your levers to say, are the things we're investing in just keeping pace or are they actually helping us move the needle? So a good example of why this data is so important, why somebody brands are pursuing it.

Wayne Duan:
Hey, Mike, can we just go to the previous slide or Molly? Just one thing. I think it's obvious, but I think it's worth stating as well, is that when you hear about Mike talking about the federated data sources out there, one key part we all need to remember as E-commerce or digital shelf practitioners is that we're trying to get buy in from the rest of the organization. And one of the easiest ways is speaking the same language, cutting your data the way the rest of the organization does it. So you're not saying, well, the denominator's a little different and when we look in percentages, but the rest of the organization looks at dollars, just try to line up as much as possible, because that's how you're going to get finance on board. That's how you're going to get your national accounts and your insights folks on board, because you're to the extent possible speaking the same language or using the same pseudo metrics that they're using.

Molly Schonthal:
Thanks, Wayne. So one of the things that has been obvious to those of us measuring digital shelf performance for a while now is that inventory levels are highly impactful even in places like share of search where marketing practices and supply practices would never meet previously. What's less obvious I think, is that not all inventory issues or opportunities are created the same as in out of stock for some skews can be more impactful than out of stock for others.

Mike Black:
Yeah. And I'll take kind of example from some Wayne and conversation we had, I think this is a pretty basic metric that we find most brands are measuring. The reason why the next level thinking here is waiting that I think there's so much out of stock data. Being able to wait it with sales data really helps you focus and that's something, Wayne, you and I were talking about on our previous call. I think the other element of this too, is to speak to Molly's point is there is such a close relationship between search position and out of stock and some of the data that we like to create. And if you see the graphic below, what we found is when you're out of stock on average for two or more days on Amazon and Walmart, it can take you six to seven days to get back on search. So as you're trying to build the case for supply chain and changes, again having ammunition to show that there is a relationship to the search investment is really, really critical. And it's all about building that internal argument like Wayne was talking about earlier.

Molly Schonthal:
I think another thing that is fairly clear, if not even more clear because I'm sitting in a [inaudible 00:12:20] building is that content and completeness and accuracy is table stakes and continues to be a driving factor of performance in that way. Not just is it there and is it accurate, but am I using the right words and terms? And am I taking advantage of every opportunity to distinguish myself at the retailer by retailer level?

Mike Black:
Yeah. And I think completeness is that one element, I think the other thing we found is when you think about accuracy, we also find a lot of brands that leverage here is to measure against benchmarks and really understand are we accurate, not against our own brand, but actually to the standards of the category. And so what we've done at Profitero to help support why this is so important is actually look at the lift impact of actually getting your content to category benchmark, even just matching best practice for a number of videos, images, a plus content can have lift. So it's really, again, this becomes table stakes, when you look at the lift impact that this can have.

Dean McElwee:
Awesome, Mike. Just to add there for everybody on the call, it's very important to work out what these are for each of the platforms. So right number of images can differ by a platforms as we know, and therefore it can influence the algorithm. So very important to understand that for each of the retailers, you're doing it with [inaudible 00:13:52].

Molly Schonthal:
Another aspect of digital shelf measurement that is fairly clear for everyone who's been in this practice for a while, is that pricing has shifted from maybe quarterly conversations to something that drives every day, competitiveness and performance online. So this becomes something that you need to stay on top of and watch from a digital shelf perspective, even more closely than any kind of offline volatility that you may have experienced.

Mike Black:
Yeah. And I think proof point to this is the dynamic nature. No one's surprised at how retailer price algorithms work. And there's a visual here. If you take away one thing, it's basically looking at one promotion triggered our target, triggers our downward spiral that affects the entire market. And so I think one of the key metrics that's emerging is just really tracking your average selling price across channel. I like to call average selling price to Canary in the coal mine. So if you see your average selling price going down, that is a great signal of something that's either from your promotional strategies and working or your distribution strategy. And we have a lot of clients at Profitero who are looking at this metric now almost weekly, along with availability. So it's definitely emerging is one of the top metrics that we're seeing consistently used.

Molly Schonthal:
Another aspect of measurement that was really clear to this group is that ratings and reviews are critical in fueling both online and offline performance and monitoring the tenor. The tenor of these is also critical. Michael. Michael, Mike, I just made you more formal in the moment. We actually had a question come up in the chat that is related. So as you add context to this slide, can you also talk about, or even the panelists, anything you know about the percentage of people that use Amazon for research before buying offline and I would think ratings and reviews come in here as well.

Mike Black:
Yeah, so actually, I don't know. I don't have a stat off my top of my head, but I believe at one point it was something like 80% of people start their journey on Amazon, something like that. Wayne, you might know, but it certainly has become a starting point. And that's why reviews are really, really critical. I mean, the thing about reviews that we've seen, there's usually a double whammy with reviews. One, it builds confidence and conversion, but it also what we see drives traffic because as you get that conversion, you're also boosting your traffic. So what we've seen is a lot of the focus on reviews is on velocity, getting the new products up fast with reviews, and then continuing to build that on a steady month is where we see a lot of the upside.

Molly Schonthal:
Yeah.

Wayne Duan:
Yeah. I would make two points, or three points. One is anyone does have a data source. I think everyone within the DSI community would welcome understanding what that data source is. The second one, at least how we're tracking it is we work with a research firm and they provide panel data for us to understand the digitally influenced impact beyond someone going on Amazon then going into a Walmart or CBS, et cetera, to make the purchase. I think the third point that I would think about is largely when I've heard people ask this question, it's really battling it with your brand managers, for them to acknowledge that more people go to the Amazon, Walmart, Target PDPs, product detail pages than they ever go to the brand website. Right? So that's one of the big pieces is just help disarm. I think your internal discussions you may have, then it's a question of whether it's Walmart connect, Target [inaudible 00:18:08], Amazon media group. How much do I need to spend because I'm not just driving sales within those retailers, but also then the digitally influenced sales offline?

Molly Schonthal:
Got it. Thank you, Wayne. I want to just remind everyone that this is a conversation. So we are actively calling out and conversing on the chat. I know there's a couple hundred and something of you, but we can pretend like there's just 15 of us talking and please, please speak up through the chat and we're here for you. So we will get to your questions. All right. So I'm going to hand it over to you, Mike, Michael, to explain what's hard?

Mike Black:
Just like my mom. All right. So now we're going to get in, I guess we're going to get into the controversial stuff. We talked about what was clear, what was fairly easy, but this is where we're into. We're entering a section where there wasn't always a right answer. It was more nuanced. It required a little bit more understanding of what's there in my category. It really varied by retailer even. And it also is maybe data that is hard to get or hard to keep up with. And so that's where we're really going to turn to Wayne and Dean for their inside expertise on some of these things and hear from them some ways to navigate some of these challenging metrics. So Molly, if you'll go to the first topic, what's hard? Very first thing we hear is really, really hard is digital investment levels, right? So providing a perspective to the business about how much we should be investing in digital versus brick and mortar.

Mike Black:
Sometimes that gets into conversations about attribution, which gets sticky real fast. And so the real question is like, how do we focus? How do we know we're investing most? What metrics should we use? And so we have some metrics here suggested in terms of percentage, a budget investment you should be looking at what's your percentage before online and in store. But really I'd like to turn this over. I'm going to turn this whole question over to both Wayne and Dean, because I'd love to know your advice to this group, having navigated these conversations. Is there a rule of thumb that you are using to calibrate and make sure you have the right digital investment versus brick and mortar and how are you having those conversations? So Wayne, maybe you could start us off.

Wayne Duan:
Sure. Happy to. I think getting your finance folks, who control the strings on board, I think the undisputed base case, right? So it doesn't build off of is that your E-commerce digital investment should be proportional to the E-commerce sales that you have. And whatever ratio that you are using as an organization. So how much the Walmart team gets or the Kroger team gets in their investment shopper funds or trade funds should be how much do you invest in E-commerce just as a baseline base case. I know some of you may be eye rolling, say, "Duh," but a lot of finance folks may not get that because they throw it into marketing and other pieces. From there, you should think about any type of fixed cost leverage that you can get, digital shelf insights, all those pieces that you will be building off of.

Wayne Duan:
And then you can start to get into the fancier pieces of, well, you know what? We actually need to invest more because of the digitally influence sales impact per the question earlier about Amazon. And that's where we've been able to lean into because we see the value, not only in online sales and offline sales, but then also the recognition that the online consumer tends to be stickier. And therefore the consumer lifetime value is much harder. Think about when you go into a store, it's essentially a jump ball every time. You may say, "Hey, I love a particular brand, but it's a jump ball."

Wayne Duan:
But online and I've used this analogy and feel free to use this analogy with your internal stakeholders, online is basically equivalent to walking into a grocery store and a sales associate wheeling over a shopping cart of what you bought last time and basically saying, "Hey maybe swap this brand, the peanut butter, swap this brand of milk," but a very large portion of that basket or shopping cart is what you bought last time. So therefore the consumer lifetime values a lot greater. And then you can just build your business case to your organization for incremental funds. So that's just my first volley and happy to get Dean's point of view and Mike's point of view.

Mike Black:
Yeah. Dean, love to hear your point of view on this one.

Dean McElwee:
Yeah. So I'll jump in next. I think Wayne's got it right. To really start with the basics, because I think you're also going to battle for data sources here. So one of the key things and what makes this so extraordinarily hard is understanding how much is actually going through an e-com. It's very easy in an Amazon environment you're selling directly to them or you're selling through 3PL, you can work out that and you can work out that as a percentage of your business pretty easy. Gets a lot harder in omnichannel. If you're selling into Walmart DC or a Tesco distribution center, you're going to need to get sales from them to then back out into your business and illustrate to them how much you're actually selling online. And then the little tricks that you can get on past that, which is go and work out to Wayne's point, how much is digitally influenced.

Dean McElwee:
So companies that have loyalty programs and can track both the in-store sales, as well as the online sales are great sources of data. So anybody who's got a loyalty program really has the ability to do that. And you can see that. It's a lot more nuanced though. And I think steer clear of trying to attribute this to too many areas. Okay, you're trying to attract consumers for your business, whether they shop online or offline, and you're trying to work out the best way to do that. And that should really be the focus because attribution can trip you up quite easily in this discussion, because everybody will try and attribute that data in various ways across the business.

Mike Black:
Yeah. That was a-

Molly Schonthal:
Those [inaudible 00:24:26]. Sorry to interrupt there. But we've got a question from the audience, which is there a research or fact to share out, to support that visits to PDP are higher than brand site to help level set investment across channels?

Wayne Duan:
So I'll answer it because I think I'm the one that made that statement. The easiest way is to reach out to those retailers, ask for the PDP views and then ask your agency or brain managers managing the website and get their numbers of views to the website and then just compare the numbers. And you'll find more often than not that the Amazon and Walmart, Target PDP have a lot more views than your brand website. And if your brand website even does have higher numbers, then you can parse that. Well, how much did you spend in driving that traffic there? And what is the likelihood that they're going to be converting? Brand websites tend to be temples for brands, which is great. Right? You want to tell the story, you want to talk about the romance, but you don't talk about engagement. You don't take view to the bank, you take sales and that point of conversion typically, unless you have a DTC operation, typically happens on the product details page on the retailers' website or ultimately in store.

Molly Schonthal:
Got it. There's another question similar but different. How are you all navigating retailers, monetizing sales data to gain actual insights? And I wonder if this one is the fact that retailers are benefiting off of your sales data or are you able to take advantage of what they know?

Wayne Duan:
Yeah.

Dean McElwee:
It's an interesting one. I think retailers will always try to monetize everything they have. So let's be clear. Retailers will try and monetize the sales data. I think what you've got to do is define for what purpose you need it. And therefore, when are you going to get it and use it? So I would be looking at it as part of your commercial trading arrangements. I would also make sure that your investment in them to drive activities is conditional and understanding the effect of those activities, which can only really come from sales data. So I'd make a lot of your investment, either advertising investment or commercial investment, conditional on getting data to understand the effect of what I'm doing.

Molly Schonthal:
Mike, can I-

Wayne Duan:
I think the-

Molly Schonthal:
Sorry guys.

Wayne Duan:
I'll just say very quickly and we'll kick it over to Mike. I think the other perspective is also triaging. Not all retailer data is created equal and then being very prescriptive to say, "Hey, you know what, getting the Walmart or getting the Amazon data, Instacart data is a lot more valuable than some of the tier two or tier three retailers." So I think there's also a triaging element. And then it's just I'm sure many of your accounts also pressure you to invest in their charity golf tournament, right? You guys all do that type of ROI calculation all the time. This is very similar with the actual data, which may answer a lot of business questions that you may have. It's not just helping the retailer to get product sold.

Molly Schonthal:
Right. Mike, so my takeaway is our next webinar is just going to be on this one slide.

Mike Black:
Yeah. I think that's a deep one. I think we could go ... Yeah. I'm glad I think that the advisor's been great. And before we move on, I'll just say to echo Wayne's point. I think the all data's not equal in the sense that some of the questions about attribution. I think we're going to see more retailers being the success of monetization. I think for retailers will be proportional somewhat to what kind of attribution they can help, being able to show you full attribution across online and offline as well as to points made earlier, the ability to use loyalty data as an input to targeting. I think those are things that you have on your checklist and [inaudible 00:28:35] it's like you wait accordingly who can come to the table with those added insights will probably get a disproportionate amount of your focus. So great meaty, meaty slide.

Mike Black:
All right. Next slide. Because we could have a whole webinar on that is search. And so for search, what we mean here of course is the question is, are we showing up the top choice for our brand as well as the category? So when people type in a keyword, our keyword or category, are we showing up on search on page one, we've done a lot of research at Profitero to show that getting from page two to page one can increase your sales by 50% getting to the top 10 spot, but it can be a difficult one for a couple reasons. One is how do you actually think about your keyword strategy? I think oftentimes your search is only as good as your strategy around the keywords that you need to go after because the keyword is the unit that is really representing the consumer intent.

Mike Black:
And then also there's a question about, well, if I have a big portfolio, how do I spread the love? How do I make sure that I'm looking at this from a portfolio perspective? So there are a couple points here, but universally the metric before you go into the debate, the metric is looking at a percent of page one share. So what percentage of the available spots on page one do we own as well as looking at top five spots. Generally, that was agreed upon. But to go into the challenge approach, I want to start with this idea and Wayne, I'll start with you again on this one is how much emphasis as you start to think about your search strategy needs to be put on keywords and how foundational is that as a starting point to building a good search strategy?

Wayne Duan:
I think it's really foundational, but even the step before that search is not a panacea or a silver bullet for brand recognition, right? So you can be really good at winning in generic keywords, but let's also acknowledge that life is a lot easier when the consumer just types in your brand. If they type in [inaudible 00:30:47], Corona, Kim Crawford in our case from portfolio standpoint. So that's I think a piece that we also can't forget about and that's why we should occur our brand managers to be building top of mind awareness and brand recognition.

Wayne Duan:
After that, it then becomes an exercise of working with the various organizations out there to prioritize the keywords that matter. I think it's fun to look at the long tail and, "Hey, what happens with consumers searching about a term related to the World Cup as World Cup comes up," like search has a very, very long tail. So focus on the most important keyword that line up to the jump ball that most consumers are going to be looking for in your category. It may be yogurt, Greek yogurt. It may be sports in sports water, it may be whatever it may be and then prioritize your key skews because not all of your skews can win, the key skews that you want to make sure you're aligning that up to get that metric of percentage of share of page one or the top five spots.

Mike Black:
Yeah. So Dean, we'll ask a follow up question on this one because the other question we get asked a lot is what should be our fair share? What should our benchmark be? I think there's an argument on my side that the benchmark should be where you are now and increasing that because maybe there is no benchmark, but is there such a thing as a fair share of search and how do you think about that in relation to other metrics like market share? Is there any correlation there?

Dean McElwee:
Yeah, we sort of have a, I think, start with the sort of basics, which is what is your market share? What is your market share on the platform and then what do you want to do? So if your aim is to increase market share, you're going to want to aim for a share of search, which is higher than what your market share is. So, that's the first sort of starter. If you're going to want to increase that, you're going to need to go aim to increase that.

Dean McElwee:
And therefore you're going to have to look for the keywords that will help you drive more market share. And this is why search keyword strategy is so important. When touched on about there's a very long tail, but is that going to drive market share? The more refined keyword, some people get down to having three or four words in a sentence as a keyword or set of keywords, and that's going to not drive a terrible amount of market share for you. So you're going to want to look at how can you drive the most amount of market share, the most amounted opportunity as you're doing this?

Wayne Duan:
Yeah, I'll use an example that we have in our category, which is if you want, as a starting point, have your KPI of keyword search could be correlated to your market share, then use those keywords, which are generally categories, tie them to the corresponding Nielsen or IRI taxonomy and then you understand what your market share is. So for instance, in our category, we may have a 10% market share in wine. So for the wine keyword, we probably want to be give or take around 10%, but for Pinot Noir, we may have a market share of 25%. Well, in that case, as a starting point, we want our search, a share of search to be 25%. After that, it's all based off of your investment and strategic importance that your organization's going to be put on that. But it's all about how do you come up with defensible and logical starting points and assumptions, and then work with your cross functional partners and stakeholders to debate the assumptions that are being made.

Molly Schonthal:
There's a comment here from someone who's asking for recommendations for balancing investment levels against search in situations where the retailer doesn't allow for bidding against keywords. Only against taxonomies is what this person is saying.

Wayne Duan:
Well, I would say and for those who are familiar with the alcohol category in the US, because of tied-house laws that came in prohibition, we actually cannot participate in paid search with alcohol license, holding retailers, basically everyone, but Instacart and Drizly to oversimplify it. And I actually think it's actually very liberating and very pure because allows you to be laser focused on organic search. And this is not to disparate other CPGs, but it's also easy to just throw money at the problem when you have a paid search option. And so by almost handcuffing yourself to focus on organic keywords and organic search, it allows you to have a very solid foundation. So for the individual that asked that question, I would very much focus on building a solid organic keyword, generic keyword search strategy, because your paid search strategy will completely draft off of that. And it's not just that, "Hey, throw money at the problem. And I'm going to be bidding to be at the top of the search results all the time."

Molly Schonthal:
Got it. There's a couple people who are asking for crowdsourced answers around competitive conquesting and product mix. So I'm just going to encourage the rest of you audience members to help your buddies out here in the chat because we'll have to move on soon.

Mike Black:
Yeah. So maybe next slide kind of, as we talk about is organic search, so very related. We broke them out separately because there was that paid element, as Wayne was saying, the organic is the starting point. In fact, we've seen not surprisingly that getting to page one organically yields close to four times as much as paid because well it's relevant. Right? One of the tricky things about organic that we were sort of talking about here is it's hard to understand what influences actually organic search. A lot of times by retailer, things that we've seen is it can vary across the table where keyword search, keywords can make a difference in some retailers and Walmart, particularly we've seen reviews really drive a lot of search. So figuring out what you can actually do. And I'm actually seeing a lot of clients that we work with create maps of capabilities and understanding what aspects can be influenced.

Mike Black:
And so I'd actually one of the questions I have on this too, is how do you know that your organic search strategies are working? If you're making that investment and you're trying to convince the organization that this is worth investing in Wayne and Dean, what's the secret to actually being able to prove that out and show that this is worth the effort, because it can take some effort to get some of this content updated, especially on some other sites that aren't as nimble. So kind of question for you is like how do you prove to the organization this is working and it's worth continuing to double down on?

Dean McElwee:
Yeah. So I'll kick off here. I think it is very hard and I think in some cases there are organizations like yourselves, Mike, Profitero has done a lot of reverse engineering of algorithms to try and understand what works. So I think one of the ways here is really to look at AB testing and this is sometimes where your own GTC sites can offer some value and then also doing it on your own marketplace sites. So use places like Amazon and measure things like [inaudible 00:38:35] views and conversions and just really test and iterate here. There's no hard and fast rule. It's really about testing iterating for us and trying to make sure that you understand that. Just very important as we've pointed out there that retail as specific factors make a big difference. Some retailers have ratings and reviews, but they're not really high up on the algorithm. Some retailers prioritize volume. So it's just really important to understand those and do AB testing where possible.

Wayne Duan:
I would build off of what Dean said and also remind the group that we sometimes can be in an echo chamber or over romanticize the knife fight and the focusing organic search and realize there's all these other components that go into your product pricing, right? Promos, is your product in stock. So to the question around making the justification on you should be investing. I would really just focus on the business outcomes that your organization wants because I think we all know the brand in your category where they seemingly don't have an E-commerce team, yet that brand has really good E-commerce sales and it made this because they're always in stock, they have really good brand recognition.

Wayne Duan:
And so those are the pieces that I would focus more on from a business outcomes versus saying, "Hey, organic search is something that we need to double down on." Don't get me wrong. It's super important. But there's a lot of other components that go into retailer algorithms and organic search is becoming one where it is a bit of an arms race, but we're all starting to hit that pseudo glass ceiling of what's possible. And then after that, then it becomes brand recognition, price, promo, the quality of the product, et cetera.

Mike Black:
That's great. That's a great point. And I think that gets back to what I would say about reviews even as a driver. Just fundamentally some of the things that just drive search best is having a great product is you're getting a lot of reviews for, and you're putting that focus on. So I think that's a great way to cover off on that topic. Next topic, and I love how this is all blending to search and content. Content by retailer. Now, this is really interesting one because it does touch upon some of the points we raise, which is while some retailers have algorithms, you get influence and certainly keywords vary by retailer. Even the volume of what's being searched on at Amazon versus a Walmart's different. So retailers are all very different, but I think the other question is like, "Wow, do we actually have to have different product copy and different product images? And how do we deal with that?"

Mike Black:
So I've been privy to some research through a company that we've partnered with in the past called Visit, where I've actually been able to see how consumers respond differently to images, if they're a shopper on Walmart and a shopper on Amazon. And the case that I looked at was in the pet category where you had the same image that was resonating completely different. And to me, that was like, "Wow, do we have different shopper ... I mean, if we have to have different content for different retailers, that can be quite complex." Just on this point, Wayne and Dean, how do we not get ahead of ourselves and have multiple variations of these things? And how do we bring some rational thinking to how we think about content that might be unique by retailer?

Wayne Duan:
Yeah. I'll take the first go at this. I think it goes back to understanding what retailers matter to you as a brand. Not all retailers are created equal and certainly the ones that allow you to also make changes. You may have the aspiration to make a change with specific retailer, but it takes six months to get that change through. So that's kind of part of the calculus. What are the retailers that matter to you that where you think the view will be worth the climb to make that alteration?

Wayne Duan:
The second one is then also understanding what are the retailers PDP or content requirements because you may want to customize it in a certain way, but the retailer doesn't accept video or doesn't accept more than two images. You're kind of stuck at that point. So I would just start off with those two considerations. But one thing I would just also remind the group, these nuances between retailers, that starts to get to the small 10, 15% changes, the easiest approach is just have good solid content. That's going to work 80, 85% of the time. Make sure you're working with your partners, whether it's technology or individuals that syndicated out to the different retailers and then triage accordingly, what are the retailers that are most important where the extra 10 or 15% could make an impactful outcome from a business outcome standpoint?

Dean McElwee:
Yeah, just leaping off that. From what Wayne highlighted there is exactly like all retailers, not considered equal, not all your skews are equal. So I've seen a lot of teams saying, "Yeah, I need to improve the content on all 5,000 skews that I have." Well, a 10% lift in a skew, which is thousand dollars a year, thousand dollars a month is not really going to matter to your overall sales. And yeah, when highlighted earlier, you don't take views to the bank, you take sales to the bank, so focused on those top skews that improving that content drives more conversion and drives more sales.

Mike Black:
Yeah. So I know that we're running low on time, but there is a good interesting question just posted by Angela saying that retailers are telling them that it helps to drive SEO value when customizing content and copy by retailer. So encouraging them to do that uniquely for the site. And it sounds like they're encouraging them to provide some keyword volume analysis. So, the question is, should we be prioritizing this, I think?

Mike Black:
So I think what's interesting about that is if you have a retailer that's basically able to say, "These are the top search terms for our site," and they're saying, "This is going to help your search," feels like a fairly low risk to try that out with a couple products and actually have them come back with the data and say, "By the way, here's what happened." I think if you have a retailer who's willing to partner with you on that, it may not hurt to try that. But I think the logic is certainly anytime you can get retailer specific, volumes, keyword data, that's like gold. And if you ever retail partner with that sounds like a good partnership to me.

Wayne Duan:
And I think the other way to just navigate that, Angela, if you posed the question, I think it's a good question, but if a retailer is in the year 2022, a large retailer is asking for your help with their SEO, you kind of have to call their bluff. Because there's so many other considerations in what's driving how a retailer is going to appear in Google and Bing search results. It's not because, "Hey, for my specific skew, I gave you enhanced content."

Wayne Duan:
I think we all agree academically that yes, unique content for a retail would be the ideal state, but then you also have your limited resources and considerations is this worth it for this retail. It may be because if you have broader plans to break in with that retail, you have some NPDS coming that you really want to be in their good graces. But I think when retailers generically ask for retailer specific content to help with their SEO, it's wishful thinking. I come from a retailer background, right? It's more wishful thinking than something that you actually need to do because you, in the end, have all these other things that you need to focus on.

Mike Black:
So with that, yeah, Molly, turn it back to you.

Molly Schonthal:
Yeah, I was going to say, so if that's clear, our next section is about sort of what gets harder or what's next. We categorize these questions and metrics in the what's next category, because they form one of, sort of four things or represent one of four things. The first is the value that they're driving is emerging an importance to our member brands. This is something they'll address once they've already covered the basics. The technology to measure these things, shocker, is imperfect, not fully integrated, needs to be improved. The methodology may be unclear. And I think our past 45 minutes of conversation can help explain why that can be true. And then another big shocker, right? The data sets are imperfect. So getting a hold of the kind of data that would allow you to have this insight or answer this question or have this perspective may not exist completely or may not exist in parody.

Molly Schonthal:
So in a way that you can compare it across retailers or brands or skews. So let's dig in. I know this is like the ugliest slide you've ever seen, but when it gets sent to you'll be glad you have all the words. Not all channels are created equal. It is really hard to tell if you had a dollar to spend where to invest it in the exact nature of the halo effect of investing in one channel, say like Amazon and seeing the growth realized in another channel or another couple channels like Walmart or Target. We also need to now consider the whole of the retailer relationship merging your departments of offline customer management, online E-commerce, shopper marketing, trade marketing, even if the retailer themselves is not organizing themselves that way and that gets really, really tricky.

Molly Schonthal:
Another thing that we see in this what's next bucket is very similar to discussion. We just had while category search seems very simple at face value or wanting to have prominence in category searched, understanding consumer behavior at a more granular level, especially in the context of a retailer black box is very difficult. We've seen a lot of members working around this by creating journeys that begin before the retailer. If you're working with like a Micmac or another way to start your journey like a DTC or direct to consumer site, that's a pass that fulfills at the retailer to be able to understand how people are searching your brand and your category at a way that you might be able to influence it by channel or by site. And also as this panel points out, if you have multiple brands in the same category, you kind of have to determine how to allocate your investment without risking cannibalization.

Molly Schonthal:
The next thing that gets even harder for us is image optimization. I have heard so many community members, executive forum members and customers of Salsify say it would be great if we could find a way to optimize our image by segment by retailer. It makes a lot of sense, right? The marketing tech stack is already there. The fact that you can run behavior and segment based imagery in your marketing and digital marketing strategies, but still are stuck with this relative blindness around what shows up on your product page or on the retailer site is a big deal. And I know Mike, you've got thinking on this too.

Mike Black:
Yeah, no. Yeah. I think, well, I mean, I think there's always the storytelling that needs to come through and there you need to know, obviously, you know your brand and I think you know your category and there's that element always of the art of content. But if you go to the next slide, there are emerging technologies that I think are interesting. Two things I'm looking for is like more AV testing options built into retailer platforms. That would be amazing to be able to actually do that with and see traffic and conversion data. But other technologies are coming out are AI technologies is a company called Visit, which I talked about earlier doing some cool stuff whereby they are training algorithms to replicate the vision of a consumer in a given category, or even in a given audience, such as a Walmart shopper versus Amazon.

Mike Black:
And one of the cool things that I've had the chance to be part of are sort of pilot studies whereby they take a brand in this case, which was a study with master lock and they sweep through their brand library and they identify images that will perform better than what's actually on the PDP. And it sometimes the nuances could be very unique, could be an angle shot, that makes the difference. But the cool thing is it removes the guesswork and removes the science because I think what we see often is the retailer has a point of view on what's going to work best.

Mike Black:
And then the brands have a point of view, but where's the view of the consumer. And I think we're seeing more and more science and technology coming out. So keep your eyes out for that and the best thing again, and it always gets back to the point of having the measurement data to show that this actually works and then you can scale it. But again, more coming out every day around these technologies I think will help scale this quite easily for brands.

Wayne Duan:
And Mike, if I can just make an add as well, let's make sure with this audience and this membership within DSI, we're not constraining our thinking to just digital shelf and as your organization gets more comfortable with the impact that you have, when your brands are going through a packaging refresh or potentially rebranding and renovating their brands, it's a tremendous opportunity to get upstream with them to say, "Hey, as you think about how this appears on the physical shelf and they do a lot of studies on that, think about how this product may appear on the digital shelf." White packaging generally doesn't look good on a white background website, or if you are going to have a brand name that has a number like 27 or 29, thinking about the ramifications of how consumers will search about that. It is very much building off of what Mike just said in terms of image optimization, but it's also the what's next of how do you insert yourself into kind of upstream conversations to impact your organization's product pipeline?

Mike Black:
Fantastic.

Molly Schonthal:
All right. So flying through here, those of you who know me, know that I spent about nine years at Mars, the gum and candy company. Although those of you that know me probably are wondering whether or not it is the planet. And we have had, I have been party to on and off conversations about loyalty as a metric, right? If you're sitting inside a brand manufacturer, you're rolling your eyes with me about this one, loyalty has come in and out of popularity as a brand metric. However, as we've spoken about in E-commerce, we know it is an actual mechanic that drives sales, repeat rate and profitability. Once you're in a basket, there is a better chance of you becoming a habitual purchase and there's a better chance of those baskets getting fuller.

Molly Schonthal:
All right, so moving right along. Something that's come up, which I'm really interested in is this concept of retailer share of voice. It's very similar to our conversation on channel profitability in that we're looking at measuring the overall investment and impact by retailer versus function, specific retail territory. So for example, we're removing away from this idea that we've got one team in our company that handles the homepage takeover and another team that handles the paid search terms on the same retailer and another team that handles the brand equity forward banner ads and another team that handles anything that says click through to purchase.

Molly Schonthal:
We are seeing with this sort of medium size companies, the challenger brands that have more agility, they are waiting the total addressable real estate on a retailer or channel and then attacking it as a whole and deciding their threshold of share of voice. We want to show up in 80, 90, a hundred percent of the places that matter to us on this channel versus stoking each sort of aspect separately.

Mike Black:
Yeah. And I'll just point, I know we're running out of time. I put a visual up here on the slide just to show you what that can look like on an Amazon page. And we did a Super Bowl report a couple months ago where we actually looked at what was the share of voice of brands advertising in the Super Bowl. And really there's so many opportunities for your brand to take spots or for a competitor to take spots and more and more it's not just the display page on the top and it's not just sponsor search. It's actually the parts of the PDP are now for sale. So I think what's going to make this interesting is just understanding that there are, to your point, Molly, there are multiple stakeholders and multiple teams, but it all ladders up to findability. Are we findable?

Mike Black:
And then how can we start to decompose these elements to understand what moves the needle? Do we have to buy all these real estate, maybe not, but that's why the next evolution is first of all, let's capture and see, and then start to correlate it to sales metrics, to market share metrics. And I think that's where the true power will be unlocked, where we can start to bring those things together. And that's why I think this is like the next, it's not just capturing what our share is a voice, but actually linking it to outcome metrics and then being able to really form a model and where the investment needs to go.

Molly Schonthal:
So I want to thank everyone for joining and having this conversation with us. I want to thank Wayne Duan. I want to thank Dean McElwee. He's laughing at me now. I want to thank Mike Black from Profitero and all of you for showing up. If you liked this conversation, we have tons more coming up and as part of the Digital Shelf Institute, if you want to be part of that invite only exec group that gets to put these research reports together and weigh in, apply. It is a invite only executive forum that is independent. So it's a ton of fun. And I want to thank you all for joining the conversation.

Mike Black:
Thank you everybody. Thanks for having us.

Peter Crosby:
Thanks again to our guests and particularly Molly and Mike for their authorship of the framework. The link to the framework is in the show notes, or you can swing on over to digitalshelfinstitute.org and click on the resources tab. We've also included a link to the original webinar in the show notes as well. Thanks for being part of our community.