How Can CPGs Expand Their Digital Shelves?

Experts predict that worldwide retail ecommerce sales will grow by 56% over the next few years, reaching approximately $8.1 trillion by 2026. As consumers continue to turn to ecommerce shopping, CPG brands must find ways to win the attention of online shoppers to drive product sales.

That’s why many brands are looking for strategies to elevate the digital shelf — the online touch points where products are displayed. Much like a shelf in a physical store, customers use the digital shelf to browse, find and engage with brands. A digital shelf strategy is essential to reaching the right consumers at the right time to get your brand onto shopping lists and into carts.

But first, you must understand what challenges you may face with ecommerce specifically and the benefits of expanding the digital shelf. Then you can create more touch points, both online and offline, to win in this online environment.

What Challenges do CPG Brands Face with Ecommerce?

When in the store, the shopping experience is a relatively linear process where shoppers walk the aisles, use a list or are quickly in and out for specific items. In doing so, consumers will engage with different brands and products. They may even pick up something new that catches their eyes while browsing.


On the other hand, when consumers are shopping on ecommerce sites, they generally stick with what they know and scroll quickly. According to IGD ShopperVista, 48% of shoppers add products to their baskets using their favorites lists. They don’t want to spend a lot of their time browsing and researching. This makes it difficult for brands to win new product trials and impulse buys online.

Another challenge with ecommerce is that online retailer algorithms often promote some products over others. Top-selling products and brands on Amazon are different from those in stores. This makes it difficult to break in if you are a latecomer to the space.

These barriers pose a challenge to driving conversions, ultimately eroding brand loyalty if you can’t effectively reach your target audience at the right time. It’s imperative to find opportunities and the right tools to break through in the ecommerce space and make it easy for consumers to take a chance on your brand.

What are the Benefits of Expanding the Digital Shelf?

To effectively reach consumers as they are quickly scrolling online, it’s important to expand the digital shelf by increasing the number of touch points through which your products can be purchased and ads can be served. This enables you to reach consumers where they shop and spend their time. By doing so, you can target your ideal shoppers online when they are deciding what to buy. This influences consumer decisions and gets shoppers to try new brands and products. As you collect shopper data, this also ensures that your products are well-positioned, that you’re not surprised by what your competitors are doing and that you stay on top of trends.

Additionally, while brick-and-mortar stores have a limited assortment of products, the digital shelf is virtually unconstrained, so if you cannot get space in physical stores, there’s an opportunity to become a player in the online world instead.

How Can CPGs Create more Touch Points Online?

While having a strong presence on retailer sites is important, you also need to expand your touch points outside of traditional ecommerce platforms. That’s because you won’t be subject to the online retailer algorithms mentioned previously that may put your brand at a disadvantage. Going beyond traditional platforms can help you compete against products that are already top sellers.

Also, consumers are thinking about buying groceries even when they are not in the traditional “shopping mode,” so you need to reach consumers where they spend their time, in a way that engages but doesn’t interrupt their lives. For example, they find inspiration on recipe sites and social media. Furthermore, they constantly think through their grocery needs as they are planning their week.

To reach shoppers where they are and make your messaging more impactful, you need to:

  • Know the consumer and depict products in a way that resonates with the online shopper;
  • Understand what keywords consumers use in searches in order to get insight into consumer behavior and trends; and
  • Implement media tools that reach beyond the online retailer’s site or app to get products added to online carts, increasing purchase intent before a consumer even gets to the site.

Following these steps will ensure that you connect with ideal shoppers, driving purchase decisions wherever they are.

Build a Winning Digital Shelf Strategy

Online shopping has become a permanent shopping habit for most consumers. As a CPG brand, you need to be more strategic about how you expand your digital shelf to become a prominent player in this space. To do this, you must win the attention of online shoppers and offer consumers a unique, branded experience to learn more about your products while also being able to quickly add your product to their shopping lists. You must also pay attention to the insights and analytics that you learn from the behavior of online shoppers.

The digital shelf is a complicated space, but with the right activation tools you can build winning strategies.

Molly McFarland, Co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer of AdAdapted, offers a unique perspective as a woman in the tech startup world. A native of Maine and graduate of Tulane, McFarland began her career as a marketing professional and has since grown into an impressive, innovative and charismatic founder of a fast-growing advertising platform. She brings expertise in the mobile advertising environment, add-to-list solutions and extensive knowledge on how to reach consumers in an ever-changing ad space.

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