From feedback to sales: Maximizing the impact of online product ratings & reviews
5 ways to use digital shelf analytics to maximize sales when launching new products
The stakes are high when launching a new product, especially in this challenging market. Sophie De Nunzio, our Customer Success Manager, explains how digital shelf insights can help take the guesswork out of the launch process – and what to do if you need to manage a pack change.
Product innovation is central to CPG. According to NielsenIQ, an average of 30,000 new CPG products hit the market each year in the US alone.
Succeeding in such a crowded environment is no small feat. Some experts put the failure rate of new products as high as 95%.
Of course, many factors contribute to a successful product launch, but one key – and sometimes underappreciated – factor is visibility. Products need to be seen to be bought.
Brilliant quality, stunning packaging design, and compelling value will only get you so far. If you want a new CPG product to be added to baskets, shoppers need to be able to find it first. This is especially important online, where there is no natural discovery.
Smart use of digital shelf analytics can make a big difference here. By leveraging the right insights, you can maximize visibility and increase your new product’s chances of success.
1. Start planning early and share information immediately
If you want to optimize your launch, start planning early.
We encourage our CPG clients to share as much information about upcoming launches as possible – and as early as possible. That way, we can support them with the tools and training they need to maximize their product launches and ensure everything is set up for success.
There is so much focus on in-store when launching a new product that it’s easy for CPG teams to lose sight of online at times.
But does everyone on your team really understand the importance of search? Do they know what good-quality content looks like, and how it contributes to launch success? And do they know how to use relevant digital shelf tools to track a new product once it’s launched?
Poor knowledge of ecommerce and digital shelf analytics can seriously hurt the chances of a new product. Luckily, knowledge gaps can be easily plugged ahead of time. By sharing your priorities with us early, we can ensure we run relevant training and workshops to upskill your teams.
We recently worked with a brand who were able to apply the learnings from their ‘winning in search’ workshop to their most recent new product launch. This resulted in their new products being positioned in the top 3 in category search rankings within just two weeks of launch.
As the launch approaches, we look to establish some more granular details to set you up for success. As a rule of thumb, this happens at least six weeks before the go-live date, and questions we ask typically include:
- What are the ‘gold standard’ names and GTINs for your products?
- Do you have lifestyle images and rich media to bring occasions to life?
- What retailers are you launching in, and what are the launch dates?
- Are there specific search terms you want to track against?
- What is your launch plan? Will you be launching no promotion, with sponsored products, or banners?
2. Get your content right first time
It’s crucial to invest time in getting your product content right pre-launch.
That’s because content has a big influence on search rankings, as well as driving shopper engagement and conversion. Plus, poor content – and a poor product name in particular – can be very difficult to unpick once it’s gone live on retailer sites.
We always advise clients to spend some time upfront to establish what their optimal content should be to drive visibility. For example, reviewing new search terms that might be relevant for your new product launch and taking inspiration from competitor products. It’s also important to include key parts of the category search terms (e.g. crisps or milk) in your product name.
Good product descriptions are just as critical. To optimize your launch, they should be relevant, highlight your product as NEW, and spell out its USPs versus the competition.
It’s also important to establish the right tagging and taxonomy to ensure you are visible on the correct shelves.
Using our Fix the Basics tool, you can easily check, from day one, whether the content for your new product is consistent with your source of truth, including best-in-class images and product names. This means you can quickly take action if there are any issues.
3. Leverage ratings and reviews
Ratings and reviews are generally perceived as a tool for understanding how shoppers respond to a product once it’s been launched.
In fact, they are just as helpful during the product development process and can even help you decide which product to launch in the first place.
Using our Learn from Shoppers’ Voice tool, you can see how shoppers use your and your competitors’ products, identify any unmet needs in a given category, and pinpoint potential whitespace opportunities.
You can also use the e.fundamentals platform to test and refine your product proposition.
Our suite of tools allows you to see all the products in a category, along with all their base prices and promotions, allowing you to benchmark your value proposition and price architecture against the competition.
You can even check category naming conventions and pull key USPs from product descriptions to ensure your proposition is spot-on when you launch. Plus, you can see how others in your category handle tagging and taxonomy.
4. Optimize your launch plan
Digital shelf analytics can also provide rich insight to help optimize and build the launch plan itself.
Take our Winning Campaigns tool. It contains rich data on pricing and promotional activity and conventions, giving you important context on the category you’re launching into. Armed with this insight, you will be able to answer questions such as:
- When is the best time to launch a product in this category?
- What are the category norms for pricing and promotions?
- Where will my product be positioned in the current category hierarchy (eg economy, mid, premium)?
- Should I be investing in banners or sponsored products?
- How are my competitors promoting – and is it working?
All this will help build an effective launch plan to maximize your visibility and sales.
5. Check compliance once you’re live
Ultimately, a great plan is only as good as its execution.
That’s why it’s essential to monitor compliance after your new product has been launched. Our platform has a variety of tools to help you track your launches and keep you abreast of competitor activity.
To support a new product launch, many brand owners also decide to invest in sponsored search or promotions. That’s generally a good idea – but, again, you’ll need to monitor compliance to ensure you’re getting exactly what you’ve paid for.
This is where our ‘Winning Campaigns’ tool can help.
It allows you to easily check that the media and promotions you’ve agreed are running on the correct days and in the correct retailers, so you can be confident your new product is getting the support it deserves.
Subsequently, you can use our ‘Easy to Buy’ tool to measure the impact of media and promotional spend on your share of search and also see how you compare in search rankings to the competition.
How to manage a pack change
While new product development remains a core focus across the CPG sector, other priorities have also risen up the agenda.
As the need to maximize profitability has increased, and brands have had to respond to an ever-evolving consumer and regulatory landscape, many packs have come under review.
Managing a pack review can seem daunting, but digital shelf analytics can lend a helping hand.
Indeed, there are lots of parallels between launching a new product and managing a pack change, so many of the principles set out above also apply. In particular, it’s always a good idea to start planning early and prioritize content and search.
But there are also a few additional considerations to take into account.
1. Establish if you’ll need a new barcode
Be aware that anything requiring a barcode change comes with more risk attached.
Essentially, a new barcode means your product will be treated as a completely new SKU. All the rate of sale data, ratings and reviews, and history associated with the old barcode are lost. As retailer search algorithms take these into account when determining search positions, your product could end up plummeting to the bottom of the results.
Digital shelf analytics can help you prevent this, but it’s important to get ahead of the curve. Whether you’ll need a new barcode can depend on individual retailers, so check early so there’s enough time to prepare.
2. Benchmark your outgoing SKUs
As you CPGs for a pack change – especially those involving a new barcode – we recommend they start tracking the outgoing SKUs and monitor their search positions against key search terms.
This is easily done through our Easy to Buy tool, and ensures you have clear benchmarks for when your new product launches.
Should your product drop down the search rankings once a pack change has gone live, you can use those benchmarks to open up powerful conversations with retailers about restoring it to its rightful position. A brand executing a recent pack-change did exactly this and found that 70% of retailers were supportive of the suggestions and took action to retain visibility of the brand and search rankings positions. This had a huge impact on minimizing any lost sales as a result of the change.
3. Monitor availability
When managing a pack change, you’ll want to know exactly when your new packs have gone live and check that the old SKUs have been successfully delisted.
Once again, digital shelf analytics can make a huge difference here.
Our Deliver the Value That Counts tool allows brand owners to easily check availability across retailers, meaning you can verify if products have gone live on the agreed dates.. Using our multi-location availability dashboard, you can even drill down to see availability at individual store level so should problems arise, you can investigate quickly & work with retailer supply chain teams to get them fixed without delay’.
4. Pay close attention to ratings and reviews
As with new launches, monitoring shopper feedback is critical, but the emphasis is slightly different. With a pack change, the main focus is on understanding, in real time, how consumers are responding to the changes you’ve made.
Using our Learn From Shoppers’ Voice tool, your category and marketing managers, as well as technical teams, can easily keep track of reviews and see how your changes have landed with shoppers.
What’s more, they can identify products that are lacking sufficient ratings and reviews and do something about it before your search performance suffers.
The stakes are always high when launching a new product or managing a pack change – especially in this challenging market. But by leveraging digital shelf analytics, CPG brands can take the guesswork out of the process and maximize their chances of success.