Today, product discovery about more than just getting your items in front of customers. It has to be an experience. From influencer shopping hauls to live multi-sensory exhibitions, product discovery experiences are reshaping retail, helping turn shoppers into loyal customers by making shopping intuitive, inspirational, and delightful.
In this post, we’ll dive into the foundations of the product discovery experience, discover ways to improve it, and look into what’s in store for the future.
The Product Discovery Experience Defined
Simply put, your product discovery experience is the way your customers find and explore your products. However, it’s easier said than done. Product discovery can happen on multiple channels, both online and offline, and at the same time, numerous brands are competing for your customers’ attention and wallet.
A successful product discovery experience means that you not only deeply understand your customers’ problems, needs, and wants, but that you also deliver the solution in a manner that builds trust and, ultimately, loyalty. So, what can you do to achieve that?
5 Ways to Improve Your Product Discovery Experiences
Salesforce and Publicis.Sapient found that “75% of consumers’ search queries are brand new each month, showing just how fast consumers are discovering new product types, brands, and features.”
When you make your product discovery experiences memorable, it sets your brand apart and encourages shoppers to come back for more. Here are some tips to boost your customers’ product discovery experience online.
1. Keep your homepage or storefront updated
Similar to store displays, the visual layout of your homepage must immediately invite your shoppers to explore your website. This is especially true for online window shoppers who don’t necessarily have a particular item in mind.
Consider creating a visually inspiring experience on your homepage by including promotional banners, curated collections of trending styles, and social media content to serve as social proof.
You can also present complete fashion or home décor looks through videos or images, and enable your shoppers to instantly shop them. By doing so, you’re creating an inspirational and engaging experience right from the start—on your homepage.
2. Ensure landing and product pages are relevant
Customers search for products everywhere—from search engines to social media. In fact, Retail Dive found that 87% of shoppers start their product search on digital channels. So, it’s imperative to improve your search engine ranking and discoverability. One way to do that is to have consistent, accurate, and in-season product tags.
Once you’re able to lead them to your website, you have to make sure that the page they land on is relevant to their search. A product discovery experience that converts means a page that shows the exact or visually similar items to what your customers are looking for.
If the specific item they’re looking for is unavailable, use intelligent recommendation engines to suggest related items that you have in stock to keep the discovery journey going and discourage bounce. Think of this as providing your customers with a knowledgeable personal shopper who understands their unique taste and needs — the way you would in-store.
When your landing pages—whether they’re on your blog or simply product pages—are hyper-relevant, you start the product discovery experience off on a positive note. As a result, your shoppers will be encouraged to continue browsing through your website, and you’ll have more opportunities to delight and upsell.
3. Make web navigation clear and intuitive
Like easy-to-follow store layouts, your online shop should have a structure that your customers can effortlessly navigate. Besides the usual menu and categories, providing detailed filters can help your shoppers discover the right products for them.
To make your browsing experience stand out, use icon-based navigation to display images when shoppers search. Instead of using fashion or home decor product descriptions that not everyone is familiar with, you can use images to both create a visually inspiring journey and simplify navigation for shoppers.
To take navigation to the next level, enable shoppers to narrow down their search on individual product pages. For example, using Pinterest-style navigation, a shopper can click on a product photo of a purple turtleneck sweater to see every visually similar item in your inventory, ensuring they get the exact cut and shade they’re looking for. They can also continue the journey by selecting other items in the photo, enabling them to find the belt the sweater is styled with, or even the whole outfit, in seconds.
This flow creates an uninterrupted product discovery experience: Customers don’t have to search several times or select a new filter every time they see a product detail that they love.
4. Optimize your search bar and results
Baymard Institute conducted a usability study that revealed “surprisingly dismal support for essential eCommerce search query types.” Here are some of the results:
- 22% of websites don’t support search queries for a color variation (even when the product searched for is available in multiple colors)
- 60% don’t support thematic search queries such as “spring jacket” or “office chair”
- 84% don’t handle queries with subjective qualifiers such as “cheap” or “high-quality”
When the results are not relevant to your customers’ keyword search, it halts not only product discovery, but the entire shopping journey. With so many brands and retailers to choose from, shoppers will often leave your website immediately after a bad experience.
To prevent this from happening, you can improve text search by choosing a solution that offers natural language processing to understand the context within each query and offer more accurate results. You should also add a visual search option — using only a screenshot or a photo, it immediately shows visually similar shoppable products to your customers. Visual search overcomes the limitations of keyword search and makes the product discovery experience more convenient for your customers.
As Mike Lowndes, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, said, investing in upgrading search “is low-hanging fruit when considering value-for-money innovation with a potentially high impact on conversion.”
5. Prepare for the next visit
Shoppers, and especially Gen Z, expect a lot from brands. When it comes to product discovery, Sonar found that 70% of US millennials, and 62% of millennials in the UK, appreciate brands that showcase more interesting products.
This means that customizing product discovery experiences down to the individual level is critical. Based on your customers’ shopping patterns and browsing history, you can craft newsletters, promotions, and even online events that resonate best with them.
When they visit your website again, the content on the homepage should automatically reflect their past shopping behavior. You can either show related products to the ones they’ve viewed or purchased last, or you can promote shoppable visual collections or interactive content that match their personality and style.
To pull this off, you need the right tech infrastructure. You should be able to collect and analyze behavioral data as well as product data that enables you to automatically find visually similar items to what shoppers have browsed or purchased in the past.
The Future of Product Discovery Experiences
eCommerce is a fast-moving industry, and with the ongoing pandemic, it’s transforming rapidly. As a critical part of the shopping journey, the product discovery experience will continue to evolve as technology advances and customer expectations change.
As personalization, smart search, and visual discovery become table stakes, we’re already seeing the next frontier of online shopping as brands and retailers turn to virtual and augmented reality to further help customers get an “in-store” experience online.
As you innovate your product discovery journey, remember that it is shoppers’ first touchpoint with your brand. As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so make sure you’re investing in a product discovery experience they’ll remember and come back for. When you get it right, a memorable product discovery experience increases basket size, reduces bounce rate, and nurtures meaningful relationships with your customers.