We often think of product discovery as something that happens once at the beginning of the journey. Think about the last time you were looking for something super specific online. Maybe it was the “kitchen island pendant lights” you saw on Pinterest. Happy to finally know what they’re called, you type those keywords into the search bar on your favorite retailer’s site, right on the homepage…
But product discovery is about so much more than just that first search.
The way consumers shop has changed. It’s no longer as simple as going from point A to B. Your customers are likely to visit your site and even your physical store a few times before purchasing, interacting with a variety of touchpoints across several devices and channels.
So, when you think about product discovery as just the initial search, you’re missing out on the opportunity to optimize the entirety of your experience for better discovery.
If you can keep product discovery going throughout the customer journey, it’ll be faster and easier to convert more shoppers, increase basket size, and boost loyalty.
Here’s how it’s done:
6 Ways to Keep Product Discovery Going Throughout the Customer Journey
Before we dive in, remember that if every shopper came to your site with a search in mind, product discovery would begin and end with providing the most relevant, personalized results. But in reality, many shoppers are keener to browse, looking for a good deal or an item that catches their eye. So for every upgrade you make to your search experience, you should also consider what you’re doing to optimize passive product discovery for the casual shopper. This list of best practices will cover both.
1. Start with an engaging homepage
Your homepage should offer a balanced overview of your brand. You’ll want to give shoppers a range of different “entry points” they can use to dive into your products. For example, highlight new arrivals to create excitement and a sense of novelty and promote ongoing sales or limited-edition drops to build urgency.
For shoppers who are casually browsing, educational content can be useful, especially if you sell considered, big-ticket items like jewelry or home decor. Product guides, inspirational galleries, and even virtual try-on tools on the homepage are more intimate gateways for product discovery on your website.
For returning visitors, you can personalize the experience by surfacing items viewed during their last visit or even providing hyper-relevant product recommendations right on the homepage.
2. Map out your offerings with a detailed menu
Customers rely on navigation to find their way around your website. Effective navigation presents your inventory in an organized way, enabling product discovery to be more efficient.
You can surface products right on the navigation menu with category-based product collections. This can be items on sale, new arrivals, best sellers, thematic collections, or even popular styles within a given category.
For brands and retailers who have a wide range of product terminologies, icon-based navigation can help. Users can quickly recognize and choose the right category, without having to search for the meaning of a word they’re unfamiliar with. This can prevent them from abandoning your website in frustration when the products they’re looking for are actually just a few clicks away.
3. Deliver accurate and optimized search results
With the ubiquity of Google, more and more shoppers are primed to use on-site search. But, just like their experiences on Google, they’ll expect your search bar to immediately return extremely relevant results.
They’ll also use search terms that feel natural and may not align with the terminology in your product catalogue. Modern eCommerce site search should be able to deliver accurate results even in these situations, by identifying and understanding intuitive keywords, synonyms, incorrect spellings, and the overall search intent.
To ensure discovery continues even when shoppers can’t think of any keywords at all, you should also provide the option to perform an image search.
Many brands miss the opportunity to optimize search results themselves. You should tweak your merchandising strategy to prioritize product search results that are most relevant to each individual shopper. However, since you’re not likely to have more than a few close matches, providing personalized suggestions in place of less relevant results means that whether or not shoppers find what they were initially looking for, they’ll have the opportunity to continue discovering more items they’ll want to buy.
4. Allow shoppers to narrow down options with detailed filters
If you have thousands of SKUs, chances are your shoppers will feel overwhelmed by the large number of products they have to weed through after selecting an option from your menu or using on-site search.
A robust filtering system and faceted search enable shoppers to zero in on the items that align with their intent, creating a more targeted discovery journey, where they’re in control of what they see. An easy way to ensure your filters are comprehensive is by using the product attributes from your catalogue metadata to create them. This way, shoppers can mix and match filters for price, brand, color, size, etc. until they find the perfect item.
5. Be strategic about product recommendations
One of the most effective tools for promoting continuous product discovery is recommendation engines. They’ve gone from being a fun add-on to a must-have for all eCommerce sites.
What’s great about recommendation engines is that they can be used to promote ongoing discovery in two key ways: by introducing shoppers to additional products they’ll want to buy (complementary items or “you may also like” suggestions) as well as by giving shoppers an intuitive way to continue exploring when an item their viewing isn’t quite right or is out of stock in their size (similar item recommendations).
Savvy brands will use a combination of these carousels throughout their site, including on product listing pages, product detail pages, and even on your cart and checkout pages. The secret to successfully upselling or cross-selling via recommendation engines is providing value to customers. The items recommended need to be relevant, exciting, priced correctly, and these recommendation carousels should make product discovery convenient and accessible throughout the customer journey.
6. Adopt a holistic and comprehensive strategy
Your brand presence and your customers’ shopping journeys are not limited to your website. From Google to social networks, your customers discover products all the time, everywhere, and you need to be where they are.
Ten years ago, Cisco found that consumers “touch” a brand an average of 56 times between inspiration and purchase. Nowadays, with the extensive presence of new touchpoints such as location-based services, images and videos on social, online communities, and more, it’s imperative that each interaction a shopper has with your brand brings with it an opportunity for product discovery.
You can start by syncing social media efforts with what you offer on your site — make it easy for shoppers to find the items you and your influencers post on social as soon as they get to your site. Treat email as a product discovery experience by promoting personalized, relevant product suggestions to your shoppers. Equip your in-store staff with image search tools, so they can help shoppers looking for a specific style.
The Success of Continuous Product Discovery Depends on Hyper-Relevance
For the product discovery process to run like a well-oiled machine, you need a mechanism that understands each of your customer’s aspirations, tastes, context, and interests.
According to Accenture, a whopping 91% of consumers say they gravitate toward brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them. However, most brands group shoppers together and recommend items in a way that’s more like segmentation than true personalization. To truly catch shopper attention throughout the customer journey, you need to remember that shoppers are swimming in a near-endless sea of choices. You can stand out by offering them hyper-personalized recommendations.
When you combine each shopper’s past behavior and present context to make truly relevant suggestions at each of the touchpoints discussed in this article — from search results to your homepage to your navigation to your recommendation carousels — you’ll be able to encourage shoppers to continuously discover and purchase new products that are right for them.