How to Simplify Product Discovery for Shoppers

Having more choices is great, but it can become overwhelming and confusing for consumers. These days, most people research and shop across an average of three touchpoints, online and offline, before buying. As a result, the path from product discovery to purchase has become so complex that buying a pair of jeans can be as dizzying as making your way through a maze.

Ineffective product discovery experiences amplify the downsides of endless choice. Suddenly, an inventory with plenty of perfect options overwhelms shoppers or surfaces only irrelevant product recommendations. Brands risk losing customers who encounter friction when simply trying to find and purchase an item.

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Growing eCommerce competition only adds to this complexity, enticing shoppers to drop off within seconds of a frustrating experience. As expectations for customer experience excellence go through the roof, how can brands not only simplify product discovery but also make it exceptional?

In this post, we’ve rounded up the key pillars for creating a stand-out, simplified product discovery experience.

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Narrowing Down Options to Reduce Overwhelm

Multiple surveys of more than 7,000 consumers revealed that “the single biggest driver of stickiness was ‘decision simplicity’—the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options.”

In retail and eCommerce, where there is a sea of choices that can overwhelm shoppers, simplifying product discovery means helping shoppers move confidently toward purchase.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to achieve this is by adjusting your merchandising strategy to promote thematic or seasonal collections — both on your homepage and throughout your site. This way, shoppers can begin browsing within a collection that suits their needs or desires, for example, a “Vacation Edit,” “Winter Collection,” “Gift Guide,” or “Fresh Drops.”

Once they click through, give them the tools to continue customizing the product selection. Provide robust filters that allow them to narrow down options by price, size, occasion, color, and more. Instead of getting lost through your entire inventory, they can quickly find what they’re looking for and enjoy a positive customer experience that will prompt them to return in the future.

Surfacing Suggestions Throughout the Customer Journey

The customer journey isn’t what it used to be — and that’s a good thing. Consumers now discover products across multiple devices and channels, and they are bombarded with purchase inspiration every time they scroll.

To serve today’s omnichannel customer, you must be present and showcase relevant products whenever and wherever they are. Product discovery doesn’t begin and end on the product detail page. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to connect shoppers with items they’ll love — from your website homepage and cart page to social media (YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram), ads, emails, search, and more.

With so many channels for discovery, you must also ensure a consistent and streamlined experience. For example, shoppers should be able to easily find all items (or similar options) promoted on social media with a simple search on-site.

Remember that the journey is never really over — even a post-purchase email is real estate than can be used for product discovery.

Making Product Discovery Intuitive and Seamless

In many ways, digitization forces simplification. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that eCommerce solutions and features are easy to use and understand for the average shopper.

Take for example the search bar, an essential tool that at least 61% of brands get wrong. In the ideal scenario, shoppers get the most accurate and relevant results for every keyword entered. However, when they stray from the rigid and limited terminology used in product tags, they’re usually presented with a “no results” page.

Another missed opportunity is mobile. Despite the fact that upwards of 80% of eCommerce sessions take place on mobile, many shoppers struggle to navigate and find what they’re looking for on smaller screens.

The solution is adapting product discovery according to what feels natural to customers. Brands need to tailor the experience based on the devices they use, the language they type in the search bar, and search tools that help them bridge the keyword gap, including visual search.

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Hyper-Personalizing for a Customer-Centric Approach

As the Harvard Business Review put it, “Many brands lead consumers down confusing purchase paths. The savviest ones simplify and personalize the route.” Personalization is nothing new, but only a few brands get it right — and it’s one of the most powerful product discovery tools available.

From dynamic homepage displays to smart product recommendation carousels, personalizing items down to an individual shopper’s unique taste and preferences is the ultimate form of simplification. It eliminates friction, cuts down the time and effort spent sifting through products, and shows your customers that you understand what they want.

In 2021, the brands that excel at personalizing product offerings will do two things:

  1. They will go beyond statistics and demographic data to make product recommendations that take real-time, individual context into account. For example, they will use data not just to determine the style of dress a shoppers typically purchases, but also to understand if, on any given visit, they’re interested in buying a dress at all.
  2. They will work personalization into every discovery experience, from search results to carousels, and even in-store with smart mirrors.

Giving First-Time Customers a Better Product Discovery Experience

This past year saw an influx of first-time digital shoppers across age groups. By mid-2020, nearly 36% of consumers were buying retail goods online, compared to 29% in April, when most brick-and-mortar stores were closed.

As the shift to eCommerce continues to accelerate, brands can support new shoppers online by adding small tweaks to the product discovery experience. For example, they can send an educational email to shoppers who just signed up — or use on-site tooltips — to explain how shoppers can use website tools like chatbots, personal stylists, camera search, and more, to find their ideal items.

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By prioritizing simplified, personalized, and customer-centric product discovery, brands will not only see conversion increase in the near-term, but they will also enjoy the benefits of long-term loyalty and customer retention.