Product discovery is one of the least understood processes in eCommerce. Many brands and retailers make the assumption that it’s limited to the early phases of the buyer journey when shoppers initially search for products — that once they start to browse through the results, the job is done, and online product discovery no longer influences the rest of the shopping experience.
In reality, successful product discovery is the groundwork of online customer experience, and contrary to popular belief, it happens and should happen throughout the buyer journey.
Digital buying journeys are complex. According to data from Google, 98% of consumers switch devices within a day and they use up to four touchpoints when shopping.
Not only that, but each time a shopper interacts with your website, social presence, app, and brick-and-mortar stores, they are likely to have different contexts and motivations. Add this to shopping habits, which vary from person to person, and suddenly the idea of limiting product discovery to the early stages of the journey feels like a major missed opportunity to introduce your customers to more items they’ll love.
Getting online product discovery right enables you to deliver value at every customer touchpoint. Here’s what that can look like for your customers:
1) Recreating the Joys of In-Store Shopping
By focusing on improving online product discovery, retailers can leverage eCommerce capabilities that align with modern customer expectations. In-store, shopping is often social, leisurely, and a form of entertainment. From the moment shoppers enter a store until they line up at the cashier, they are constantly viewing products, picking them up from racks and shelves, and imagining how they might fit into their existing wardrobe or home.
That joy of exploration and discovery can be replicated online with the right tools and an eCommerce strategy that prioritizes introducing shoppers to new items, from the homepage to the cart page. For example, by showcasing product collections for a particular occasion (“Beach Getaway” or “Office Edit”), you can turn the homepage from a generic entrance point to a tailored journey, the way a shopper might feel approaching the swimwear section in a large department store.
On product listing pages, you can surface recommendations that align with shoppers’ unique preferences, the way a good sales associate would in-store. And on product detail pages, you can include carousels that recommend complementary items as well as similar items if something is out of stock or not quite right. Finally, on the cart page, you can suggest relevant products the way many stores have shelving by the cashiers for small items that are easy and fun to add to your basket.
By creating these online product discovery touchpoints throughout the journey, you make online shopping as entertaining and enjoyable as trip to one’s favorite store — rather than a utilitarian “in and out” task.
2) Increasing Customer Satisfaction
eCommerce is a highly competitive space, where smarter and more personalized shopping experiences have become critical for retailers to rise above the competition. In fact, building better customer-facing digital interfaces has been the top priority of 73.6% of companies during the pandemic.
If shoppers are used to being able to ask a sales associate to point them in the right direction in-store, acing online product discovery should enable the same ease on your website. Sometimes it’s difficult for shoppers to adequately explain what they’re looking for — they might come to a store with a screenshot in hand, hoping the staff will be able to help.
When your online product discovery strategy enables the same ease, for example, by showcasing similar items in recommendation carousels or providing the option to search by image, you ensure that customers locate what they want quickly and seamlessly.
Customers who can count on a brand or retailer to locate the items they’re looking for “go home” happy, and come back for more. In fact, after using on-site tools like those mentioned above to find their ideal items, these shoppers have a 19% higher lifetime value than ordinary customers over a 30-day period.
3) Creating a Memorable Customer Experience
Shopping is now a multilayered experience, wherein the actual product is just one of the many factors that contribute to better customer engagement, revenue, and loyalty. According to digital psychologist Dr. Liraz Margalit,
“People have decided that they know what matters. What matters is not the product itself, but the value and actual experience.”
A robust online product discovery strategy will ensure not just that your shoppers identify your brand as their “go-to” for future purchases, but also that the process they go through in finding their perfect products is memorable.
Since today’s shoppers spend so much time on social media and other apps, you can provide solutions that help them find what they want in a fun, intuitive way that’s familiar to them.
For example, Pinterest offers an image-search-based tool that allows shoppers to click on items within any image and find similar pins. By offering a solution like this on your site, whereby shoppers can click on any product image and be directed to similar items within your inventory, you’re not just shortening the path to purchase — you’re also earning a spot at the top of their mind by providing a convenient, delightful, and even entertaining, shopping journey.
4) Making Shoppers Feel Special Through Personalization
It’s no longer possible to attract, engage, and retain customers without personalized experiences. Consumers today expect a certain degree of personalization, whether consciously or not.
The good news is, personalization is at the core of a strong online product discovery strategy. Innovative brands use advanced technology to tailor product recommendations, search results, and website navigation as a whole to each individual shopper.
These hyper-personalized product discovery experiences can look like the following:
- Search. Prioritizing visual and text search results that most closely resemble items a shopper has interacted with during their session.
- Navigation. Highlighting products and collections that align with shopper context and needs, and ensuring PLPs display the most relevant items first.
- Product Recommendations. Providing carousels that showcase the most relevant items for each shopper based on the visual characteristics of the products they engage with, and setting merchandising rules to ensure that products displayed are likely to fit into their price range.
By personalizing the online product discovery experience in these ways, you show shoppers that you understand their taste, context, and practical needs. Feeling understood by a brand fosters strong customer relationships and sets a foundation for long-term loyalty.
Online Product Discovery Should be at the Heart of Your Customer Experience
Online product discovery matters because it’s a crucial, if not the most important, part of the customer journey, and your site needs to be able to deliver. As you work to improve your eComerce offering, bear in mind that the customer experience that you intend to provide, your sales goals, and the loyalty of your brand community depend on effective and relevant product discovery experiences.