Discovery Design

Discovery design is an eCommerce approach that creates engaging customer experiences for all shoppers by making product discovery and search intuitive. It ensures that every part of the customer journey is engaging, personalized, and frictionless so that shoppers are more likely to convert. The goals of discovery design are to capture shoppers’ interests and connect them to products that fit their personal preferences as soon as possible.

This key strategy can be applied to many features on an eCommerce website, from the search bar and filters to the product listings and relevant product recommendations. By creating a fulfilling user experience that goes beyond pleasing aesthetics and intuitive navigation, brands and retailers can stand out from the competition and win long-lasting customers.

Why Is Discovery Design Important?

Discovery design is essential to brands and retailers because it leads to memorable customer experiences by introducing shoppers to personally relevant and compelling products. Every aspect, such as menus, product descriptions, and site search, is built to inspire purchase.

When you can connect customers to relevant items immediately, they are less likely to abandon their cart regardless of the type of shopper that you have — be it goal-oriented, experiential, or low-intent. In turn, brands can boost not only revenue but also customer loyalty. Shoppers gravitate toward brands they feel understand them and tailor the shopping experience according to their unique needs and preferences. Because discovery design enables shoppers to find products and keep discovering relevant ones that matter to them, it fuels repeat purchases and improves brand perception.

A screenshot of recommended items on a product detail page
A Shein product detail page shows recommendations for similar items that other customers also viewed.

How Discovery Design Works

The core idea behind discovery design is to customize the shopping experience of each, individual customer. This means taking into consideration the wide range of contexts, habits, and preferences that all kinds of shopper personas bring when they visit your site and interact with your brand.  

As an overview, there are four key principles that make discovery design work:

  1. Infrastructure – Set up detailed product tags that enable you to surface not only relevant but also the most accurate search results at the right moment.
  2. Pathways – Provide multiple routes to discovery—from website navigation to product recommendations—for every type of shopper, considering different entry points, search intents, browsing behaviors, and more.
  3. Data – Use data to uncover insights, identify trends, tailor inventory, and create shopping experiences that best match what your customers care about.
  4. Personalization – Make every touchpoint count by understanding each shopper’s context and catering to the different ways each individual prefers to shop.

When you implement these principles correctly, you’ll be better able to deliver flexible and impactful product discovery experiences. For a more in-depth discussion on the four principles of discovery design, click here.

Discovery Design Best Practices

Here are some practices brands can do to ensure a robust discovery design:

  • Implement highly effective product tagging – By standardizing your product tags, you will be better positioned to manage your SKUs and show relevant items to every shopper. With a broad lexicon, you can include the most granular product attributes so that every relevant item becomes visible to a searching customer. Visual AI enhances product tagging by lifting the most minute details out of your product images.
  • Target each visitor through personalization – When the content and the products you surface are tailored to each customer, they are more likely to engage, add to cart, and return for more. You can use smart merchandising to personalize the homepage, search results, and product recommendations according to dynamic merchandising rules combined with insights into your shoppers’ intent and context.
  • Enable intelligent text and visual search – Through augmented textual search powered by AI and natural language processing, you can better connect high-intent customers to relevant products. Augmented search ensures that all results are aligned with the search query, even if they do not exactly match the product names in your inventory. On the other hand, using an image to search your catalog allows shoppers to skip typing in the search bar altogether and instantly find products that match their style. 

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