Product Discovery: Giving online shoppers what they want

Any eCommerce site can do with more conversions. There is never an end to the need to increase product discovery and optimize conversions and sales on any eCommerce site. 

The methods are many – you can invest in more ads, improve the UX of your store, re-platform, etc. 

But, wait. Instead of getting more traffic on your website, you convert more of the traffic – by providing shoppers with precisely what they are looking for?

That should guarantee more conversions! 

Effective product discovery aims to do this precisely. 

Consider a story. Let’s start with you. 

How do YOU shop online from eCommerce?

You have your father’s birthday coming up. You log in to your favorite eCommerce website and start typing out – wait, what should you gift your father? You think of things they like – he already has everything! 

Next, you Google – “father’s day gift ideas.” Open some listicles – they are all stale and generic!

Next, you go to your favorite eCommerce store and type out – ‘a gift for my father’s birthday.’

Some ideas come up; you choose the one you like and hit order. 

Did you notice, while shopping, and like most of your online shopping experience, you had ideas – not specific products – in mind? 

That’s how typical shopping journeys are for shoppers. At physical stores, you ask the sales representative to help you out. Online, the website tries to understand your needs by breaking your search queries into searchable keywords. 

There are just so many options now as more and more shoppers go online to make purchases. Like all consumers, these shoppers are also looking for principally the same thing – convenience. But, with so many options, shoppers are often confused and list while making a purchase decision. If they cannot quickly find the product, they wanted (even if shoppers are not sure of what product they will purchase at this point), the endless options on your site overwhelm the shopper, leading to bouncing to your competitor. It leads to decremental revenue drops and a poor brand reputation. 

What do you do now? You can’t have shoppers dropping off your site when you know you stock the exact product they are looking for, and the problem is simply the lack of easy discoverability of the product to end shoppers. 

That’s where effective product discovery steps in. 

A good product discovery solution understands your shoppers’ needs, accurately grasps customer requirements, and displays relevant products for them to purchase. 

Very put, product discovery strategies and solutions act as lubricants across the shopping journey, reducing friction and drop-offs – ultimately enabling faster conversions and even repeat purchases. Personalization can drive higher conversion and also foster customer loyalty simultaneously.

What is Product Discovery?

Product discovery is a process of understanding your customers and their purchase intent to present products that sync with their needs. It’s a crucial stage in the eCommerce site design process because it helps understand customers’ exact needs and offers the products they need.

Shoppers on your eCommerce website have varying intentions to buy a product. It translates into if shoppers are focused on the exact product they plan to buy (high intent), are just browsing around, are unsure of what they want to purchase(low to medium intent). 

Think about it. Logically, a person with low to medium intent must be surfaced by the eCommerce store with generic and wide-ranging catalogs to help them make an informed direction of thought. A person with high intent to purchase a particular product type needs to be shown close variations of the product they are particularly interested in. 

Whatever the case may be, uniqueness is the key to each customer’s experience with your product discovery journey. The behavior of a shopper online is often touted as the key to uncovering the shopper’s intent. 

Effective product discovery aims to always display the most relevant products for each shopper at the right moment so the customer experience is enhanced and conversion rates are higher. Product discovery aims to provide new and more innovative ways for customers to explore and purchase your products on your eCommerce store.

The low intent phase – searching for inspiration 

There are so many mediums – social media, offline retail, marketplaces, search engines, review blogs, etc. that play a pivotal role in defining a consumer’s journey.

Let’s look at 4 typical products – Laptop, TV, Mobile Contract and Clothes.

While purchasing each of these four products, how is the purchase decision journey spread over online and offline mediums?

Product Purchase Touch points

For every four products, to see that shoppers have up to 4 touchpoints with a brand (on average) before purchasing, along with multiple information and opinion sources.

Average touch points Used

Today, social media, fashion and decor magazines, brand websites, blogs, friends, TV, celebrities, and influencers – and so many more factors contribute to a product discovered by a shopper and ultimately purchased. 

One cannot refute the long-established power of social media as a potent source of inspiration for shoppers – especially for fashion.

Shoppers Find Products through
How do shoppers find out about the latest high-end fashion or luxury item trends?

In recent years Instagram has solidified its place at the top of the table for driving inspiration-driven purchases.

Instagram Product Discovery

It’s clear why brands like Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo, Asos, etc., are succeeding in focusing on digital-first and relying heavily on influencer marketing on social media.

The High Intent Phase – Going For the Kill 

With the advertorial overload on consumers, they encounter scores of new products every day. 

Consumers need to be seen in the low intent phase when they are in the search phase with typically low intent. 

What’s more important is that the customer moves to high intent. Your brand is around to recommend the right product at the right moment to the right customer. It is the most effective way to attract and convert high-intent shoppers.

And, there is no denying that this optimized product discovery and purchase journey positively impacts your overall customer experience. 

Product discovery is a crucial pillar and is indispensable – but often done wrong by brands. 

The eCommerce Discovery Problem

Now that they’re done with the inspiration phase, the consumer arrives at the next stage – how to find the product they have chosen in the discovery phase. Often consumers know what product they want, but they do not know the key identifiers – brand, style, season, and other product details. This point shop is where shoppers start searching on Google or their favorite eCommerce website.

Google found that at least 63% of shoppers begin their purchase journey online in some manner, with social media and search playing a focal role in the journey.

Social Media Preference to Buy product

According to Salesforce and Publicis Sapient, “75% of consumers’ search queries are brand new each month, showing just how fast consumers are discovering new product types, brands, and features.”

And this gets us to one of the most critical aspects of product discovery – e-commerce search. Search also allows brands to understand what shoppers are looking for on the website – giving them vital information to connect shoppers with their ideal product.

At least, that’s true in theory. 

But, most eCommerce search is centrally flawed – with the majority of the vendors doing a bare minimum of simple text and phrase matching to throw up product results. Such a scenario makes for a search experience that is non-intuitive and irrelevant – ultimately playing a detrimental role in the purchase decision. In a study commissioned by Baymard Institute, findings on eCommerce search and results show that “surprisingly dismal support for essential eCommerce search query types.” 

  • 70% require users to search with the same product jargon the site uses
  • 22% of websites don’t support search queries for a color variation 
  • 60% don’t support thematic search queries, such as “winter inners” or “pool chair.”
  • 84% don’t handle inquiries with subjective qualifiers such as “expensive” or “best-quality.”

As many deterrents – as many losses in conversion. 

Flawed search backend and logic cause irrelevancy in search results – ensuring that your eCommerce makes the worst first impression. A user will probably search twice, find irrelevant results, and quickly bounce to your competitor’s site on the next tab on their browser. The shopping journey is derailed before it’s even had a chance to begin.

Those who probably do not use search and are more interested in browsing and discovering – will be left to hit keep next to view an endless list of product listing pages. 

Such poor experiences ensure, without pardon, the doom of your eCommerce business.

What does poor product discovery mean for your eCommerce?

Suppose your eCommerce cannot achieve giving the product that the shopper is asking for. In that case, it adversely impacts your brand’s reputation, customer experience, and, ultimately, conversions. 

Having a poor search experience is akin to leaving money on the table – you had the shopper in your store, asked you for what they want, had that in stock, but you could not display the product to the shopper! A poor search experience helps your competition gain up to 12% of users. 

Such a loss. 

A single negative experience is all it takes for the kiss of death on your impression of a potential customer. One in three customers will abandon a brand they adore after only one negative experience, and 92% will stop interacting with a brand entirely after two to three negative interactions.

What does this mean for product discovery? 

A lousy search experience ensures that shoppers are ultimately just trying (in futile) to search for products on your website, and you, even though you do stock the product – are unable to display it to the shopper. You can imagine the negative impact that ultimately has on your conversions and revenue. 

A considerable chunk of shoppers who don’t have the patience to do multiple searches will just up and leave your site – often permanently.

The Benefits of Better Product Discovery

There is no doubt about it – a superb customer experience is what will enable your brand to weather the market and bloom.

How Business Partner Respond?

eCommerce product discovery experiences are no exception to this, having a booming impact on promoting brand loyalty.

  • Ensuring that your customers’ demands are met for providing a seamless journey to discovery and purchase increases your revenue. It increases CLTV and AOV due to a gratifying and intuitive customer experience. 
  • Personalized product discovery fosters brand loyalty and affinity as it ensures that shoppers feel understood and paid attention to by the eCommerce brand.
  • Surfacing products that are compatible with your customers’ unique desires and interests generate spontaneously and on-the-fly purchase, boosting AOV. 
  • An in-depth analysis of what your customers are searching for also enables you to predict trends, manage inventory, and ultimately make more intelligent and revenue-driven business decisions. 

How can you get started with effective product discovery?

Product Discovery implementation and optimization is a vast and messy subject with many stakeholders playing a pivotal role – right from your tools, technology, data analytics, business goals, etc. But cutting through the mass of information, there are some quick initiatives that you can deploy to push your business on the path to developing effective product discovery. 

  • Shoppers who land on the homepage of your website do not want to view particular products. The first impression is vital, and your homepage should be able to engage the user. It needs to be constantly updated to create stickiness from the shopper, attracting them to browse deeper.
  • Ensure freshness on your web pages. Collection of popular and trending products, fresh arrivals, inspirational lookbooks, and informative and engaging content are instrumental in helping guide shoppers further along the purchase journey. Keep it fresh by showcasing collections of trending and popular products, new arrivals, inspiration galleries, and educational or social content that subtly promotes your items.


  • Make your site easy to navigate and well loaded with filters. The aim is to make it so easy that your 70-year-old grandmother can quickly arrive on your site, peruse your menu to view detailed categories and sub-categories; choose the relevant products, and complete the purchase.


  • Be near to your customers – Are your customers more active on your Instagram? Create a bustling Instagram shop. Are your users browsing more through mobile? Optimize your website for mobile and think of launching an app. It’s a no-brainer. It would help if you stayed relevant, where your customers are. 

How about tools and technologies?

At the scale at which eCommerce works now, technology forms the backbone of any effective product discovery strategy. Tools and technology combined with human decision-making on a trial and error basis are what will enable you always to be experimenting – incrementally optimizing your product discovery and smoothing the path to purchase for your shoppers. 

Relevant and intelligent search 

Traditional (and most prevalent) search is overly reliant on product tags and simple phrase matching from search terms. It leads to limited and poor results, with no mark of intuitiveness. Your search needs to be competent enough to understand synonyms, colloquial jargon, and often typos. Stemming, autocomplete, and tokenization needs to be an integral part of your search.  Having the ability to semantic search relevance is a huge plus point. 

AI and ML technologies for personalized product discovery at scale

Research from Sonar reveals that consumers are interested in how retail will use AI: 70% of US millennials, and 62% of millennials in the UK, say they would appreciate a brand or retailer using AI technology to show more interesting products. Furthermore, 72% and 64% believe that brands using AI will predict what they want accurately as the technology develops.

AI and ML technologies enable you to make sense of your vast user data and behavior pattern, eliminating the manual work and working with a single goal in mind – creating an excellent CX. AI and ML technologies enable contextual search, recommendations, and content personalization on a scale, enabling your site to behave as a personal concierge to each shopper – always there to help and push for conversion while ensuring that shoppers feel that they are heard and understood. 

Data is the dark matter behind everything.

Every visit a shopper makes to your website, a click on an email, percent of video watched on Facebook, and click patterns on a particular product catalog are essential and relevant data that you need to collect, record, and analyze. Data enables you to form a realistic picture of your customers, needs, intent and will help you inform your decisions on what can be done to boost conversions, CLTV and AOV. 

Visual search is the next necessary incorporations.

Shoppers often find it challenging to put in words and search terms of what they are looking at. It’s hard to search for a shoe style that you happen to see on a stranger at a party. It explains the advent of visual search in recent times. It’s more accurate for categories like fashion, decor, cosmetics, jewelry, etc. – the ones that are more style and aesthetics-oriented. Users can search for products that they find hard to put in words for a text search with visual search. Visual search is a game-changer and truly can create an intuitive and well-loved customer experience.

A finding by Accenture shows that “by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.”

What’s coming for product discovery?

There is one key thing that should remain immovable after cutting through the complications is customer obsession. A tool that touts to solve all your search issues and recommendations engines sound great. But if your customer does not respond to it – it serves no purpose at all. 

With product discovery, it’s crucial to meet and exceed the expectations of the market and target audience.

When you talk about product discovery, you are not limited to ensuring that the ranking of your products is relevant, your product information is correct, etc. 

These minute things, of course, need to be corrected. There are no two thoughts about that. Implementing a robust product discovery technology like Unbxd site search allows you to do exactly that. 

Having a robust technology to fall back on and take care of minute things, you can maintain an encompassing view into your customers’ interactions with your brand. It allows you to have a birds’ eye view and make strategic decisions that affect your brand and its relation with shoppers in the long run.


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