Browsing, Buying, or, Both? The Role of Search and Discovery in Ecommerce

Browsing, Buying, or, Both? The Role of Search and Discovery in Ecommerce

September 22, 2021 | by Simamkele Matuntuta

To succeed in the booming ecommerce industry, you need to give customers exactly what they’re looking for and what they didn’t know they needed.

These actions are known as search and product discovery, respectively. 

However, most online businesses, always focus their efforts on search and rarely on product discovery, missing a huge opportunity to make more sales. 

What is the difference between search and discovery? 

Search refers to the action customers take to look for something. Shoppers use certain keywords or phrases to find what they’re looking for. For example, a customer may be looking for ‘white sneakers,' so they’ll go to a search engine like Google, and type “white sneakers” into the search bar. Then, the search engine will use exactly what you typed in to find a selection of items that match the text. 

On the other hand, product discovery is the process of finding something for the first time. For instance, a customer is browsing to see what’s available online, and they land on an item that they didn’t think of but now realize they need. Perhaps, a white t-shirt that goes with white sneakers. As you can see, search is designed for bots (to help you rank on search engines), and discovery is designed for users (to help them find an item for the first time). You cannot focus on one or the other.

You need to focus on both to succeed 

When you focus on search only, you’re making the assumption that customers know exactly what they want to buy at all times. But sometimes, customers are simply browsing to see what’s on offer and if there’s anything that piques their interest. According to this article, 46% of shoppers go online to just browse for items. How often do you aimlessly browse online in your spare time? Weekly?

In fact, digital window shopping has become a big deal since the COVID-19 lockdown as customers started spending more time online. But still, most ecommerce businesses fail to consider that window shoppers are interested in making a purchase, whether it’s for now or later. If they weren’t interested, they wouldn’t be browsing. Recent stats reveal that customers buy products they’ve discovered online. “58% of respondents said they had found them [items] while browsing marketplaces. 22% said they had discovered products via adverts on Google search, while 18% said ads on social media channels.”

What this highlights is a huge opportunity to use search and discovery to nudge customers towards making a decision. That’s something you can achieve by dangling the right products in front of them, using rich product information.

How does rich product information drive conversion? 

We’re glad you asked!

The first thing we’re going to mention is that the digital path to purchase starts with research, where customers are trying to find as much information as possible about products they’re interested in buying. The Wunderman Thompson research found that 51% of this research happens on Google,  52% takes place on Amazon, 20% on retail sites, and 19% on other marketplaces. But what’s more interesting is 88% of customers prefer to purchase from brands that provide useful information from research to purchase. The challenge, however, is that only 47% of brands successfully do that across the whole customer journey

Stat on product information for customer experience

Source

Your goal is to offer customers the information they need to make a decision, whether they’re searching for a specific product or just browsing. You need to provide them with the right information in every stage of the customer journey; 

  • Awareness 
  • Consideration
  • Purchase
  • Retention
  • Advocacy

Delivering valuable and relevant product information during each of these stages has a direct impact on sales. To put it into context; during the first two stages, customers are aware that they have a need that needs to be met.

They start their research to find a solution, in other words, their search journey. Or in the case of discovery, they’ll simply browse for inspiration. So, they’ll go to search engines, marketplaces, webshops, retail sites, and social platforms to look for information about a certain product. They will also filter the results.

This is where your content will need to stand out in a sea of merchants like yourself. A study found that “the most desired types of information that consumers seek about the products that they view online are product descriptions (76%), reviews (71%) and images (66%) – in that order.” That means if your content is not high-quality, it won’t help your customers and prospects reach the purchase stage, at least not with your brand. And, by high-quality content, we mean; 

More often than not, customers will filter the results of their search according to the technical specs, which makes it clear to you that the content has to be accurate at all times. The Wunderman Thompson research mentioned above reveals that the factors that drive transactions online include the price (98%), product descriptions (94%), in-stock items (94%), and product images (93%). This is information that you need to make clear as you create your product content. 

When you ensure that the content is high-quality, you’re less likely to get product returns because the products customers receive will match the product content  stated on your ecommerce site, web shop, or marketplace listing. When customers are satisfied with their products, they’re more likely to shop from you again and talk about their experiences interacting with your products to their friends.

Convert browsing and buying customers with Plytix PIM

Product information is the representation of your products; it gives customers clarity on what the product is and what it does. So, if the product content is clear, accurate, and up-to-date, you’re guaranteed to convince customers to make a purchase whether they were searching for a specific product or just browsing.

If you want to store multiple versions of optimized data, it would be smart to invest in an affordable product content management system or Product Information Management (PIM) tool. In Plytix, you can organize and manage your content in one place to ensure that data is accurate and optimized for search and discovery. 

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Simamkele Matuntuta

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