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Break the unwritten rule of ecommerce and improve product discovery



Every time you walk into a store, do you always know exactly what you want? Do you head straight for that thing you want and not bother to look at anything else? Okay, maybe occasionally if you’re in a rush. But in most cases, when we’re out shopping we enjoy having a browse and seeing what else is on offer before heading to the checkout.


Let’s say you’re looking for a new pair of jeans. You walk into a store and see a mannequin with the perfect jeans, a smart top and leather jacket. Even though you were only looking for jeans, since you noticed that mannequin you now want, and must have, that whole outfit. This is called product discovery. It’s the process of a consumer discovering your products as part of their customer journey.




It’s the part of shopping that no customer really expects, but retailers and stores are experts at. They pride themselves on their in-store experiences. IKEA even has a whole upper floor dedicated to it. And they know it works. It’s all about pairing products together in an inspirational setting to enable shoppers to act on their impulse and buy products they didn’t know they needed.


Yet, when it comes to online, so many ecommerce websites are too focused on getting the sale. They’re too heavily tailored to three steps; search, add to basket and checkout. Shoppers should know exactly what they want, add it to their basket and checkout as soon as possible.


But where does product discovery fit into this shopping experience? Quite simply, it doesn’t.


There’s no way for online shoppers to look around and browse, no room to get inspired and no room for impulse buying. It’s straight in, straight out. And, while this formula might work for some, in fact 46 % of all online shoppers are just browsing. There’s a huge market of untapped potential if you break the unwritten rule of ecommerce and focus on improving product discovery.


Break the rule

The unwritten rule that almost every ecommerce company follows is: stick to the grid.


Infinite Scroll


Almost all products are displayed in a grid format on a white background leaving the shopper no other option but to scroll through or leave. But the grid has been around for years, and there’s a good reason why. It’s an easy way for shoppers to filter through or quickly scan products to find what they’ve been looking for. It’s also quite simple for ecommerce teams to create - all you need is an image of each product and away you go.


But in today’s world, the grid no longer does the trick. Category views and endless filtering only works for just over half your online visitors. And, for the others you only have 2-3 seconds to make a good first impression. If a shopper hasn’t found what they’re looking for straight away, they’ll quickly get bored, lose interest and bounce because what’s inspiring about a static grid of products?


By using product discovery tactics, you can break the unwritten rule of ecommerce and go beyond the grid. You can tell the story of your products, inspire your traffic to browse, showcase your expertise and offer a whole new shopping experience that will keep your customers coming back for more.


So how can you bring product discovery to life?


How to improve online product discovery

Product discovery involves setting the scene, adding information or a light of inspiration around your products. It’s not just about splashing some color or inserting another product photo to your grid. It involves building an environment around your products that encourages shoppers to browse, explore and interact.


Product discovery can come in many different forms:

  • Blog posts
  • Lifestyle photos of products in use
  • Product videos
  • Related product recommendations
  • Newsletters
  • Promotion banners
  • Social media posts
  • Online catalogs
  • Bestsellers, outlet or inspiration campaign pages

(To find out more about how to use these tactics to improve product discovery, click here.)


There’s so much potential out there, but in its essence, product discovery is about using these channels or tactics to add context to your products that will spark interest and inspire your customers. Maybe it’s a blog post about the best accessories for your BBQ this summer, a comparison list of the best dishwashers, a shoppable video of your latest menswear collection or a catalog featuring this season’s must have ski gadgets.


Whatever your goals, size or budget, product discovery doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s about adding an extra layer onto your current online store that gives browsing shoppers the chance to let their imagination run free. And, with so much room to get creative, there’s really no excuse to ignore product discovery. Because when you break the grid rule, the impact it will have on both your business and consumer behavior goes way beyond simply increasing sales.


Why does product discovery matter?

Product discovery is fundamentally rooted in consumer psychology. It caters to our impulse, desire to improve our image and inspires new ideas of how we want to live. When done right, it can have numerous psychological as well as business benefits. Let’s stick with the psychology side for a minute...



If you show that you care about your shoppers and the experience they have instead of focusing purely on the sale, you’ll build trust. Shoppers will know that you’re honest and care about how and why they’re shopping with you rather than simply pushing products for your own benefit.



With honesty comes credibility. By educating your customers with honest advice and expertise, you’ll build a credible connection that adds to the product discovery experience.



If you can match your competition on price, you have the space and opportunity to win business purely based on customer experience. And when you offer that trustworthy, credible and inspirational shopping journey, customers will have no reason to look elsewhere. You’ll become their go-to store.


Although these benefits can’t be measured or quantified, they psychologically add value to your business. Value that shoppers subconsciously appreciate which inevitably encourages them to spend time on your website, get to know your products and convert into customers.


Which leads us on to the more tangible benefits of improving product discovery. The ones marketing and sales teams can actually measure.



Increase sales

Because you’ve focused on improving your browsing experience and catering to that 46%, you’ll inevitably see an increase in sales and conversions. The more shoppers you build an experience around, obviously the more sales you’ll get.


Depending on what product discovery tactics you choose to implement, simply by offering a new and improved, more personalized and inspirational experience, you’ll encourage more shoppers to buy.


Reduce bounce rate

Shoppers these days have a dangerously low level of patience. If they land on your site and get confused or overwhelmed with too many or too few options, they’ll leave and head straight for one of your competitors. But, if the moment they land on your store you give them the option to browse products using captivating images, videos or any of the other tactics previously mentioned, you’ll give shoppers a reason to stay.


Improved paid social campaigns

If you create channels specifically designed for product discovery, you don’t need to limit them to your online store. Use them as a conversion point across all your paid and owned channels to attract, convert and retain traffic.


Rules are made to be broken

For ecommerce businesses now’s the time to focus on standing out. With so much competition out there you need to think differently, break the rules and get ahead of the game. By focusing on product discovery you’ll appeal to that untapped market of browsing shoppers. It’s a tactic that can have a huge impact on your business, the way your customer’s shop and how your brand is perceived.


So what are you waiting for? It’s time to break the rules.




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