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The Gateway to Customer Experience: How Product Discovery Makes (or Breaks) Brand Loyalty

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If I had to sum up today’s consumers in a word, I’d say they’re adventurous. This may seem like a strange choice given the uncertainty the past year has brought, and with it the decline in discretionary spending. 

However, when you look a bit deeper, the massive growth in ecommerce sales (surpassing 30% in 2020 in the US alone) points to a wave of shoppers moving online and adopting new behaviors, from mobile shopping to BOPIS to payment apps. Moreover, McKinsey reported that more than a third (36%) of US consumers have tried new brands this past year, with 73% of these shoppers planning to continue incorporating new brands into their routines post-pandemic. 

In short, shoppers are more open than ever to giving new brands and new experiences a shot. 

But before you can wow them and win their long-term loyalty with your thoughtfully created product, flexible return policy, or exclusive perks and discounts, you have one hurdle to jump: Product discovery

What is Product Discovery?

Product discovery is how your customers explore and find your products. Everything from how they navigate through your website to your menu categories, merchandising strategy, search functionality, and recommendation engines — as well as the efforts you make to enrich each of these journeys with hyper-personalized product suggestions — shape your customers’ product discovery experiences. 

While it’s often taken for granted, search and navigation is the most important part of the ecommerce experience for 61% of shoppers. Regardless of how someone ‘meets’ your brand — through a Google search, on social, or following a friend’s recommendation — they’ll need to navigate through your site to determine what they want to buy. Like every other aspect of your customer experience, product discovery journeys are dynamic, and they must align with each shopper’s specific preferences and needs. 

For new shoppers, this is your first — and likely only — chance to show that you have just what they’re looking for. In fact, PwC found that 1 in 3 customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience. When it’s a brand that shoppers are interacting with for the first time, they’ll be even less likely to forgive an ineffective or frustrating product discovery experience. 

So, How Do You Pass the ‘Product Discovery Test’?

The brands that do product discovery well are able to combine their business needs with their shoppers’ preferences and desires. 

They do this by focusing on four key principles: 

1. Create product discovery experiences as unique as your shoppers

Shoppers have distinct preferences when it comes to website navigation. Some will want to use your search bar, others will come armed with a screenshot from an acquaintance’s Instagram account, and others yet will prefer to scroll through page after page waiting for inspiration to strike.  

A smart product discovery strategy will cover all these bases with an advanced, accurate text search solution, visual search functionality for items that are tough to put into words, and product recommendation carousels that draw shoppers in and inspire them as they browse. This way, no matter how they prefer to make their way through your site, they’ll be able to find what they want and continue to purchase. 

2. Personalize your offering  

Arguably, the only thing worse than not finding what you’re looking for is finding tons of items that you are definitely not looking for. These days, everything in the average consumer’s life is tailored to their tastes: their Netflix homepage, their social feeds, the ads they see. It’s imperative that brands and retailers continue that hyper-personalized experience on-site. 

Every product recommendation carousel, search result, and merchandising display should align with each shopper’s aesthetic taste, current intent and behavior, and past purchase patterns. The more relevant items you serve up, the more likely they are to add to cart and leave as a satisfied customer.

3. Make it quick and intuitive 

With ecommerce competition growing so rapidly, shoppers are a click away from choosing another brand at any given moment. The slightest friction in their journey, like inaccurate search results, a long load time in returning results, or menu categories with unclear terminology will push them away, and they may never return. Every tool you use to enable search and discovery on-site has to be easy to use and understand, as well as quick to display products. 

4. Eliminate dead-ends 

Shopper drop-off is often preventable. That’s doubly true during the product discovery journey. Unfortunately, many brands have dead-ends that push shoppers to leave their site prematurely: sizes or colors that are out of stock, “no results” pages when searches don’t turn up a good match, or product pages that hold shoppers back from discovering more items. 

Each of these instances is an opportunity to showcase similar or complementary items to keep the journey going. For example, the sting of disappointment when a shopper sees a dress is sold out in their size vanishes when they’re immediately presented with similar dresses without even leaving the product detail page. This way, their journey is likely to continue to purchase, and their experience with your brand is untarnished. 

Become the Brand That Customers Trust 

When you provide these delightful product discovery experiences, your customers trust that they will always be able to find the right item on your site, and they know that you “get” them and their taste. Going to your website is like visiting a seasoned personal shopper who understands exactly what they need and want. 

The data shows that brands and retailers using the intuitive product discovery tools described above —  like visual search and product recommendations powered by the same visual AI technology — see a dramatic increase in customer retention. Compared to high-intent shoppers who add items to cart, shoppers who engage with those on-site technologies have a 12% higher retention rate over a 30-day period. Their customer lifetime value is also 19% higher than other shoppers, indicating that this early touchpoint in the customer journey is absolutely critical for long-term business success. 

The same way that people don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, brands and retailers have a narrow window of opportunity to get product discovery right. Without an optimal product discovery experience, long-term loyalty — or even a repeat visit — is a pipe dream. 

Are you ready to create delightful product discovery experiences? Contact our team to learn how tools like visual AI can help!

Lihi Pinto Fryman is the Co-founder and CRO at Syte, the world’s first product discovery platform, powered by visual AI. In  2015, a frustrating chase after an unidentifiable red dress sent Lihi on a mission to make shopping delightful, seamless, and intuitive, and so, Syte was born. With more than 15 years of experience in entrepreneurship, finance, and investment banking, including her role as VP of Private Banking at Bank Leumi (UK), Lihi has led Syte to the top 1% of fastest-growing SaaS companies worldwide. 

Special thanks to our friends at Diff Agency for their insights on this topic.
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