DiscoveryCommerceDiscovery Commerce paves the way for one of the most difficult tasks in e-commerce, namely product discovery. Because it is harder than it seems to get a potential buyer to find the product they are looking for in an online store or marketplace as customers easily get confused or impatient when browsing (sub)categories on a website.

However, the use of apps and social networks is increasingly changing shopping behavior. Instead of discovering new products on a stroll through town, customers are increasingly being tempted to make spontaneous purchases online.

Discovery Commerce is the name of this principle, in which customers surf the Internet without intending to buy, become aware of a product and shop for it. Online retailers can take advantage of this behavior to expand their digital range and address new customers respectively, since the new marketing strategy offers online retailers the opportunity to direct new customers to products based on their wishes and interests.

The term “Discovery Commerce” itself makes it clear what the core of this online marketing strategy is: "Shop by discovery". In contrast to traditional e-commerce, it is not about customers looking for and buying a specific product or service. Rather, the products and services find their way to customers while they are surfing the web, checking their news or scrolling through their newsfeed on social media.

So, to speak, social networks play a key role in discovery commerce as well as the public newsfeed in this context: 52% of brand discoveries take place there, according to a study by Hootsuite (2020).

The principle is very simple: if you are interested in fashion, you will receive offers and product suggestions for items of clothing in your newsfeed that match your own style. In addition to information on the price and material, there is also the option to buy the trousers, jacket or dress with just one click. Companies can benefit directly from this and strengthen their brand, since people are nowadays more likely to buy from brands that offer them a personalized shopping experience.

Personalization and machine learning provide support

Social networks, like Facebook and Instagram, offer not only online retailers and companies the option of tagging products in ads and posts. You also have the option of setting up your own shop directly on the platform, uploading product catalogs and displaying personalized advertisements.

However, the strength of the social media platforms lies in the precise information that users reveal about themselves in the social networks, as well as in individual usage behavior. Especially against the background of the increasingly critical and rightly difficult collection of user data (such as user consent, IOS update, end of 3rd party cookies, etc.), the login-based platforms are of enormous importance. This concrete data forms the basis for offering customers a suitable product at the right time. This means that, for instance, someone who publishes, shares and comments on articles on travel and lifestyle, subscribes to corresponding channels, or exchanges ideas in groups, receives a tailor-made offer based on their activities.

For online retailers, this means that they can target their online marketing strategy much more towards users and potential customers than towards products. Machine learning systems (AI) in the background offer support to achieve this enormous personalization and to automatically display individual advertisements with images, videos and messages to users.

Facebook’s Discovery Commerce platform

As the largest social network with around three billion active users, Facebook has developed its own discovery commerce platform with numerous helpful tools and uses machine learning and broad audience strategies. Online retailers receive meaningful demographic and personal data that respects consumer privacy and data protection, while still providing them with important information about what is relevant to their customers. The prerequisite is that shop operators have their own Facebook page and an Ads Manager or Business Manager account with which they can upload content.

When designing the products and advertisements, make sure not to use the same images and wording. Since the products should be as authentic and organic as possible in the user's news feed, it is important to avoid reproducible samples. After all, the customer should be bound to the brand in the long term and not just buy something once. It is even more important that companies put their energy into optimizing creative elements and give the algorithm as much leeway as possible when targeting and placing the ads, as it can test and adjust more quickly.

This example makes clear that Discovery Commerce on social media enables brands to better reach, connect with, and retain their customers with the right content at the right time. Not only does “shop and discover” bring storytelling and sales together, but it also increases conversion too.

For instance, Facebook states that 86% of discoveries made by users on the platform result in a purchase. Ultimately, it is not just the company that benefits from the personalization of the products, but the customer as well, feeling a much easier, smoother and more positive online shopping experience, which is directly linked to the joy and excitement of having found a nice product or a bargain. Not to mention that the ads managers of the social networks make it possible to analyze products, clicks, sales or user numbers over time. This gives online retailers concrete information as to whether the advertising campaigns are successful as part of their marketing strategy or whether they should be adjusted.

Discovery Commerce challenges to consider

When it comes to making it easier for users to discover products as simply and accurately as possible, websites and marketplaces need to consider a few thinks, like:

  • Optimized internal searches: It’s important that keywords are checked, and the website optimized so that shoppers will find results even if they misspell their search terms.
  • A clean search system: It should be easy to choose the desired filters, view the results, and prevent pages from being completely reloaded every time the user changes a filter.
  • Category pages should be created as they can be very useful for the shopper to discover new releases, popular items, products recommended for special occasions, Christmas gift guides, etc., by section. Besides these benefits, a good system of categories will favor the visibility of a website in search engines.
  • More attributes included allow shoppers to choose the filters they want and mix them as they wish. It’s essential for brands and retailers to ensure they’re providing consistent attributes across all channels, by keeping good control over their product data using a product information management (PIM). Nevertheless, they shouldn’t include too many attributes to avoid overwhelming the user or making their search too complicated.
  • A combination of cross-sell and upsell: Discovery commerce can be applied to recommend related products as and encourage search and purchase through pop-up windows, notifications or widgets in the online experience without overdoing it.

As consumers' attention becomes increasingly difficult to gain, as does customer loyalty, expect retailers and marketplaces to switch products and brands more frequently to find the most successful ones. Consequently, having good information available on both product and materials is the key to success, whether in attracting attention in this competitive landscape, meeting the customer’s search term requirements, or being well prepared for new technologies that will soon arrive on the scene, such as conversational commerce or visual search.

By Daniela La Marca