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Product Discovery is Broken, Let’s Fix it

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For many of us users, e-Commerce is the place we love going to when we need shop. It’s easier, faster, often cheaper and there more options available. All good things. But let’s look at the reality: 98% of us won’t buy anything the next time we enter an online retailer. If we look deeper into the stats, we see that the #1 reason why users don’t buy is due to “browsing”. Users who are browsing entered the website without any specific product in mind to purchase; they are “taking a look around”, so to speak.

In this article, we’ll discuss how online retailers can improve the user experience and give “browsers” more value. The process of converting a browsing user into a paying user isn’t easy. In the world of e-Commerce, this process is also called “product discovery”: helping users buy products they didn’t know they wanted.

First of all, let’s talk about those who do NOT need discovery. For those users who know exactly what they want to buy, such as a black dress, life is good. They can pretty quickly enter the dress category, sort by color and get a nice selection. But for all us browsers out there, the process of finding something to buy isn’t easy.

Do users actually know what they want?

I love data, so let’s start from an interesting insight from the folks at Baymard Institute:

Our latest quantitative study of reasons for abandonment found that 58.6% of US online shoppers have abandoned a cart within the last 3 months because “I was just browsing / not ready to buy”.

What does this tell us? Users love browsing. It’s fun, painless and allows imaginations to run free. But they actually do know what they want. There’s usually a broad goal in the back of their minds. “I want a new outfit for work. I have an important wedding next month.” Stuff like that. The user wants to discover! But what options are available when browsing? Do retailers actually offer them an opportunity to discover anything? Most online stores feel pretty much the same. Users enter, have to choose from a list of apparel categories. They check out some shirts, some pants and some shoes. They’re shown hundreds of individual items with no real connection to each other. But does this actually open the imagination? This method doesn’t always help capture the user and convert them into buyers.

Asos Black dress

Does a solution exist?

But what can retailers do? That’s just how the e-Commerce world works at the moment. Products are displayed by category, color and size. E-Commerce stores aren’t looking at our deeper goals when building the user experience. Nobody cares about our upcoming wedding and business meetings. They’re showing us products according to their catalog. The way it’s comfortable for them.

The advent of Pinterest

Luckily, certain solutions are starting to popup. The most successful of them all: the mighty Pinterest. Known to be one of the fastest growing social networks, it’s a crowdsourced product discovery network. Users can browse certain “ideas” or keywords. Images are “tagged” with much more subjective detail than regular product search. To give you an idea, here’s an example search for “black dress modest classic”:

Pinterest - Example search for black dress

You see images of black dress, many which are user generated images uploaded by bloggers. This provides great value as these bloggers are usually fashion influencers. They know what’s trending and can help us decide what to purchase. Users can see the product worn on the bloggers and how it’s actually fits into the whole outfit. Unfortunately for Pinterest, you can’t always buy the product from the image. Not fun.

What we need is a mix of these two elements. Combining the real-life images from Pinterest with shoppable products we can actually buy. Even better would be if we could browse through different blogger styles. Something that more fits the user’s “goals”. So if we’re looking for a wedding outfit, we could check out blogger outfits for that.

Style Discovery

We’re currently working on a new product at Bllush that helps tackle this exact issue. We’re calling it “Style Discovery”. It’s a feed of bloggers images we provide for eCommerce stores. Users can browse according to category (styles like casual, school, formal, summer…etc). This allows users to extract inspiration from fashion influencers that fits their “goal”.

Style Discovery

Each blogger image is shoppable. Meaning we help users get a similar look from the store they’re on. This is where Bllush’s technology comes into play. In the above example, our technology finds a similar product sold by Zalando. The product matched won’t be the same exact product the blogger is wearing (which is usually designer brands). Instead, we’ll find something Zalando sells that is very similar which can be more affordable.

Shoppable Products

We’re very excited by this new product. While it’s still young, we believe this can greatly help fashion e-Commerce stores provide their users with better discovery methods. A more modern and social approach.

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