If you asked nearly 500 online shoppers how they would classify their experience finding products on their favorite retail website and nearly three in four said it was “easy,” you’d think that most websites were doing a pretty good job, right?
While 70 percent of those shoppers characterized searching for products online as “easy,” just a quarter of them found it to be “quick” and “enjoyable.” What’s more, Constructor’s State of Ecommerce Product Search and Discovery 2023 survey report discovered that six in 10 U.S. shoppers believe that the search functionality on their favorite e-commerce website is desperately in need of an upgrade.
What this data suggests — that consumers can and do think of shopping online as easy and in need of optimization — is that “easy” shopping isn’t the same as successful or enjoyable shopping. And to see how that plays out, we only need to look at the experience of shopping for groceries online as an example.
How Important is 'Easy?'
Compared to the mayhem of a typical grocery store on a Saturday morning, shopping online is easy. You don’t have to ask the nearest store associate where they moved the protein bars. If you miss an item, you can add it to your cart without having to dodge carts and whatever biohazard is in need of a cleanup on Aisle 10 on your march back to the other side of the store. All you have to do is type a query into the search bar and see every variety of Gala apple that can be delivered to you in two hours.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the process is quick or even enjoyable. I know my store carries keto breakfast burritos, but when I type in “high protein low carb meals,” the search engine doesn’t know what I want — which means that if I don’t feel like breakfast burritos but still want the same nutrient profile, I’ll need to browse through 863 frozen meal options to narrow it down.
Shopping online doesn’t require a ton of physical effort. The act of typing a query into a search bar is about as simple as it gets. Even so, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily lead to good results that people want to buy (or that shoppers enjoy doing it). Easy doesn’t always mean successful — for the shopper or the retailer. In order for online shopping to get to that point, the survey results are in: Product discovery requires an upgrade.
Building Better Shopping Experiences
The question stands: What would make shopping online more enjoyable for consumers? Better product discovery experiences start with personalized, attractive results. The concept is simple: Show me more items that I’m interested in — not just keto burritos, but keto pizza and zucchini noodles and low-sugar snacks based on what you know about me — and I’m more likely to purchase them. That’s a winning scenario for me and for e-commerce companies across all retail sectors.
It’s that level of personalization that shoppers say is lacking. Only 16 percent report that e-commerce websites are frequently personalized and likely to show them the products that they want to buy. The opportunity cost here is staggering: When shoppers can’t find what they’re looking for, more than half will leave the site (one out of five for good).
The flip side is also true: Investing in good product discovery experiences pays off. Not only are shoppers more likely to buy the item they’re looking for (74 percent) if they have a good experience finding it, but they’re also likely to return to that e-commerce site in the future (62 percent), leave a positive review or recommendation (31 percent), and even pay a 5 percent to 10 percent premium for the item they’re looking for (15 percent). Consider how many shoppers you could capture — or lose.
Looking to the Future
Our survey ultimately revealed that e-commerce customer expectations are high, and so is the return for investing in better product discovery. One of the biggest opportunities is in artificial intelligence, which can process tens of millions of customer inputs like search queries, purchase history and more to supply those personalized experiences with minimal effort on behalf of e-commerce teams.
Retailers can’t afford to stay stagnant; the good news is that the most advanced product discovery platforms are already positioned to help them deliver hyperpersonalized experiences that result in long-term growth and brand loyalty. With growing consumer interest in generative AI like ChatGPT, the companies that stand out will be the ones willing to experiment with technologies that make online shopping personalized, enjoyable and even a little bit fun.
Lauren Lang is director of content and brand communications at Constructor, an AI-powered product discovery and search platform tailor-made for e-commerce.