The Next Decade of E-Commerce: A Shift from Intent to Discovery

Customers have been using e-commerce sites to purchase items for more than 20 years. During that time, marketers worked with an intention paradigm: find out what people want to buy and make it easier for them to do that. This paradigm ignores a simple truth: people love to buy.

Even if buying something is part of shopping, it is only the height of the shopping experience. Buying involves the process of finding something, evoking that joy in you, and then developing enough desire to finally make the purchase.

To take advantage of this opportunity, brands need to understand why and how consumers have changed their buying habits. Above all, they don’t just buy online; now they also buy online, which is a fundamental distinction.

If the last 20 years of e-commerce are needed, the next ten will be to drive discovery.

The Rise of Social Media Discovery

When we compare the results of our social commerce surveys in 2017 and 2019 in March, we find a significant gap: the demand for online shopping experiences is increasing, but e-commerce sites are not meeting demand.

The search for more product information is apparently positive, but outsourcing discovery to social media has several disadvantages for brands:

  • Firstly, social media is an environment full of distractions – a brand has a fleeting moment in the feed, as do its competitors.
  • Second, social media is responsible for a small part of e-commerce traffic: most consumers are never exposed to inspiring social content in a way that encourages discovery when buying on a brand’s website.
  • Third, social algorithms optimize ad impressions instead of buying advertised products.

If consumers love discoveries on social media, it makes sense for brands to offer e-commerce sites with a social impact.

What should we do?

Here are some tips if your brand is ready to take advantage of this untapped opportunity.

  1. Change the connection between social marketing and e-commerce

Most companies have divided their marketing and e-commerce work into two divisions with minimal overlap and incentives that are not only different but sometimes even contradictory.

For example, some social marketers measure their performance based on engagement. Your KPIs are about reach, clicks, likes, rescheduling, and comments. Meanwhile, eCommerce teams optimize conversions – the percentage of visitors who buy a product.

Social and e-commerce teams need to be aware of what is happening on their point-to-point channels: if a product goes crazy on social media, the e-commerce site can channel the hype; and if something appears on the e-commerce site, marketers can promote it on social media.

  1. Think of discovery in new dimensions

We tend to think of discovering a product as discovering the existence of a new product. This is especially important for brands with tons of SKUs that change from season to season. But what if you sell only a few products that rarely change?

The discovery must be related to the different uses and uses of a product. For example, a blender is simply a cheap, expensive, or reasonably priced blender for the buyer looking for a price. But the brand that can publish creative recipes and instructional videos from chefs and customers inspires the buyer to see more than just a blender. They see a dinner that starts with spicy Thai soup or a new morning routine of green smoothies.

This content fits into the presentation of the social style that consumers most want to see on e-commerce sites.

Bedding is another great example. Their colors and properties do not change often. However, a creative brand can display bedding in a variety of color combinations and environments, so that each client can see its full potential and feel inspired.

  1. Discover the community too

People have an innate desire to discover a community. This is one of the many reasons why they connect to social media to date strangers. They look for people who share their interests and empathy with their passions, perspectives, and struggles.

The e-commerce site is not only a place to shop but also a place to have fun.

Balance intention and inspiration

The product discovery experience took shape in the brick and mortar era and has since colonized social media. There, users of social networks want to try, instead of buying the products on the spot; but when they arrive at traditional e-commerce sites, they don’t have the inspiration that sparked their interest.

Social media started as a means of communication, became a channel of awareness, and eventually evolved into a channel for engagement with the brand. The culture and style of social media have reshaped technology in all sectors. In the next decade, social media will also redefine the e-commerce experience.