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How can ecommerce marketplaces leverage Search and Discovery to increase engagement and revenue?

Mar 24th 2022 product

How can ecommerce marketplaces leverage Search and Discovery to increase engagement and revenue?
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The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a paradigm shift in the way people buy goods and services. As consumers retreated from indoor public places and many brick-and-mortar stores closed, people were forced to make some of their purchases in online marketplaces. 

This had a major impact on ecommerce marketplaces, those shopping websites that have multiple third-party providers. With the sudden rush in online demand, online marketplaces realized they needed to upgrade their functionality to meet consumers’ expectations for modern, efficient shopping and buying, fast page loading, and a personalized shopping experience. 

A good ecommerce marketplace platform connects prospective buyers with products or services they need as quickly as possible. AI-based Search and Discovery technology ensures that ecommerce marketplace vendors can intuitively categorize and display products, thereby making people’s shopping trips more rewarding and successful.

What is “Search and Discovery” in an ecommerce marketplace?

Search and discovery are the two proven means of helping online shoppers find and buy the products they want on an ecommerce marketplace site.

Search: going straight to an item

In an online marketplace, the search bar is typically the starting point for people who want to find items for sale. The search field is arguably the most powerful tool on an ecommerce website because without it, consumers can’t quickly find the products they want. That’s because vendors can’t display products the way they would in a brick-and-mortar store, and without human sales assistants on hand for guidance, buyers can easily get frustrated and leave the site.

Discovery: browsing and getting ideas

In ecommerce marketplaces, consumers don’t necessarily venture online to make a beeline for and buy a specific item. As they might do when walking into a physical store, they may simply browse: notice items they’re interested in that are appearing in front of them. 

Because prospective ecommerce customers can’t wander around and touch physical items, successful shopping can be more difficult. So for folks who don’t know quite what they want, the second successful digital marketplace technique is discovery.

Product discovery enables shoppers to find and explore third-party sellers’ products through intuitive journeys. It works by categorization — sorting and presenting items to reflect the way online customers explore. Initially, digital marketplace platform technology employed just a few product attributes, such as color and size, to sort products. However, as vendors collected more details about their customers’ shopping journeys, they began sorting products in more sophisticated ways that allowed for better personalization.

What are examples of marketplace Search and Discovery?

Let’s say two people want to buy a birthday present for a girlfriend. Shopper A knows exactly what she’s looking for: a cocktail dress, as her friend had mentioned wanting to get one. She hops on popular clothing marketplace platforms such as Poshmark and uses the search bar to look for the perfect dress. She is presented various search results, and, in one online store, chooses a cute dress she thinks her friend would love. 

Shopper B has no idea what to give the birthday girl. She knows her friend likes the color red and wearing fashionable clothing. She goes to a general online marketplace like Amazon, with its  huge array of product categories. Using the clothing attribute menus, she selects the filters “red” and “women’s.” 

Hundreds of red clothing item product listings are displayed on her screen. Overwhelmed, she sees that the product pages are organized by occasion. She remembers that her friend mentioned on social media that she needed a cocktail dress. She filters by “evening wear” and is shown a list of three red dresses offered by various marketplace sellers. She looks at the item details, then selects and adds one to her shopping cart, ready for checkout.

Then she notices an adorable red jacket she might like for herself, and wonders whether it comes in blue…and she’s off on another shopping discovery adventure. 

What are the benefits of Search and Discovery in an ecommerce marketplace?

A lower bounce rate

If an online store shopper can’t find what they’re looking for on a marketplace site in 15 seconds, they’ll leave. A digital marketplace that can’t provide the right products to its vendors’ prospective customers will have high bounce rates, so it’s vital that ecommerce business vendors can connect shoppers with their desired products.

Faster location of products 

As an online seller, to generate ecommerce sales, you want to get prospective customers on your site to enthusiastically browse, and then get lost in browsing some more. Equally important, you want them to be able to find their desired products fast. Search and Discovery features ensure that customers can explore a site and peruse items at their leisure, as well as quickly access a specific item. 

Better customer experiences

As we touched on, it’s understandably difficult for online marketplace platforms to create a satisfying customer experience. They don’t have the equivalent bells and whistles that physical store owners have at their disposal — attractive elements like enticing window displays with new products, the use of in-store scent, product displays, and dressing rooms. These facets all create a potentially absorbing, deeply satisfying experience for the customer, taking them seamlessly from browsing to successfully purchasing and then leaving the store feeling upbeat. 

To an extent, ecommerce marketplace platforms can replicate fun shopping, with banner ads and beautiful product photography, for instance, but providing a great online retail experience will always be more difficult. So Search and Discovery is the way to make things more interesting for online shoppers, giving them the freedom and tools they need to enjoy exploring.

Fulfilling prospective customers’ expectations 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, customer expectations related to marketplace platforms have been high. There is greater reliance on ecommerce sites and more competition among retailers in the digital space. 

For younger generations, in particular, ecommerce is now the norm. In 2021, 28% of generation Z and 24% of millennials reported that they preferred shopping online. And people in the older generations — many of whom remain vulnerable or prefer to stay out of brick-and-mortar stores — have continued to rely on ecommerce sites. So delivering an exceptional online shopping experience for prospective customers is not a bonus, it’s a necessity. And Search and Discovery technology is key to ecommerce marketplace success. 

The bottom line

You can use Search and Discovery techniques to: 

  • Create an intuitive journey for your marketplace customer base 
  • Connect goal-oriented consumers to products they need with an effective search tool 
  • Speed up the online sales journey for goal-focused shoppers while simultaneously giving less-focused buyers the opportunity to peruse what’s out there 

Search & Discovery is all about better equipping prospective buyers in the global marketplace. Regardless of the way someone prefers to use your ecommerce platform, you can ensure that prospective customers have a clear and intuitive path. 

Algolia empowers ecommerce marketplace success with leading Search and Discovery technology. Sign up for a free trial and get started today.

About the author
Vincent Caruana

Sr. SEO Web Digital Marketing Manager

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