Product Search vs. Product Discovery: The Ultimate Guide to Customer Satisfaction

In eCommerce, being found through product search is just as crucial as being seen through product discovery

Jameela Ghann - Writer for Fast Simon
By Jameela Ghann
a woman wearing a suit and a black shirt
Edited by Nelsy Mtsweni
Oli Kashti - Writer and Fact-Checker for Fast Simon
Fact-check by Oli Kashti

Published May 16, 2024.

a person holding a cell phone in front of a clothing store

If you aim to capture customer interest and drive growth, you've likely heard of two key concepts: product search and product discovery. Understanding the unique roles of these is essential for crafting personalized shopping experiences that resonate with and guide your customers.

In fact, 68% of online shoppers begin their journey with a Google search before deciding on a purchase, so integrating both product search and discovery strategies can help your store's discoverability by matching consumer habits and preferences.

Meet the Expert

Jameela Ghann is a seasoned online store owner with over a decade of eCommerce experience. Apart from running Alora Boutique, she's also the marketing manager for Fera Product Reviews.

Product Search vs. Product Discovery

Product SearchProduct Discovery
Primary goalGuide customers to their desired productsIntroduce customers to additional products
Where it worksBottom of the sales funnelThroughout the sales funnel
Best practicesPrioritize utility, create a seamless shopping experiencePrioritize visually appealing content, utilize UGC
ExampleSearching for "red shoes" on Nike's websiteAmazon's "Customers who bought this also bought" feature

Product search is a customer-driven process that empowers users to actively seek specific products or information based on their known preferences or criteria. At its core, product search caters to customers who have a clear idea of what they're looking for. It involves leveraging tools to swiftly locate desired items, such as:

  • Search bars
  • Navigation menus
  • Advanced filtering options

The primary objective of product search is to guide customers to their desired products with minimal friction, ensuring a seamless and satisfying experience.

Product search streamlines the shopping journey by providing a direct path to the desired product. This eliminates unnecessary distractions and minimizes the risk of cart abandonment.

By offering a seamless site search experience, you can significantly improve your business's conversion rates and foster customer satisfaction, ultimately driving revenue growth.

Example: A customer searching for "red shoes" on a Nike website is engaging in product search, expecting to quickly find a selection of red footwear options that align with Nike's reputation for quality running and fitness apparel.

a screen shot of a Product Search for a pair of sneakers

Understanding Product Discovery

In contrast, product discovery is a more exploratory approach that introduces customers to additional product offerings beyond their initial search query or browsing behavior. This process is often facilitated by features like:

The goal of product discovery is to expose customers to products they may not have been aware of initially, enhancing their overall shopping experience and expanding their consideration set.

By presenting complementary or related items in a visually engaging manner, you inspire customers to explore new products. This fosters curiosity and can increase average order values.

Example: Amazon's "Customers who bought this also bought" feature exemplifies effective product discovery by suggesting related products to users based on purchasing patterns, introducing them to items they may not have initially considered.

A screenshot of Amazon's Frequently Bought Together cross-selling technique

Fulfill Immediate Needs and Drive Conversions

Product search primarily serves customers at the bottom of the sales funnel, where they are actively considering a purchase and are ready to buy. By expediting the journey to the desired product, product search plays a crucial role in improving conversion rates and satisfying customers' immediate needs.

Prioritize a Seamless and User-Friendly Experience

Product search prioritizes utility, emphasizing simplicity and speed to ensure users can quickly find what they're looking for. This is offered by providing:

  • Clear and intuitive search bars
  • Preloaded text
  • Advanced filtering options by price, color, or other criteria

Additionally, leveraging technologies such as semantic search and keyword optimization enhances the accuracy and relevance of search results. This further improves the user experience by matching user queries with relevant products.

Challenges and Solutions

The most significant challenge in implementing search and discovery features is prioritizing the customer's needs and experience over the business's desire for increased profits.

Approaching solutions from the perspective of improving the customer experience, rather than solely focusing on ROI, leads to more effective design decisions and fosters positive brand perception

Leveraging customer intent to help them find what they're looking for is fundamental. This involves collaboration between designers, developers, and search app providers to create a search experience that is:

  • Fast
  • Intuitive
  • Delivers relevant results

How to Implement Product Discovery

Foster Awareness, Consideration, and Loyalty

Product discovery caters to customers at both the bottom and top of the sales funnel, serving diverse objectives:

  • For essential or complementary items, such as suggesting batteries for a flashlight purchase, product discovery aligns with bottom-of-funnel behavior, potentially leading to immediate purchases and increased average order values.
  • However, for non-essential or complementary products, such as recommending a skirt to accompany a shirt purchase, product discovery functions more at the top of the funnel.

By introducing customers to new offerings, businesses can create awareness, spark interest, and foster consideration. This ultimately cultivates long-term customer engagement and loyalty.

» Here's how to properly use eCommerce upsell and cross-sell recommendations

Prioritize Visually Appealing Content

To effectively implement product discovery, businesses must employ visually compelling and engaging mechanisms. These include:

It's crucial to create a visually compelling experience that captivates users' attention, similar to an ad in a social media feed. Incorporating clear calls to action and strategically placing product discovery elements without interrupting the user experience are vital considerations.

Despite these differences, both product search and discovery are powered by algorithms that analyze user behavior and historical data to enhance relevance and effectiveness.

Challenges and Solutions

Understanding customer preferences, behaviors, and purchase patterns is crucial. This requires:

  • Analyzing data to determine what products customers are searching for
  • How they are discovering products
  • What influences their purchasing decisions

By gaining insights into customer preferences, brands can improve their merchandising strategies to tailor product discovery experiences to meet their needs effectively. This entails avoiding intrusive upselling tactics that detract from the user experience and focusing instead on enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

» Next steps for your business: search, merchandising, and personalization solutions

Leveraging AI and Voice Search in Product Search and Discovery

As technology advances, leveraging AI-powered solutions like Fast Simon for product search and discovery presents significant advantages. These tools excel in:

  • Semantic search
  • Understanding synonyms 
  • Accounting for typos
  • Enhancing search accuracy

Additionally, visual search capabilities and the integration of voice search functionality are emerging trends that businesses should consider to cater to evolving customer preferences and enhance the user experience.

» Here's how to implement visual search with Fast Simon

Striking the Right Balance

Incorporating both product search and product discovery offers a holistic shopping experience that caters to diverse customer needs. Customers appreciate being able to easily find what they're looking for while also discovering new products along the way.

Striking the right balance between product search and product discovery is paramount for businesses to create compelling shopping experiences that resonate with customers and drive sustainable success. While product search caters to immediate customer needs, product discovery fosters long-term engagement and growth.