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How do shoppers find your products online?

By Dave Howard

In the second excerpt from the Brand View Whitepaper, ‘Discoverability, Representation and Engagement: the foundation of ecommerce success’, Karen Pike, Global Ecommerce Performance Manager, discusses how shoppers find products online.

In our experience, Discoverability is the most critical element for retailers and brands to consider when managing product positioning online.

Simply put, if a shopper cannot find your product, they will not buy it.

Ensuring that your product is easily discoverable when shoppers search retailers’ websites is crucial in delivering online sales.

Understanding how shoppers actually search for products online is key to achieving product Discoverability.

It’s not just about keywords. In retail search, shoppers follow varied paths by leveraging product category based navigation, favourites baskets and keywords searches, sometimes in combination.

In FMCG, many shoppers start their online grocery shop using the favourites or previous orders tool. For suppliers, a place on shoppers’ favourites lists significantly increases the chances of getting into online baskets regularly.


In the UK, Tesco command 44 percent  of all FMCG sales online. The importance of the favourites basket in FMCG retail is highlighted by the fact that 53 percent of products placed in the shopper’s basket on the Tesco website have been selected from the favourites list.

Despite the frequent use of the favourites list by FMCG shoppers, it is important to consider that, without being discoverable in the first place, products would never make it on to the favourites list. Products must return for keyword search terms and also be included on the relevant category shelves for shoppers to initially discover them, before adding them to their favourites list.

Generally, favourites is a redundant concept in General Merchandise and  will rarely influence the purchase of products such as appliances, technology or entertainment items.

Less frequently purchased FMCG products, as well as General Merchandise products rely on keyword search and category shelf search much more heavily than the respective 31 and 11 percent cited by dunnhumby. In fact, IGD data shows the number of shoppers using the search function to find products for their online baskets (62 percent) is now greater than those using their favourites or previous orders (60 percent). This is the first time the search function has started to pull ahead as the dominant shopper behaviour since IGD began tracking the data in 2013.

Retailers and manufacturers are already aware that a shopper’s path to purchase can be vastly different depending on the category and individual product they are purchasing and this needs to be considered when optimising product placement.

In both FMCG and General Merchandise, shoppers will only spend a limited amount of time trying to locate an item online. If a shopper cannot find your product within this timeframe, they will probably purchase a competitor product and a sale will be lost.

In terms of Discoverability, it’s important to consider two key elements:

  • Search Placement
  • Category Placement

Search placement, or keyword search placement, is critical in establishing the successful placement of your product online. Ensuring that your product returns for all feasible search terms, including both product specific and category specific keywords will improve product Discoverability.

Category placement, or category shelf placement, has the same importance as product availability in store. If your product isn’t on the shelf people simply can’t buy it.

Arguably, both search and category placement are interlinked and the optimisation of both search functions in parallel is fundamental in influencing product Discoverability.

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