System Design

Guided Discovery :: Trusted curation in online retail

Time to talk about Guided Discovery or what Mark Cuban calls Trusted Curation:

For the uninitiated, Guided Discovery is closely related to product Customization. But rather than creating your own unique version of a product, you’re creating a unique way to shop – or it’s being created for you. Rather than the spray and pray approach of many ecommerce sites of today, Guided Discovery delivers a hyper relevant, personalized experience based on choices that the user makes, past behavior or both. Now be careful, if your approach isn’t balanced and you provide too much ‘guided’ you lose the ‘discovery’ and vice versa.

So why is Discovery important? Shopping, especially in a brick and mortar store is an experience – the product that you take home is only part of the equation. The arc of that choice is highly satisfying and desirable, especially to Millennials. Because they’re both picky as hell and broke, they browse, they don’t splurge. They shop more than they buy. Hence, we can infer that those retailers that provide a great experience are visited at a higher rate and collect the dollars when they do start flying. Moreover, the internet has rinsed out the hunting/gathering aspect of shopping and there’s a well documented backlash happening.

Have you seen Birchbox? Or better yet Warby Parker? These brands are on top of this new insight and have been crushing their competition by using a “personalized discovery” approach to online retail. Warby offers guidance in the form of filters enabling the user to construct a storefront containing only what’s relevant to that user. I want metal frames in silver, round in shape and WIDE for my big fat head. My store front dynamically adapts and my browsing experience is personalized with only items that interest me. Now for the discovery – choose 5 pairs that you like and they’ll send them to you for free for an entire week. Throw them on, wear them to parties, try them out at work and discover for yourself which frames work best. Send back the ones you don’t want and keep the ones that you do. The real kicker here is that their average sale is 1.6 pairs of glasses. Industry standard? 1.1. So putting the personalized discovery back into retail isn’t simply responding to a trend in the market; consumers buy more when they’re gently guided and when the purchasing experience feels like a journey of personal discovery.

Of course this type of extreme approach wont be work for all products or even most. But without too much extra effort and a bit of creative thinking, we can bake that feeling into your online experience. How? Well that part ain’t free.

Originally written while working at Akavit – used with their permission.

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