Product discovery becomes more visual (and social)

Product discovery becomes more visual (and social)

According to GlobalWebindex, almost half of internet users follow brands they like or brands they are thinking of buying something from on social media. Search engines, online reviews, and PR are the traditional discovery channels. But by 2020, we’ll see dramatic growth in five areas:

Social for product research

For online product research, search still leads the way. But social is catching up.

In a study of 178,421 global internet users aged 16-64, GlobalWebIndex found that 28 percent of users turned to social networks during their online product research, a number that we’ve seen jump every year.

In fast-growth markets such as Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, social media dramatically beats search engines for product research.

As GlobalWebindex also found, social media eclipses search engines as a research channel in the Philippines, Kenya, and Morocco.

By 2020, we’ll see search’s grip slip further on product research and social’s influence grow, especially among mobile-first consumers and emerging markets.


Visual searches

Andrew Ng, the Chief Scientist at Baidu, predicts that at least 50% of searches by 2020 are going to be through images or speech.

Products like Pinterest Lens use machine learning to aid in brand and product discovery. As Pinterest’s founder and CEO Ben Silbermann put it, “a lot of the future of search is going to be about pictures instead of keywords.”


Voice control

“Whoever controls voice is going to control a quarter of all computing,” predicts Stern School of Business professor Scott Galloway.

But as Simon Kemp also points out, the transformation that voice technology will bring goes far beyond brands fighting for digital shelf-space on Amazon Echo.

As he explained in a recent podcast, especially for emerging markets, the voice will help to make searching (and typing) easier. Voice technology helps consumers who have lower levels of reading literacy, making it a key technology for the next billion consumers about to come online for the first time. This will both change how consumers discover products and how they communicate on social channels—a new set of digital behaviors that marketers will need to adapt to.


Messaging apps

Facebook predicts that by 2020, 80 percent of smartphone users are projected to be using a mobile messaging app. Customer service is one of the most obvious use cases. But many local businesses are using messaging apps as their primary customer communication hub. This opens the door for conversational commerce to extend far beyond messaging, with messaging apps becoming the center of mobile commerce, customer relationship management workflows, and product discovery.



From product galleries on Instagram to product launches on Facebook Live, social content is already used by younger demographics to discover and evaluate products. As more consumers research potential purchases on social networks, it’s a short leap to buying directly on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Chatbots will help consumers transition to social commerce, making it easy and seamless to discover products, ask questions, process digital payments, and see automatic updates on your order’s delivery date.

By 2020, the novelty of chatbots will be gone. But for purchases such as choosing a smartphone package or planning a vacation, they’ll be delightfully helpful shopping social companions.