Discovery shopping — the act of shopping as a pastime or shopping without knowing what you are looking for — accounts for 50% of the retail market, by some estimates. However, many e-commerce options are not designed for discovery, but rather for  utilitarian experiences or for a hyper-focused market or product. Bottom line: brands and retailers without an e-commerce strategy for discovery shoppers are missing out on potential sales revenue.

The utilitarian option is dominated by Amazon, which continues to perfect search-driven e-commerce. This experience is very transactional and aims to be as frictionless as possible to quickly drive shoppers –who know what they want– from search query to purchase. The second option is populated by direct-to-consumer brands highly tailored for specific demographics — think glasses, suitcases, makeup. Both options have found viable markets, but are not filling a huge hole in retail. With more and more consumers turning to mobile shopping, opportunities are arising for merchants to try new channels.  

The discovery retail market is ripe with opportunity. While many physical stores are turning to e-commerce as a new channel, brick-and-mortar stores for discovery shopping are still thriving. And online, discovery apps and sites are growing in popularity. Honing in on a few key points can help merchants succeed in selling in discovery formats.

Focus on price and the mass market shopper will come

Discovery shoppers are looking for a bargain. They are less concerned about name brands and are more focused on feeling like they scored a great deal. As a merchant, the products best suited to sell on discovery marketplaces are items shoppers can feel they got at a discount. Overstock or wholesale items can be sold at a competitive price for shoppers while still providing a good margin for merchants.

Home, jewelry, apparel, pet supplies, and other categories perform well in discovery settings. Because many of these items are not necessities, shoppers are less likely to pay high prices but are more likely to buy several things at a time.

Optimize for the mobile experience

As we all know, the retail industry is shifting to a mobile focus, so merchants need to optimize to sell things that shoppers are looking at on their phone.

Quality product images are paramount. Products should be cleanly displayed, so shoppers understand the size, shape and material of what they are viewing. Consumers love to browse. Look at the tremendous growth of Instagram, an app basically built for browsing. Instagram and Facebook have made a culture that is very comfortable with scrolling as a way to pass the time. Striking product images can make shoppers pause to look deeper at something, just like a great picture on Instagram.

The same concept applies to descriptions. Clear and brief product descriptions and product names allow shoppers to understand a product quickly and may drive them to purchase.

Discovery shopping can be an intimidating frontier for many merchants. It feels harder to understand than a highly utilitarian experience, but huge opportunity lurks here. These buyers are shopping in a way that differs from search-driven e-commerce shopping experiences. When utilized well, discovery shopping marketplaces help merchants reach those shoppers and move the right products at the right price.

As a data-driven business, Tophatter is the world’s fastest, most entertaining mobile shopping app for professional sellers, business, and brands. Tophatter has partnered with Rithum, named the #1 marketplace management provider by Internet Retailer, to provide everything you need to connect with more customers and increase sales.

Blog post by Sree Menon, Head of Global Strategy at Tophatter

Sree Menon leads global strategy at mobile discovery e-commerce marketplace Tophatter. Sree has a long history leading marketplaces and e-commerce divisions. Before joining Tophatter, Sree managed the Motors Division of eBay. Previously, she was a director of e-commerce sales at Dell. To learn more about Tophatter and how to become a seller, visit