While ‘hunters’ want to be immediately connected to the item they want, ‘gatherers’ –casual browsers– are more open to discovering a range of products along the way. Category finders will head to a specific category page, but they are open to view a broader range of relevant SKUs. Find out how to create experiences for both of them.

Meet Today’s Hunters and Gatherers

Our ancient ancestors, the hunters, and gatherers, had different methods of obtaining food. At times, depending on where they were located and what kind of wildlife was nearby, they went off to hunt animals. When hunting, success depended on staying focused on the target and acting quickly. At other times, they gathered wild fruits and plants that could provide sustenance.

Although our methods of getting food each day have changed dramatically since that period, the mindsets, and instincts we have when seeking something we want or need remain largely intact. Even when shopping for non-essential items, like a vintage bag, these instincts come into play.

In the world of eCommerce, hunters and gatherers look like this:

  • The mission-driven shopper: These are the “hunters” who know exactly what they want — say, the blue wrap dress they saw their friend wearing last night at dinner. They are already inspired, ready to spend, and don’t want to be disappointed.
  • The casual browsers: These are the “gatherers.” They are comfortable with a slower pace of product discovery, are open to more finds along the way, and are looking for inspiration.
  • The category scanner: These are the folks who want a certain type of product, say, new running shoes, but are less specific when it comes to attributes like brand, colour, or style. Think of them as the “more relaxed” version of the mission-driven shopper.

Each of these shoppers has the same goal — to buy the right product for them. However, each also has different expectations and standards for the discovery experience that gets them there.

While hunters want to be immediately connected to the item they want, casual browsers are more open to discovering a range of products along the way. Category finders will head to a specific category page, but they are open to view a broader range of relevant SKUs.

What’s more, it’s rare to find a shopper that exclusively fits into one of these categories. Today’s consumers switch between hunter and gatherer tendencies depending on their contexts and needs at that moment. As a result, brands need to be set up to provide a stellar product discovery experience for all shopping styles at any given time.

How to Create a Product Discovery Experience That Reflects Our Human Nature

Mission-driven shoppers usually go straight to your search bar after landing on your website. Nearly two-thirds of highly motivated shoppers (64%) use site search the moment they are ready to make a purchase, while 43% of all eCommerce browsers go directly to the search bar.

That means accurate on-site search is crucial for connecting “hunters” to the products they are looking for and getting them to click “add to cart.”

If a search produces limited or irrelevant results, you could lose them in an instant. First, they might think your store doesn’t have the item they want, and they might not have the patience to sort through pages of irrelevant results when they are in the “hunt” mode.

One way to ensure your on-site search is accurate is by augmenting your product tags to create a richer and more precise database for search. Instead of relying on inaccurate and incomplete product data to produce results, innovative brands are using visual AI to scan and tag product images down to the finest detail. This, combined with natural language processing (NLP) can accurately intuit shoppers’ context and intent. So, even if they use the “wrong” search terms or make a typo, your website will deliver the results they want to see.

2. Offer multiple options for product discovery

Creating more ways to search for products gives shoppers in different modes more opportunities to find the right products for them.

For example, visual search allows mission-driven shoppers who know exactly what they want to instantly find the right product without having to articulate it in words. It can also provide more inspiration for category scanners and casual browsers, who prefer image-led journeys from inspiration boards.

With visual searches, shoppers simply upload an image to identify similar items within your inventory. This enables them to skip text search altogether if they prefer. By applying the same image search capability to all the photos on your website, including UGC or social inspiration galleries and product images, you can help shoppers follow their aesthetic tastes until they find the right items.

3. Provide hyper-personalized product recommendations

Casual browsers who are in gathering mode will benefit greatly from truly personalized product recommendations. When product listings for items that perfectly match a shopper’s style, taste, and context appear on the screen, shoppers feel like the brand or retailer truly “gets” them. Not to mention, providing on-point recommendations is more likely to inspire shoppers into clicking on an item, adding it to their cart, and making a purchase.

4. Focus on eliminating dead ends

Nothing halts a hunter or a gatherer in their tracks like a dead end. If it looks like there’s no food for them in one spot, you could bet our early human ancestors were out of there fast. Today, shoppers who don’t find what they’re looking for, don’t find inspiration and don’t see a reason to keep browsing on your site will leave.

The trick is to get them to stay.

Written by Vered Levy-Ron, CEO of Syte