For over 20 years now, shoppers have used e-commerce sites to buy stuff. Throughout that time, marketers have worked in a paradigm of intention: figure out what people are looking to buy, then make it easy for them to do that. This paradigm ignores a simple truth: People like to shop.

Although buying something is a part of shopping, it's just the culmination of the shopping experience. Shopping entails the process of finding something, having that something spark some joy in you, and then building up enough desire to finally make the purchase.

At the grocery store, shoppers stumble upon cheese they can't pronounce and 8%-alcohol craft IPAs they'll pretend to like. Those encounters seem serendipitous, in part because stores make them feel that way. The aisles of e-commerce provide none of that delight and inspiration for shoppers. But social media does.

To explore why consumers find inspiration on social and how that translates to e-commerce shopping, we at Curalate conducted two surveys, in 2017 and 2019. We found that most brands are leaving a huge opportunity for improving product discovery untapped.

To capitalize on that opportunity, brands need to understand why and how consumers have shifted their shopping behaviors. Notably, they're not just purchasing online; they're now shopping online, too, and that's a critical distinction.

If the previous 20 years of e-commerce were about funneling intent, then the next 10 should be about fostering discovery.

The Rise of Discovery on Social Media

In March, when we compared the results from our 2017 and 2019 social commerce surveys, we found an important disconnect: Demand for shopping experiences online is rising, but e-commerce sites are failing to meet that demand.

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image of Apu Gupta

Apu Gupta is a co-founder and the CEO of Curalate, a social commerce solution, enabling brands to leverage their social media presence to sell more effectively online.

LinkedIn: Apu Gupta

Twitter: @apugupta