Everywhere consumers go, they are inundated with products and services – both local and global. We live in a time where everything is available all the time and can be delivered to our doors with the click of a mouse. As this new world takes hold, as consumers are getting lazy.

Originally, they were trying to duplicate the in-store experiences online: Go to their favorite retailer, pick out the product they are looking for, and purchase. As technology evolved, so did the purchasing process. Search engines changed everything. If someone wanted a blue t-shirt, they no longer relied solely on the retailer’s online inventory. The global marketplace opened up.

Eventually, that too wasn’t enough. The dawn of social media unlocked an entirely new way of discovering new products – now, fully utilizing word of mouth and what our friends, family, and networks were buying. Suddenly, making purchase decisions is not entirely influenced by what our friends and family are saying, but also by strangers like us online.

Individuality and personalization have risen in importance and consumers are more willing than ever to give up their personal data to improve their shopping experiences. We can reach out to the experts in our networks, but that’s taking on all the work. Today, we rely on marketers to get to know us and connect us with people like us that are the experts. In addition to that, a new form of marketing – discovery marketing – is taking a foothold.

Companies like Birchbox have cracked the code on discovery marketing. They’ve created a following of subscribers that willingly volunteer to be marketed to – and pay for services that expose them to niche industries. In the case of Birchbox, it’s grooming and lifestyle products. The concept is the same as the ‘wine of the month’ clubs, but for the new ecommerce generation.

Birchbox will send a box of sample sized grooming products as well as something from the lifestyle category – felt wallet, pocket square, socks – each  month. In addition to the products, they include calls to action: rate the products, visit their blog to learn how to incorporate the samples into daily life, and/or buy the full-sized product.

This model is championing the convergence of social and ecommerce (as well as spearheading a new movement in the way we shop – by having samples of previously unknown products literally shipped to our homes). Consumers are able to reap the benefits of discovering these new products, become trendsetters in their social groups, and further educate themselves in markets they are already interested in.

For brands, the benefits are numerous as well. In addition to being able to market directly to a group of market advocates (well groomed people, wine enthusiasts, etc.), they can also solicit feedback on newly launched products, build brand loyalty and awareness, and offer exclusive discounts generating more sales.

The concept of discovery marketing has a long way to go. The adoption of this model has been slow to gain momentum in numerous industries and brands are not taking full advantage of this hungry market. Brands embracing the discovery marketing model could easily take more steps to tap into their primary user base’s social networks and generate buzz on new products.

The ways consumers and brands interact will always evolve. For now, we are distilling thousands of data points to define the tastes and preferences of the social marketplace. The key for discovery marketing’s success and, in turn, brands’ success, is using this data to learn who their consumers are. Understand them, identify them, and then suggest to them. Nothing is more powerful than the ability to identify people who are going to be elated when you hand them a product you know they’re going to love, before they even know what it is.

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