Gen Z Shifts Product Discovery From the Storefront to the Streaming Platform

couple searching online

Consumer search and shopping habits have transformed over time. With platforms ranging from Google and Pinterest to TikTok — according to Google’s own data, nearly 40% of Gen Z consumers use TikTok and Instagram for search instead of Google — individuals now have a variety of avenues to discover brands.

Embedded within this shift lies the concept of product discovery, which holds potential advantages for both brands and retailers. This facet not only presents consumers with the chance to unearth novel brands but also empowers these brands to capitalize on the encounter.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Chris Chan, co-founder of Marmalade, a new discovery platform, delved into the evolution of product discovery, changes in consumer expectations and what that could mean for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

“People might visit Google and search best (fill in the blank) and end up with an SEO article with 20 links to Amazon,” said Chan.

As the world has undergone a multitude of inescapable transformations prompting consumers to adjust how they interact and connect with the world, consumer expectations have also changed, leading to modifications in how consumers approach shopping.

Considering this, embracing additional avenues for exposure can be crucial for smaller brands, as this mutually beneficial association not only revolutionizes consumer shopping patterns but also nurtures the expansion and enduring success of these emerging enterprises.

That is a connection Chan is looking to forge through Marmalade, particularly focusing on SMBs.

The Difference Between Etsy and Marmalade 

Etsy is known as an online marketplace that specializes in handmade, unique and vintage goods as it provides a platform for artisans, crafters and independent sellers to showcase and sell their creations to a global audience.

“Etsy doesn’t really shine a light on brands,” said Chan.

On that note, Etsy is currently working to expand its appeal and transform consumers’ perceptions of personalized products. The goal is to provide consumers with compelling reasons to engage in more frequent shopping experiences on the Etsy platform.

“Buyers too often think of us only for very specific needs are at the end of their shopping journey when they can’t find the item somewhere else,” CEO Josh Silverman said in May, noting that the marketplace intended to position itself as a go-to marketplace instead of a once-in-a-while shopping experience.

Read more: Etsy Isn’t the Go-to Destination It Wants to Be as Consumers Prioritize Essentials

Chan said Marmalade aims to distinguish itself by providing a unique user experience that acknowledges the wide array of products and brands present in the market but addresses the challenge of discovering items that align with specific tastes or aesthetics.

At the core of Marmalade’s strategy lies a focus on personalization to empower users with tailored experiences, leading them through an array of options to discover products that resonate with them.

“The more you explore, the more you like, like the more you experience a niche of products that fit in with your vibe,” said Chan.

To craft such an experience, Chan said, Marmalade has curated an assortment of several thousand brands, each selected for quality and craftsmanship across a wide range of categories.

Chan highlights that with an increasing number of brands showing interest in becoming part of Marmalade’s platform, the assessment procedure revolves around ensuring authenticity.

In this vetting process, Marmalade employs a somewhat manual approach, looking into factors like a brand’s social media presence and online reputation to gauge its authenticity and alignment with Marmalade’s criteria.

How Marmalade Makes Money 

“For the foreseeable future, we are not planning another shopping cart. That’s the power of D2C — Shopify, BigCommerce, Squarespace — they make it so easy to check out,” said Chan.

Instead, Marmalade envisions a future in which brands adopt a monthly subscription model. This subscription would provide brands with entry to a set of premium features, elevating their visibility and significance within Marmalade’s search and exploration system. Chan said the ultimate objective is to empower brands to differentiate themselves within Marmalade’s platform.

Why Product Discovery Is Pivotal

For small brands with limited marketing budgets, product discovery platforms and collaborations provide a much-needed avenue to reach a wider audience. The potential exposure gained through these channels can significantly boost brand awareness, ultimately leading to increased sales and growth opportunities.

Plus, being featured on curated discovery platforms — like the impact of receiving positive reviews — adds a layer of validation to small brands. This recognition builds credibility and trust among consumers who might be hesitant to try lesser-known products, fostering brand legitimacy.

With that in mind, authenticity and niche focus can create a passionate and engaged customer base. Through product discovery, small brands can cultivate a community of loyal supporters who not only buy their products but also act as brand advocates.

“Every brand needs to allocate some budget, even if they say, ‘Oh, we spend zero dollars on ads.’ The fact remains that they are still investing time and effort to establish their presence,” said Chan. “We see an opportunity to build a new channel around that.”