Guided Selling Best Practices – 5 Actionable Steps to Succeed

Laptop displaying Guided Selling solution
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Guided Selling Best Practices – 5 Actionable Steps to Succeed

Following the call for personalized digital experiences, we are seeing more retailers and brands discovering Guided Selling as a means to drive engagement and growth. The concept of “Easy shopping” is no longer just a fancy nice-to-have feature but has become a mandatory asset and USP for businesses that want to attract, satisfy, and convert visitors to improve their bottom line.

Guided Selling is not a brand new concept though. The first application popped up around 1996 and since then the solutions we are seeing have grown in sophistication and interactivity. While early applications were not more than better filters (no offence), current solutions integrate more customer-orientation and functionalities that leverage analytical data to simulate a conversation with the buyer, determine his or her needs, advise, educate, and ultimately sell the needed product to the prospective buyer.

Guided Selling has all the potential to provide users with convincing arguments for buying a product and actually converting them to buyers.

The important word in the last sentence, however, is: “potential”. If you’re planning to integrate Guided Selling, be aware that not every Guided Selling solution is automatically a winner. Some of the solutions we are seeing out there do the opposite of what they are set out to do:
Making choosing less complicated and facilitating the next action of value.

All the more reason for us to look at Guided Selling Best Practices to help you get started on the right foot. In a previous article, we shed some light on the 4 essential elements of good interactive product advisors. Here, we will go a step further and provide you with 5 actionable steps to succeed with your Guided Selling solution.

 

1. Prepare your Environment

Involve the team

Well-performing interactive product advisors are a product of great team work – Data managers, Category managers, UX designers, Marketers, and Business owners – get them all on board to share their perspectives and help you create a sound Guided Selling concept.

Use consistent and complete product data as a foundation

Effective Guided Selling solutions rely on consistent product data – You won’t be able to help and advise users on the best match if you don’t have the necessary information about the products or services.

 

2. Develop a Guided Selling Concept

Know who you are advising

Have a clear image of the users you want to support. Literally, imagine them using your solution. Who are they? Why do they want to use the solution? What type of support do they need? How experienced are they? Questions like these will help you figure out how to design the solution.

But also have a clear understanding of what your Guided Selling solution should do for you and keep your business goals in mind.

Do your research

Do involve research by consulting category experts. Explore external blogs, forums, and user reviews or analyze existing user data to understand what your shoppers care about in your products and which questions they have about them. This will help you to step outside the “expert box”, put yourself in the shoes of your potential buyers, and come up with the right questions to ask.

Product advisor concept from forum

 

Create a list of question candidates and paths

Once you have a picture of the target groups and your objectives, create a list of questions you would ask each of them to help them figure out the best product for them. Consider that you might need different paths and questions for different target groups. This will ensure that you can create relevant and personalized product finders for each user.

Product advisor flow

Camera advisor with different paths for different users – found at Canon

Put the questions in the right order

Edit your questions, put them into a logical order, and cut down the number to the ones that really matter in the purchase decision-process. Here, it can make sense to involve your team (even from different departments) to provide you with valuable feedback in terms of usefulness, relevance, and comprehensibleness of your concept.

Associate each answer option with a product feature (or combinations of product features) and make sure you have the right product data to support each answer – Example: The answer option “I will travel with my laptop a lot” could be associated with a maximum weight.

Product advisor concept

Extra tips:

  • Start with broad questions and get more specific as you progress
  • Don’t get too technical and always focus on the user’s benefits and needs – Example: It’s better to ask “How many people live in your household” rather than “What washing machine capacity do you need?”
  • Ask close-ended questions that can be answered easily and avoid “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” answer options
  • Longer questionnaires tend to work well for emotive categories such as apparel or furniture
    Technical categories should not exceed 5-7 questions (The 7+/-2 rule in UX design may not always hold true, but our tests have shown that the bounce rate increases with the number of questions you ask – so be sure to evaluate each question carefully)

 

3. Design the UX and Interaction Flow

The user interface and experience of your product advisors should fit into your general design and should make navigation easy for users. Fancy interfaces do intrigue users and entice them, but keep in mind that simplicity and functionality are key. The UI should not distract or annoy users with long loading times or unnecessary effects that only look good once.

The initial page should always explain how your product advisor works and which benefits users can expect once they start it.

Product wizard - start page

 

Extra tips:

Process

  • Offer contextual information in the form of quick tooltips to explain answer options, educate users, and upsell
  • Feature images for answer options to help users understand the purpose of the question
  • Integrate a progress bar
  • Allow users to go back and change answers easily

 

Product selection wizard - step 1

 

Result

  • Update the results in real time and show users how their answers influence the recommendation
  • Show users how the suggested product matches their needs
  • Allow users to compare and explore the recommended products directly from within your product advisor
  • Integrate ratings and reviews in the result view
  • Ideally display product images from multiple angles
  • Include social sharing options (especially on mobile)
  • Have a clear call to action in the result view

 

Laptop product finder results

 

Other

  • Include a “Feedback-function” to receive direct feedback on your product advisor
  • Consider mobile!

 

4. Test, test, test and Analyze

The most important advice we have for you is: Get started and don’t get lost in tiny details.

Developing a great Guided selling solution is an iterative and evolving process. Don’t get discouraged, if you don’t get it 100% right the first time. As your users start using your solution, you will be able to employ A/B Tests to find out what really works for them and how you will have to optimize your advisor.

Product advisor A/B test

A vs B: Changing the first question led to higher click-through rate and conversion rate in version B

Also be aware that customer behavior and expectations (especially online) are changing quickly and that your Guided selling solution does need attention. We have seen that solutions that have not been touched for years show significantly lower conversion rates and can impact overall trust.

Using a Guided Selling platform that lets you test different versions, monitor the performance, analyze user behavior around it, as well as makes it easy to update and optimize your solution quickly will save you lots of time and hassle. Carefully weigh the features and benefits of different Guided Selling solutions on the market and make sure you use a technology that gives you maximum flexibility and reduces manual effort.

 

5. Promote your Product advisor

To ensure that your users can find your new product advisor and to be able to generate the results you would like to see, you have to integrate it well. Ideal locations are within the navigation, banners on category overview pages or in the after search navigation page.

We also see that sharing your product advisor on Facebook or Twitter as well as in newsletters can rapidly increase awareness and conversion.

Product advisor - integration options

Integration options

Good Guided Selling solutions (see examples) are truly rewarding: they increase customer service satisfaction, which in turn means more sales and less products being returned. Customers are always on the lookout for hassle-free and more personalized shopping experiences – your product advisors will help you increase the capability of your shoppers to quickly find, select and purchase goods that fit to them and their needs.

Have you come across Guided Selling solutions that managed to impress and support you? I am curious to know!

 

Download the FREE Product Advisor Worksheet

About The Author
Markus Linder
Markus Linder is an expert in the field of e-commerce and Guided Selling, in which he has been active since 2005. He is also the co-founder and Managing Director of Smart Information Systems. The technology company develops SMARTASSISTANT, a solution to quickly create and manage interactive Guided Selling solutions (product finders, product wizards, product advisors) via an easy-to-use web platform.

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