7 Things We’ve Learned at Guided Selling Live! 2016
This year’s Guided Selling Live! conference under the theme “Need-based Personalization” gathered some of the world’s foremost industry leaders and experts to discuss how businesses can make sure to deliver exceptional customer experiences in a time when digital is the name of the game and people are spending an average 5.6 hours a day with digital media.
Choice overload, in-store digitization, digital advice, streamlining the purchase decision process and improving overall customer service were some of the hot topics at the GSL in Manhattan.
In stark contrast to what many believe to be the best business practice, this year’s conference showed that offering the lowest prices and the largest assortment will not increase customer satisfaction and overall sales. Modern business knows that customer-centricity, offering convenience, and placing the customer needs at the center of it all have to be the focus.
Access All AreasThe entire day, including sessions from Barry Schwartz, West Marine, SMARTASSISTANT, Newell Brands, SapientNitro, and Perfect Linens as well as interviews, pictures and more are available now.
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In his talk, Barry Schwartz, author of the widely cited book, The Paradox of Choice, highlighted that for years, companies have misinterpreted the best way to serve their shoppers. As paradox as it may seem, the increase in selection and variety doesn’t lead to more satisfaction, but rather to quite the opposite: regret and anticipated regret, the feeling of missed opportunities and the escalation of expectations are some of the effects of too much choice.
Shoppers leave the store dissatisfied with a purchase or unable to decide for a purchase at all. Barry Schwartz advised companies to help shoppers during the selection of products and to curate offers for them (“We are the experts and we do the selecting for you”).
1) Consolidation of shopping destinations is happening
Gabe Weiss, Digital Customer Experience Strategy Lead as SapientNitro, demonstrated vividly how digital has changed the lives of people. He presented the results of a joint consumer study by SMARTASSISTANT and SapientNitro, which involved shoppers in the US, UK and Germany.
The survey found that 67% shop at less than 5 different stores and only 10% shop in 9 or more stores. It is a strong indicator that shoppers are consolidating their shopping destinations and businesses have to differentiate by offering consumers something of value that goes beyond low prices and huge assortment.
2) Excellent Service is the new Marketing and Sales
Offering great service is a key element for companies that want to stand out, as Markus Linder, CEO at SMARTASSISTANT, noted in his opening remarks. If you want to be one of the lucky stores that consumers consider in their purchase journey, you have to help shoppers discover and choose just the right product or service for them.
Providing an effortless product choosing experience and easy accessible advice (“Make shopping easy!”) are ways how businesses can become the point of decision for customers. Linder described the key challenges for businesses as:
“Providing the right solution to the right shopper, in their language, for their individual need at the right moment!”.
The presentation by Perfect Linens President and founder, Thomas Danaher, provided the perfect illustration of this attitude and approach. At the conference, Danaher took attendees on an inspiring journey back to the early beginnings of his business: from experiencing flannel sheets on a weekend trip to Scotland as a student to starting selling flannel sheets via mail order to the US Market, growing his business to be the largest supplier of flannel sheets in America, and supplying to major retailers such as Bloomingdales, Walmart, Kohls and many more.
However, changing markets and price-bidding wars made it necessary for Danaher to change his business and strive for being different. It eventually led to the founding of Perfect Linens – The Sheet Experts Company.
Not only does the Perfect Linens invest into testing each sheet to guarantee a high level of quality, they also care about making their expertise available to online shoppers in order to help them pick the right sheet according to their individual needs.
To achieve that, Perfect Linens uses Zuvoo, a freemium solution based on the SMARTASSISTANT Guided Selling Technology, which allowed them to create and integrate an interactive Guided Questionnaire in their online store quickly. It asks the shopper a few experiential questions and removes all marketing fluff about thread count and ambiguous descriptions, to get shoppers to the right sheet in 1 minute.
Perfect Linens’ slogan describes it best:
“Don’t just change your sheets… change the way you buy your sheets!”
4) Don’t force shoppers to interact with you
This is another interesting result from the consumer study presented by Gabe Weiss: 55% would prefer self-service instead of speaking to a company representative and 32% liked not having to interact with anyone.
Christy Westfall, Manager of Global User Experience at Newell Brands, shared some information and best practices around how Newell Brands implemented an advice-driven self-service experience at their retail locations.
Newell Brands is a global consumer goods company with a portfolio with well over 100 different brands. The company wanted to reduce the complexity associated with choosing the right product and to improve the in-store experience at their retail partners such as Macy’s and Lowes. They found that providing an engaging in-store digital experience with interactive product advisors would help customers get started in narrowing down their choices on their own, which took some of the pressure off of the sales associates to be 100% available.
Because this self-service experience is available both in store and on the brand website, users are able to walk through the interactive advisor, select and start customizing a product in the store, save their information to their cart, and finish customizing later at home from the website, either from their laptop computer or on the go using their mobile device. Her advice for businesses who want to implement great digital in-store experiences was:
- Understand the physical location and environment
- Understand the people who work in the physical location and get store employees on board
- Understand the customers at that location
5) Help shoppers assess and understand their options
Given that 60% of surveyed consumers feel that products by different brands are in fact pretty similar, brands have to invest more into educating shoppers, reducing customer confusion, communicating individual product values and conveying brand benefits.
AT GSL16, Janet Estes, Director of E-Merchandising at West Marine, the largest specialty retailer of boating supplies and accessories in the US, Puerto Rico and Canada, described how the company uses digital advice solutions to reduce customer confusion and help shoppers assess their options.
West Marine has an assortment with over 110K products and serves a broad range of customers from experts to novices. With carefully selected and crafted questions, their need-based product finders help especially novice shoppers to navigate to the most suitable products in categories such as Standup-Paddleboards, Kayaks, or for highly specialized items such as VHF Radios.
6) Choice complexity affects the overall customer satisfaction
Customer confusion is also a challenge that especially telecommunication providers have to tackle. The telecommunication sector is often associated with complex and confusing plans and offers. A lack of transparency and high choice complexity greatly affect the overall satisfaction with the provider or the service as the previously stated consumer study showed:
58% of surveyed people who are less satisfied don’t understand their mobile plans vs. 84% of the satisfied who do understand their plans.
DNA Oy is one of Finland’s leading telecommunication groups offering diverse telecommunication services to consumers, facilitating communication, security and entertainment. DNA’s efforts to improve the customer experience have led to the company topping every corporate service category of the EPSI Rating customer satisfaction survey, and reaching the highest customer satisfaction score for mobile broadband in the consumer segment.
Esamatti Vuolle, Commerce and Customer Experience Expert at DNA Oy, shared how DNA integrated Guided Selling solutions at the DNA stores and involved store experts in the process to create a solution that helps DNA sales associates share great, knowledgeable advice. It guides shoppers and makes the discovery of the best product less confusing.
Vuolle’s advice for businesses that want to integrate digital solution in-store was to understand the holistic target architecture, using solutions that fully integrate with the commerce ecosystem, and finding partners who are willing to shape up together with you on all levels.
7) Offering need-orientation across the customer journey is key
Future winners will have to solve customer needs across the entire customer journey. This doesn’t end with the purchase and isn’t limited to choosing the right product. It goes beyond that and includes being a helpful resource as shoppers are figuring out how to use a product or are looking to solve issues after the purchase.
Businesses have to be a shopper’s trusted advisor during each step, as described by Jacek Wojciechowski, VP Software Development at SMARTASSISTANT. During his talk, Wojciechowski shared a look into the future role of digital advice and the opportunities it offers during all stages of the customer life-cycle. From Next-better alternative advice, Chatbot and Live-Chat integration to advice-driven, need-based and personalized marketing campaigns.
His final advice for businesses was to be memorable and convey value as they discover you, be consistent as they explore and compare your offers, be helpful as they seek to increase their decision confidence, be supportive beyond the purchase, and be personal to inspire your customers for a future purchase.
The second Guided Selling Live! conference offered plenty of brain food and inspiration to create meaningful interactions with today’s shoppers. It was also a great opportunity to learn from thought-leaders and experts to see how they tackle the challenge of delivering need-oriented customer experiences.