As the Director of Professional Services with SMARTASSISTANT, I have had the opportunity to accompany several businesses (of different sizes) during the implementation of their Guided Selling strategies (read about what Guided Selling is).
We are an international team of Guided Selling specialists that helps businesses to implement product advisors in various product categories using SMARTASSISTANT Platform, a flexible, cloud-based SaaS Guided Selling solution that facilitates the speedy implementation and roll out of interactive solutions.
Seeing how many companies are eager to leverage Guided Selling to improve the customer experience, I decided to put together some of the best practices I’ve seen and collected over the past couple of years. They should help you avoid common pitfalls and should allow you to use your time most effectively to be able to launch your Guided Selling solution quickly.
1) Have a clear strategy and communicate it
Before you start, it’s important that you have a clear idea of what exactly you expect Guided Selling to accomplish for your company and your prospective customers. Do you want to
- Increase conversion and average order value (AOV)?
- Differentiate from competitors?
- Simplify the shopping experience and reduce complexity?
- Educate shoppers better?
- Build brand loyalty?
- Cross- and up-sell customers (e.g. through product bundling)?
- Digitize the in-store experience?
There are many more ways how Guided Selling can support you to improve your business results. Formulating what you want to achieve with Guided Selling is crucial for a successful implementation and integration of your solution.
In a next step, ask yourself these questions:
- At which point in the customer journey do we typically lose customers due to a lack of advice and support? Most Analytics solutions allow you to map out the typical customer journey and identify where and when significant drop-offs and bounces occur.
- Who are the customers we want to reach and what is causing them to dismiss or defer an initial purchase decision?
- In which channels should we target them and where do we want to integrate our solution? Desktop, mobile and / or in the store?
- Which product categories are most promising for the solution to generate the expected improvements?
- Do we have access to structured product data? If not, how can we obtain relevant descriptions and specifications for our products?
Clearly define these aspects to remove all of potential blockers that may arise during the course of the project.
Depending on the size of your business, set up a joint or cross-departmental kick-off meeting to get everyone who potentially has a stake in the project on-board. Transparently and openly discuss and communicate the strategic importance of your Guided Selling initiative with all people involved.
Afterwards, everybody should have a good sense of the benefits of Guided Selling for the company, as well as its strategic importance for growth.
TIP: By fostering a clear understanding by all stakeholders at project start, you limit the risk of your project falling flat before it has even started – trust me.
2) Assign the right person to drive your initiative
What I’ve found to be most important in implementing Guided Selling solutions, is to appoint a project manager within your company who you have confidence in. This involves making sure they are interested and excited about the project! Confirm that the selected person
- understands the strategic benefits and the advantages Guided Selling offers for the whole company
- is able to drive the project internally
- can connect with and bring together different people easily
Finally, find someone who will be naturally enthusiastic about the entire project.
3) Involve the concerned departments
As project manager, the best way to get the right units involved at the right time is to start with a hands-on workshop that directly involves operational team members.
It will help you to understand their individual roles and responsibilities, relevant company processes and business requirements, and they will help you to define a realistic timeline for the launch.
a) Product Managers
As you draft your advisor concept, which involves creating questions, answers and determining the general flow of the advisor, be sure to involve your product (category) managers. They usually
- have in-depth knowledge about the products and features and understand how to best leverage the solution in order to bolster sales
- know how to advise shoppers in a need-based, customer-oriented way and can predict what kind of questions customers might ask themselves in order to make decisions
- can provide useful feedback on your advisor concept
TIP: Your concept should follow a personalized, need-based approach – don’t get too technical! This helps your customers, especially non-experts, to quickly run through the advisor and arrive at a confident and educated purchase decision.
b) Product Data Managers
Guided Selling solutions rely on sound and structured product data. Your advisor can only be as good as the quality of the product information available in data sheets or other data storage formats.
Therefore, as you develop the advisor concept, involve product data managers to ensure that relevant product attributes and values are available for each product you want to include in your advisor.
Need-based question can then be mapped to corresponding product attributes or combinations of product attribute. By involving your data managers in this step, you can make sure that the needed product attribute values are readily available in a structured form.
TIP: You will not be able to share useful and trustworthy advice, if there’s no clear information about the products you want to recommend. Therefore, your product data has to be sound and complete.
c) Design team
During the concept development stage, work closely with your design team to make sure:
- That your concept works with the UI design and ensures optimal user experience (UX)
- That your advisors fit into your overall brand strategy and conform to your company’s style-guides
TIP: Start with basic drafts and refine them as you expand your concept.
These are some product advisor design examples by Jim Williams for Sears:
4) Integrate the solution well, monitor, optimize, and give it time!
A smart integration is very important for your solution’s success. Therefore, I always suggest to analyze the customer journey first, to figure out where exactly your visitors need support.
Also, make room and be prepared to A/B-test different product advisors variants. Don’t be disappointed if your advisor doesn’t immediately perform as expected. By A/B-testing and analyzing the performance data once your solution is live as well as through iterative optimizations, you will be able to quickly find out what works for your users and what doesn’t to make your advisors reach their full potential.
Avoid complicated A/B-advisor variant approval processes that involve more than 2 people. Otherwise, you might risk getting stuck in a bottleneck due to communication delays.
TIP: Considering and planning for optimization cycles allows you and your solutions to stay flexible, evolve and quickly adapt to changing customer needs and expectations.
In a nutshell, if you follow these tips, you will be able to launch your Guided Selling solution quicker and will be able to maximize the success of your customer experience initiative:
- Outline a clear and transparent strategy with your team from the get-go
- Appoint the right person as project manager
- Get each department directly involved with their corresponding tasks
- Take the time to properly integrate the solution and give it time to cultivate success
Here you can explore examples of advisor projects that we have supported our clients with: 100+ interactive product advisors.
Do you want to get tips for your specific Guided Selling project? I am happy to reveal more insights. Just share your questions and comments below.