An uncomfortable truth has reared its ugly head: brands big and small, local and international, aren’t delivering the experience customers crave. They’re falling short at various touch points in the digital shopping journey, and no enterprise is immune. Today’s consumers are less loyal than they ever have been.
The findings of an Ernst & Young survey that involved around 25,000 people across 34 different markets around the world showed that
“On the whole across all 34 markets brand loyalty checking in just under 40% as a determining factor in making a buying decision, but, that number dropped to just 25% in the US, a highly significant decrease in the number of American consumers who say brand loyalty is something that impacts their buying behavior.”
That’s trillions of dollars in lost revenue each year because brands are not facilitating consistent interactions across multiple channels.
eDigitalResearch explored how loyalty and customer experience correlate and found that the majority of customers consider the overall customer experience as more important than their loyalty to any brand.
This means that today, brands are not only competing on their products, but mainly on the experience they offer. People will switch if your customer experience sucks – no matter how often they have bought your products in the past. Or, they won’t even consider buying from you, if you are failing to convey relevance, can’t make your product or service stand out from the competition or struggle building functional brand loyalty by making it easy to buy from you.
Here is what Guided selling can do for brands that might otherwise be struggling to find sure footing in modern consumer relations:
1) Create engagement with customers
Presented with more choices than ever before, consumers expect a level of personalization and convenience heretofore unheard of. Fail to deliver a proactive, preemptive, intuitive, pain-free and, above all else, tailor-made customer service experience to the consumer, and they will abandon their digital shopping cart and look elsewhere. Today’s brands need to appeal to the individual, not the demographic.
Brands need to offer an end-to-end (E2E) consumer experience that, among other things: increases customer satisfaction by offering additional value, identifies brand advocates to help increase positive ratings and reviews, and upsells via qualified consumers. Interactive product finders can do all this and more, plus help to integrate technologies many brands already have yet might not be connected to a consumer database.
2) Achieve brand relevance for all types of shoppers
The best way to target and advise the most diverse array of customers is by implementing need-oriented product finders on a website. Some best practices for designing the right Guided selling solutions include:
- Appealing to customers of various knowledge and experience levels through the use of interactive dialogue flows that adapt to users interactively.
- Following a customer-centric instead of a product-centric approach that is based on understanding the needs of shoppers and communicating individual benefits rather than technical product features.
- Ensuring a flexible flow by creating concise product finder questions, including progress indicators, and allowing the site visitor to back up or skip questions.
And don’t overlook other platforms: even today there are brands whose websites are not properly optimized for mobile, despite the fact that mobile purchases and conversion rates are nipping at the heels of desktop usage.
3) Offer advice across all channels
Where many brands err is in thinking that their product categories, such as those that rely heavily on showrooms and brick-and-mortar sales, don’t lend themselves to Guided selling solutions across multiple channels. This is a misnomer, as evidenced by three retail categories that are currently reaping the rewards of advising shoppers interactively.
Seasonal purchases are a category where these Guided selling solutions facilitate purchases on a massive scale. Targeting holiday gift givers is an effective way to point shoppers in the direction of products that suit their specific needs, such as by organizing gift finders around a gift-recipient’s age and gender. Guided selling can also help shoppers find and choose the most suitable product by offering, for example, a digital clothing-finder tool on a retail website during peak buying seasons.
Another category thought to be wholly dependent on sales associates is cosmetics. The idea of selling a customer a beauty product they can’t experience in person may seem counterintuitive, but L’Oreal has found massive success doing just that by widening their e-commerce scope and creating virtual beauty counters. Their Makeup Genius app is an effective part of a new omni-channel approach that relies heavily on Guided selling.
And French Brand Sephora has integrated a need-orientated product finder solution to help pair customers with their perfect fragrance. There’s been so much success with Guided selling in this category, in fact, that the tactic has spread to the industry as a whole. In America, 79% of beauty brands have now adopted Guided selling solutions.
The other category is consumer electronics. Because one of the cornerstones of the Guided selling philosophy involves educating the consumer, this pays dividends in the form of helping customers understand often complex product functions as well as the benefits of such products. Consumers can receive an education to understand why a specific product or a certain functionality would meet their individual needs and intended usage. This approach is transparent and helps guide them through to making confident purchase decisions.
The point is that there is no longer a category that can’t benefit from Guided selling. And speaking of educating the customer, this is another area many brands would do well to focus on.
4) Educate, advise and increase purchase decision confidence
Today’s consumers are faced with enough distractions as it is. This complexity shouldn’t spill over into their purchase behavior, too. And how do you reduce complexity? By contextualizing the purchase through convenience and education.
This is a particularly useful strategy where it concerns first-time website visitors, as they tend to benefit from a curated shopping experience. Consider it: by including concise educational modules, such as useful information texts, video demos and tutorials, into interactive product finders, it’s possible to inform consumers about complex subjects. These can include anything from consumer electronics features to dietary supplement ingredients to the differences between laptop operating systems.
5) Help incentivize brand-agnostic sales associates
Achieving brand loyalty is hard enough as it is; what further hinders the process is when retail partners promote a brand-agnostic message. Moreover, this neutral communication often travels down the ranks to sales associates. The result is a top-down failure to inform shoppers about brand-specific benefits that are relevant to their daily lives.
By utilizing Guided selling to stay on message, brands can promote awareness 24/7. An ancillary benefit to creating such a tool is that it promotes consistent messaging between in-store staff. In this manner the best sales associates emulate the best Guided-selling solutions—and vice versa.
As evidenced above, the most forward-thinking brands are rewriting the rulebook to wildly successful results. The lesson to be taken from such behemoths as L’Oreal and Sephora is that Guided selling is crucial for those brands who wish to convey their message, educate shoppers, create awareness and enthusiasm, and secure repeat business in a 21st century consumer environment.