Guided Selling: The Basics Retailers Need to Get Right

Many of us have less than fond memories of spending what felt like an eternity wandering around furniture stores with our parents. But into adulthood, we begin to love making our homes feel personal and special. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean we spend any less time aimlessly walking around physical stores trying to find our dream couch or dining room set. Of course, the quest for the “perfect” furniture piece and accessories now extends to online stores – and as a vertical, it is booming.

According to Furniture Today estimates, online furniture, and bedding sales totaled an estimated $15 billion in 2018, up 6.4% from the previous year. Additionally, recent research revealed that 46% of consumers surveyed were more open to purchasing big-ticket items online in 2019 than they were just a year prior.

Without a doubt, consumer sentiment toward purchasing big-ticket items online is changing. But, hesitations often lie around the fact that with larger purchases, shoppers will consider several more factors before they commit. As with high-investment or specialty products like furniture, consumers often struggle to find the products they need as they might not know where to begin in the online search, or might not be familiar with the search terminology that’s required.

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The goal for these retailers is to digitally replicate online the “basics” of the buying process in a physical store with the help of a Salesperson, which can be done through guided selling. With guided selling, e-commerce retailers can help to educate their consumers and lead them down a path to the right set of products for their needs. Let’s explore the key best practices:

Narrow Down the Search

Effective guided selling tools will ask questions that are designed to lead shoppers to a narrow but appropriate range of products. For example, starting from broad categories, such as “couch or chair?” and moving down to specific needs, “couch > sectional > leather > modern > black > less than $3,000.” Essentially, the questions become more and more nuanced as they progress to help customers find their ideal products. However, it’s important to remember that shoppers are distrusting of brands they have limited interaction with, so providing context to any questions or recommendations is helpful.

As guided selling assists shoppers in discovering products they might not have known about, this information is also beneficial to retailers as it provides insights into consumer needs and search patterns. This data can be fed back into the guided selling tool to ask questions that are truly important in helping customers find the best products.

Educate Your Shoppers

Guided selling is a great mechanism for e-commerce retailers to introduce shoppers to new concepts and educate them along the way. This is an opportunity to teach them about the subtle differences between the products that are sold, and familiarize them with important terminology. Keeping with the decor example, this might include, stitching, materials, patterns, and construction. Canon’s Lens Selector tool is another great example of an online site that helps shoppers narrow down products that might appear too technical or similar at first glance.       

Using images to illustrate the difference between options on screen is also incredibly useful to online shoppers. Many of these tools make the mistake of using up too much of the page to ask questions, leaving little or no space available for actual products to be displayed. When products are displayed after each question, this helps further shoppers’ education.

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Display Live Recommendations

Consumers aren’t willing to spend as much time shopping as they used to. While they will certainly spend time utilizing a specialized tool to help them find the right product, progress bars that demonstrate how far they are in the questionnaire can be displayed to hold their attention.

Additionally, the more questions there are, the less likely it is that shoppers will make it to the end. With that in mind, products should load and refresh each time a new selection is made. To help with conversion, provide a sampling of recommended products that updates as the shopper answers questions.

After all, consumers may very well find the right product that fits their needs anywhere in the search process and decide to make a purchase immediately. These best practices help build trust, as consumers can see exactly what effect their selections are having on the products.

Guided Selling as the Key to Shopper Insights

If you’re familiar with the game Twenty Questions, you’ll know that you can get almost anywhere in a very short period of time with a series of artful and deliberate questions. At its core, guided selling is the same concept. Brands can benefit from helping their customers easily find products by educating them and asking appropriate questions. If a retailer isn’t successful with this essential Sales tactic, the business will suffer. Those that are already effectively utilizing guided selling practices on their e-commerce site should see additional Sales conversions, improved product discovery, and deeper insight into the needs of shoppers.

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