Remove Purchase Barriers, Keep Customers on Your Site, and Encourage Product Success with Guided Selling

5 min read

Guided selling is an interactive conversation that brings the human-level personalization of in-person sales to the online shopper. It removes barriers to purchase, gives customer confidence, and encourages product success. So, what is guided selling? The questionnaire style journey asks customers targeted and customized questions to better understand what product will fit their needs best. 

For example, imagine you’re going to a car dealership. You tell a salesperson what size car you’re looking for, your price range, why you need it (whether it be for daily commutes or long-distance road trips), what specific features you like, and maybe your color preferences. This salesperson will then take you to all the different cars they think you would like best. You are given a personal and customized experience that the salesperson tailors to each of their customers. That is what guided selling is, but placed conveniently online.  

Guided Selling & Self-Service

A lot goes into helping your customers have valuable product experiences, like building customer knowledge, having a well-functioning product, strong branding, successful self-service, and more. And, providing that successful self-service includes guided selling. It ensures your customers have an enjoyable and easy experience shopping and purchasing your product, while also making sure they receive the best products for them to have a successful experience after the purchase.

Self-service guides customers in all processes surrounding the purchase. From guiding the sale to guiding through the help center, it is present in every step of the buying journey. This system of empowering customers to help themself is a key factor in achieving product success. And, an important part of self-service is guided selling, which is what we will dive into in this article. 

The Benefits

1. It’s the best option for inexperienced shoppers.

Many customers go online to shop without knowing exactly what they’re looking for. They may have an idea of what they want, but don’t know all of the technical features they need, what the pros and cons are of different features, or the key differences between products they are choosing from. Guided selling asks simple questions, explains features to build an understanding, and presents relevant results. Imagine you are car shopping again. If the salesperson asks you “how many cylinders do you want?” you probably won’t know exactly how to respond, unless you already know the specific car you want. But, if the salesperson asks how fast of a car you are looking for, you can easily answer, and they can provide you with vehicles to match your speed. 

swisscom guided selling self-service
Credit: Swisscom

2. It improves the decision-making process to reduce cart abandonment rates.

On average, 69% of carts are being abandoned for a number of reasons that mostly boil down to the customer being unable to decide if they want to make the purchase. Buying online can make many customers uneasy, especially if it’s an expensive purchase or an item they’re unsure about. But, guided selling helps improve this decision-making process. It provides advice and educates customers on the value of their different options. Rather than just surfacing relevant results, it explains the benefits of each product and how they can fulfill what the customer is looking for. 

3. Reduces product returns

Studies show that 30% of all online orders are returned while in-store return rates are at only 8.9%. These returns happen for a number of reasons like receiving a damaged product, receiving a product that looks different than expected, receiving the wrong item, and more. But, many of these returns can boil down to customers lacking the proper knowledge before purchasing. This is especially true with customers buying the wrong product for them in the first place which could be entirely avoided with valuable pre-purchase resources. 

4. Adapts to provide personalized results for each interaction. 

Studies have found that 56% of customers are more likely to choose a retailer that offers them some form of personalization. But providing a personal experience to every single online customer is not easy. Guided selling does this in a unique way by adapting each question based on the previous response. Rather than applying filters that always yield the same results, guided selling provides unique results to every interaction. 

5. Reduces overwhelming result pages and filter options. 

No one likes combing through hundreds, or thousands, of irrelevant results. It leads to churn. According to Janrain & Harris Interactive, 74% of online consumers experience frustration when presented with content they’re not interested in. But, guided selling cuts down the irrelevant results and provides customers with only the results they may be interested in. And it does so with simple step-by-step questions, rather than long lists of filter options that can be just as overwhelming. 

morrocanoil guided selling self-service
Credit: Moroccanoil

6. More entertaining and engaging.

Companies sometimes lose sight of the fact that online shopping should be a fun experience for the customer. Browsing customers don’t want online shopping experiences that feel like a drag that they just have to get through. Most of the time, when customers go online and don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, they want an educational and entertaining experience. Otherwise, they may just lose interest. Guided selling can use different types of multimedia to keep customers engaged, keep their attention, and encourage the purchase.

trek bikes guided selling self-service
Credit: Trek Bikes

7. Rather than yielding “no results,” it presents more shopping options.

When customers apply different sets of specific filters or search for exact items, oftentimes, they may yield “no results” if you do not provide what they’re looking for. But the unique thing about guided selling is how it can present users with more relevant products that they may still be interested in, even if they don’t perfectly match their needs, rather than providing no results. This can encourage customers to stay on your site and continue shopping, reducing churn and abandonment rates. 

8. You can lead customers closer to purchase without being pushy. 

Customers don’t want to feel like they’re being pushed into buying. So, leading them to purchase without pushing them is key. Guided selling allows you to do so by progressing customers to their best option. Presenting customers with something of value can encourage a sale in a more genuine way. According to Forrester, 54% of retailers that have implemented automated product recommendations have seen a yearly increase in their average order value. And, another survey found that 86% of customers are willing to pay 25% more for a better shopping experience.

9. You can communicate with your target audiences in a tailored way. 

Most businesses have a variety of different target audiences, whether it be just 2 or upwards of 50. It can be difficult to tailor content to match each of these different audiences. But, as we’ve talked about above, customers want to feel like they're receiving custom interactions. According to Aberdeen Group, 75% of all consumers prefer personalized messages. Guided selling allows you to cater to each unique customer interaction, regardless of which target audience they belong to, by narrowing down the conversation based on previous responses. This can also allow you to lead different customers where you want them. If you know certain products are best for your specific audience, you can present those options. 

trek bikes guided selling self-service
Credit: Trek Bikes

Guided Selling Examples

1. Nikon

Nikon uses guided selling in their Camera Assistant. It allows customers to have a conversation with their site and receive the best camera options for them with a 90% completion rate. 

Nikon Guided Selling self-service

2. Whirlpool

Whirlpool released their Kitchenbuilder to ease the decision-making process for their customers. Since deploying it, they have seen a 20% increase in average sessions and tripled conversions rates. 

Whirlpool guided selling self-service

3. KitchenAid

KitchenAid deployed their Mixer Assistant in 7 different languages to guide users to their perfect mixer. Since going live, it has created a 65% increase in average order value. 

kitchenaid guided selling self-service
Kitchenaid guided selling self-service
Kitchenaid guided selling self-service

Notice how the Mixer Assistant goes beyond a simple survey and even provides helpful tips on each response option and different multimedia forms. They include video attachments and images to help educate users on how to answer these questions best and keep them engaged. And, depending on how you answer each question, the next ones will adapt with tailored follow-up questions.  

Final Thoughts

Guided selling is the future of online shopping experiences. It makes shopping better for the customer and can generate overall improvements for the company. Guided selling makes successful products and successful customer experiences. But, more goes into product success than just guided selling. Learn more about building customer knowledge and utilizing branding to continue encouraging this success. 

I love to write with one goal in mind - to help you build amazing customer experiences. Our content is tailored to help you understand your customers, design great products and deliver world-class customer self-service. I share my knowledge and experience through my articles, videos, podcasts, templates, and more - so you can take your customer experience to the next level.‍

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