How to make your good product finder great

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So you're trying to launch - or have recently launched - your first guided selling application. Excellent! A guided selling app (also known as a product finder) helps your customers find the product that best matches their needs. Which in turn leads to higher conversion rates.

How do you make sure your new product finder actually lives up to these expectations? Check out these 6 tips to make your good product finder great!

Tip 1 - cut out products

You're proud of the products you sell. All of them. However, your pride might be standing in the way of the quality of your product advice. If you feature hundreds, or even thousands, of products in your product finder, there's a pretty good chance - because math! - that your customer is ultimately confronted with a bunch of product recommendations that fail to be sufficiently discriminating. Meaning that the customer's "best match" doesn't differ from the no. 2, or no. 3 (or.... no. 10) options.

You may be thinking: "That sounds like a great outcome! The customer can have their pick of 30 **great options". Yet this line of thinking stems from the traditional e-commerce approach, where more is always better. When you approach this outcome from a buying psychology perspective, you can clearly see things don't work out well this way. The product finder fails to do its intended job: help the customer choose a product. Presenting 30 good alternatives, or even just 3 products that are all a "perfect match" for the customer's needs and wishes, doesn't provide the optimal conditions for a customer to make up their mind.

The best case scenario? A set of recommendations that consist of a clear winner that's a strong match, one or two runners-up that are decent alternatives — and after that it's actually a good idea to close out with a product that fails some of the desired criteria. Structuring your product advice in this way reduces choice overload, buying anxiety and inertia.

So: where to cut? The easiest products to leave out of your product finder are the ones that aren't actually different products, but merely different SKUs. For example, you could cut out different color variants of the same product, or a different quantity of the same product. Both tend to mess up a recommendations page.

The same product in different quantities is not a helpful result.

Tip 2 - end with your most ambiguous question

Customers are more likely to revisit certain questions - or rather, their answers - than others. If you're looking to buy a children's car seat, you're more likely to change the answer to the question 'Does the seat need to grow along with the child?' than the question 'How old is the child?'. So, make sure to put the more ambiguous questions near the end of your product finder.

There are two great reasons to do this. Firstly, customers only need to navigate back a few steps to play with their most ambiguous answers. Secondly, these types of questions are slightly more tricky to answer and require a bit more thinking. Research shows that asking the easy questions first leads to a higher completion rate.

Tip 3 - design for traceability

Product advice should be exactly that: advice.

Advice isn't a filtered category page with a bunch of products, without any explanation of the applied filters. This isn't helpful. Can you imagine an in-store sales conversation, that ends up with the assistant pointing you to thirty products and not telling you why those are relevant for you?

Good product advice consists of a well curated set of recommendations, with an explanation of why those are the relevant products for this particular customer. A customer should easily be able to see where each product meets, exceeds or fails their needs and expectations. Such traceable advice helps the customer deal with the purchasing anxiety at the core of today's e-commerce environment.

Tip 4 - watch your language, please!

You can only decide on something if you truly understand the options. That's why jargon, technical language, complicated words, and complex sentences don't belong in your product finder.

It's easy to make things difficult. Think of almost all processes, procedures and products. It's hard to make things easy. To bring a message back to its core, you need to be extremely clear about what you want to communicate. How do you translate complex subject matter into comprehensible texts, without losing its meaning? And how do you make it accessible to all target groups?

Our tips for writing excellent product finder copy:

  • Write at language level B1, or perhaps even A2. Depending on your country, the latter can be understood by roughly 95% of the European population. There are various tools online to check the language level of a text.
  • Omit. We often tend to use more words than are really necessary. Or: we often use more words than necessary. Or: use fewer words. Weigh every word carefully. Does it really add something?
  • Take your time! Writing good copy takes time. A lot of time. If your writing doesn't take much time, chances are that it's not that good. The more you invest in writing, the less the customer will have to invest in reading.
  • Put your ego aside. Your writing is at the service of your customer. It's not a showcase of your vocabulary. Nor is it a showcase of your product. You write good copy for the customer.

Tip 5 - practical beats perfect

Yes, a product finder can help you emulate the perfect in-store sales conversation. However, if you can approach 90% of the offline experience with 6 questions, but need 10 more questions to end up with a perfect advice, going for 💯 might not be worthwhile.

Longer questionnaires will often (but not always!) result in lower completion rates. This can hurt the product finder's sales figures, and a higher drop-off rate means you're helping fewer customers. If your imaginary perfect assistant would help 1% of your customers (because the rest got bored and dropped out), and your imaginary perfectly-fine assistant would help 5% of your customers, which is the better assistant?

You can, of course, have it both ways. Simply build both product finders, and A/B-test them to find out which one delivers the best results.

Tip 6 - ship it

Similarly, you should resign yourself to the fact that the first version of your product finder will never be its best. At the same time, you should embrace the fact that this first version will already do a much better job of assisting the customers in your webshop. After all, when the status quo is 'no help whatsoever', the bar for improvement is rather low.

By launching your first version, you'll take the step from 'not at all helping people choose', to 'helping some people choose quite well'. That's achievable for just a single product category. Or a specific target group. Or a subset of products. By shipping your first version, you'll make things better than they are now.

Better is good - Barack Obama

So let go of your launch jitters as soon as possible and ship your first product finder! By going live you'll ensure that:

  • you know what it takes to "close the loop" (from concept, to development, to launch);
  • you immediately start helping customers;
  • you achieve results that generate more excitement within your organization.

And then you can put more time and energy into optimizing the product finder.

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