What is guided selling?

Guided selling is another name for the use of product finders (or other forms of assistance) in online stores.

With guided selling, brands and retailers actively guide their customers in making a purchase. This significantly increases conversion rates.

Read more about what guided selling is and how it works on this page.

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Guided selling for e-commerce

The digital warehouse

An online store is a large digital warehouse, filled to the brim with products. The statements include name plates for the categories that can be found therein: sweaters, car tires or insurance, for example. These products are often sorted. And they are regularly in the right container. A box for yellow sweaters in size M, winter tires size 205/55 R16 91H or health insurances with a refund policy and a 685 euro deductible.

Super handy, of course... if you know what you're looking for. And if you understand which product features are important and relevant to you. You find your product, add it to your shopping basket and pay. Before you know it, it will be delivered to your home, maybe even the same day. #easypeasy

Customers who are unsure don't buy

But if you're not sure what you're looking for, if the specifications mean nothing to you, the products are minimally different, and if you have to buy something for that aunt you don't know very well at all, e-commerce works downright badly.

Because you're not an expert in that area at all. You don't know what's important and what to look out for. Without that expert knowledge, it is quite a task for you to make a well-founded choice in that homogeneous product mass. And then you often still don't know if it's the right choice.

The way we've built our online stores isn't conducive to actually buying things and services. We went from offline stores to online stores, but left behind an essential retail component: staff to help customers. As a result, only the “man with a mission” can score successfully online. For everyone else, the current e-commerce model doesn't work. In fact, it causes stress, procrastination, dissatisfaction and fear of buying.

Because customers who aren't sure won't buy.

Guided selling or guided buying?

People don't buy. Not because they're not being shouted at loud enough, but because they just don't know well enough what to buy. If we want to fix e-commerce, we need to help customers. We need to take them by the hand at the right time and assist them in their search for a suitable product. And there's a name for that: guided selling.

Guided selling is a new way in which online stores help customers online in their search for the right product. If you would be guided buying actually a better term. This is because the idea behind guided selling is to give customers the confidence to buy, by offering help with stress over choice. It's the work that Jeroen does in his bright blue T-shirt in the physical store. It's the still missing online version of that classic entry:

Hi, can I help you with anything?
A matrix with two axes: offline versus online and assisting versus advising. At the bottom left, we see a drawing of headphones. At the top left, those same headphones in a digital store. At the bottom right, we see a drawing by Jeroen the shop assistant. At the top right (the online assist box), the matrix is empty.

How does guided selling work?

Let's say you're looking for a new mattress. Normally, you would spend a lot of time browsing to increase your knowledge and find the right mattress for your specific sleep preferences.

With guided selling, you simply use a Mattress Selection Guide and answer a few questions:

  • What position do you sleep in?
  • Do you suffer from back or neck pain?
  • What is your weight?
  • Do you have a budget in mind?

After you submit your answers, you will immediately receive tailored advice. That shows exactly which mattresses best suit your needs — and why.

This is how guided selling works for consumers in a nutshell. But how do you make a good decision aid as a webshop? Read our article:

📖 6 tips to make your good product finder great

Why guided selling?

Offline stores consist of two essential parts:

1. A space where products are shown
2. Staff that can help customers

For 25 years, online stores have focused exclusively on part 2: displaying products. Lots of products. That's fine if you know exactly what you're looking for. But if you don't know that exactly, it can be quite a challenge to actually buy something.

That's where guided selling comes in. Guided selling reduces the stress of choice and helps customers find the right product. The result? More sales, better customer insights, and more loyal customers. Just like in the store.

📖 Check out our book: Customers who aren't sure won't buy

Different types of guided selling

Although guided selling is a relatively new approach in e-commerce, we can already distinguish different types of decision aids. The two most used are the filter selection aid and it weighted advice.

A filter selection aid guides the customer through the regular filters that are already available on the category page. This also means that such a decision aid is often rather technical:

  • How much filling weight do you want?
  • What speed?
  • What kind of noise level?

For each question, a filter is applied and the list of available products is reduced. Sometimes this can lead to 0 results. That is why a decision aid with weighted consulting often a better option.

📖 Why a filter-based product finder is far from ideal

The benefits of guided selling in e-commerce

The biggest advantage of guided selling is that you support a customer in the process of making the right choice. This saves her time and effort. And this is extremely valuable.

In the offline world, the raison d'être of some stores has been for years, even decades, that customers there have been “so well helped”. This is of course very nice for those customers, but it also has a direct impact on your business results.

In our case studies we see that guided selling leads to several significant benefits:

  1. Better conversion: People who find what they're looking for buy faster and more.
  2. Time savings in customer service: Customers can help themselves instead of chatting or calling (and often prefer!).
  3. Fewer returns: The products that people buy are better suited to their needs. These are therefore returned less frequently.
  4. Higher customer satisfaction (NPS): Customers appreciate it when you put their needs first and help them make choices more easily, in less time, with confidence.

In other words, guided selling introduces a helping hand to the digital storefront, transforming a mere digital warehouse into a recognisable and warm shopping experience. This approach is beneficial for both the customer and the store.

📖 The big opportunity that online stores are missing

Used by leading e-commerce businesses

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