How to Determine the Right Duration of Advisory Processes

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During the conceptualization stage of building a Product Guide, we are often asked what the ideal duration for the questionnaire should be? How many questions and answer options are appropriate? How many seconds or minutes should the user remain in the Product Guide? And what are the implications for conversion or drop-off rates?

The answer isn't so clear-cut: it really does depend, so read on to see how the length of the selection process influences user experience and conversion rates.

Defining the Right Length of an Advisory Process

Defining the right length of the Advisory Process always depends on the product category and the goals of your shop or website. Of course, there is no single answer to this question because it depends on many factors. Defining the right length is crucial for:

  • user experience: clearly, users want to get through to the results list as quickly as possible
  • effectiveness: ask necessary questions and avoid unnecessary questions
    (examples of good questions which really allow you to get to know what the user wants could include asking about desirable features and style preferences for example)
  • Define your priorities: depending on your priorities and your target group, the website operator and the user may have different goals. Do you want to expose the user to the brand for as long as possible, increase likelihood of conversion. All these factors influence how many seconds a user will be in your Product Guide.

How many Questions Does a Good Advisor Ask?

The answer is quite simple:

As few as possible
so that the user gets through the process as quickly as possible,

but also as many as is necessary
in order to deliver good recommendations.

But what does that actually mean for my Product Guide concept?


What we learned from Tracking & Analytics

In hundreds of Guided Selling projects which were implemented by excentos, we observed how the duration of a Product Guide influences its overall conversion rates. What is the rule of thumb when analysing why users may drop off or require a more detailed Product Guide?

Duration of Decision Process and Drop-Off Rate
Duration of Decision Process and Drop-Off Rate

As the chart shows, the more complex a buying decision is, the more willing users are to invest the time. They wants to see the content and expect a certain depth of advice and knowledge. Of course, as in any web application, from every page to page or wizard phase to wizard phase, you risk losing some users. But the overall message is that complex decisions require longer processes and this is really what users expect so don't always feel put off by the fact your questionnaire may seem really long.
Simple buying decisions, however, show a clear increase in drop-off rate after only "one question asked too much".

In both cases, of course, there is a tipping point where after a certain duration users drop-off. The crucial point is to find out where this tipping point is.


How to Find Out When the Tipping Point is Reached

The excentos Web Analytics offers great charts and measures to analyze duration versus drop-off rate. Here's a summary of the millions of data points we've collected:

  • the desired duration users want to spend within a Product Guide heavily depends on the product category
  • in product categories where users frequently buy (e.g. several times a year) and thus know their requirements and the product features, you're best with, say, 90 to 150 seconds
  • if users buy less frequently, e.g. only every 1 or 2 years, and/or if the product category is more complex, a suitable length is between 2 and 3 minutes
  • if the product is typically only bought every 5 to 10 years, there'll be many new features to explain. Examples are household devices, cars, certain IT equipment etc. where many features changed or are new since the user last shopped for this product. Users tend to spend an incredible average of 6 to 9 minutes on these kinds of Product Guides!
  • if the Product Guide is too short, users won't feel that they received expert sales advice and thus won't trust the recommendations

Of course, there is a but:

  • if your brand loyalty is high, it keeps the users longer on the site - also within your Product Guide
  • a longer duration is only beneficial if covered with interesting content (consider using videos for example) and diversified layouts.

Features That Can Influence the Duration

When considering the duration of your Product Guide, take a look at these features:

  • smart preselections to focus the Advisor Process
  • recommendation preview that shortens the perceived duration of the selection process
  • dynamic question flow that only shows relevant questions to the user
  • great content and videos that make the experience pleasurable and keep the user longer in the Product Guide

See the detailed feature descriptions to learn how to integrate these features into your Product Guide - and get the right duration for the right decision process.

Tags: User Experience Product Guides

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