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Online shopping is changing and as the pace of life gets quicker, customers want to find their perfect product and check out within minutes. Forward-thinking companies are starting to introduce Guided Selling techniques such as Product Guides to try keep up with online consumer buying trends, improve the online shopping experience and help consumers make the right choice. Here's why Guided Selling is revolutionising online shopping and how your business can create a Product Guide successfully and increase revenue.


Time is money

In a world of choice overload, your online shoppers can easily become overwhelmed. Endless search pages amass with irrelevant, unfiltered products can lead your customers to give up their search entirely. Product Guides prevent this from happening by acting as a virtual product advisor.

Creating a Product Guide for your website visitors is the perfect opportunity to ask them a few quick and relevant questions which allows AI and Guided Selling technology to get to know them better. They can then be guided towards their perfect product and away from irrelevant ones - saving your customer both time and energy.

A dating app for products?

Product Guides work on a very similar concept to dating apps, the user states what they want and what they don't want so that AI can filter out all the unsuitable matches and present them with their perfect suitor. Likewise, Product Guides aim to deliver the user a product match which makes them fall in love at first sight. So, how do you build a Product Guide? We’ve compiled a few top tips to help you! This way, you will point your customers in the right direction and give them an enjoyable online shopping experience.


1. "Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible"

-Tony Robbins

Defining your target group and different customer segments is the first step in identifying which kind of your products could suit which kind of customers. Try and get into your customer’s head and ask yourself whether their age or gender could affect their decision in choosing a certain product. Maybe style preferences or income could also come into play. However, it really does depend on your product. Questions could be anything from asking a customer's skin type to advise on moisturizers or desired MB speed to advise on broadband deals.

Take this Rolex watch for example:

What kind of person pops into your head when you look at this watch? What questions and answers would you provide the target group of this product in your Product Guide so that they would be directed to this suitable recommendation?


2. “The most simple things can bring the most happiness”

- Izabella Scorupco

Make life easy and don’t leave your customers guessing. Ensure you have clear and recognizable product names and simple filters which help your customer choose and define what they want in a product.

For example, if you are an online fashion retailer and would like to create a Product Guide which aims to help people find their perfect pair of jeans, the most relevant questions and answers you could pose would naturally be about style and cut.

Although, you must choose your wording carefully, e.g. would your target group for jeans be more aware about the expression "boyfriend fit" jean or "baggy loose-fitting" jean?


3. “An expert knows all the answers - if you ask the right questions”

- Levi Strauss

Chat with the people who know your customers best: your sales and marketing team. Get insights into what your different customer segments look for in your products and their typical buying behaviours.

Think about what features are particular to certain products and are also sought after by customers.

For example, someone who would like to buy a camera for their job as a professional photographer will have a different budget and requirements to someone taking it up as a hobby. Guided selling technology is able to distinguish which of your products suit which kind of customer.


4. “Visual storytelling utilizes both language and art to pass on the essence of who we are”

- Debbie Millman

Choose a theme which tells your brand’s story and make sure your language and image choices stylistically fit the essence of your business. Align your Product Guide with your vision, strategy and marketing message - just like you would with any other content piece.

Your Product Guide should engage your customers and make online shopping a more enjoyable experience as well as seamlessly integrate into your website layout. Canadian clothing label KOTN provides their customers with good quality cotton essentials, hence the simplistic, pure white color theme.


5. ”Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of an intelligent effort”

- John Ruskin

Quality assurance is an important final step before sending your Product Guide live. Make sure to test out its usability with your customers. Your chosen questions and answers should be easy to understand and direct your customer to a suitable product within a reasonable timeframe. For most Product Guides, 2 minutes is a sufficient amount of time for your customer to complete the questionnaire and be directed to their perfect product. However, we have experienced companies with more complex products whose Product Guides require up to 5 minutes - and this is totally fine as long as your questions and answers remain relevant and easy for the customer to follow.

The worst thing would be for the customer to give up filling out the Product Guide half way through - a Product Guide is basically a form of marketing so it's vital to keep it interesting and engaging like you would for any other piece of marketing content


6. “Marketing is really just about sharing your passion”

- Michael Hyatt

You can make the best Product Guide ever but if your customers can’t easily find it, then they can’t enjoy it!

Provide as many links to your Product Guide as possible and use top-level URLs with relevant keywords, e.g. www.yourbusiness.com/productguide. Creating a cool banner which links to the Product Guide is also a handy way to attract your customers into using the guide.


See how easy it is to build a Product Guide with the Workbench

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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.

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The most crucial point in the development of Product Guides and Product Search functions is ensuring a great User Experience - not just for increased conversion rates but also as one of the main ingredients for a great website where users can enjoy shopping. At excentos, we have concentrated our efforts in research and development for quite some time. During this time, we discovered a way to significantly reduce development time and costs. The excentos solution: a Components and Pattern Library which guarantees excellent User Experience.

UX is not an art - There are methods for great User Experience

UX isn't limited to your graphic designer, there are many different UX methods out there, and even better technology.


"Status Quo for many Custom UI development projects"

Let's take a look at a typical UI project: Creating a New Website, a shop functionality, a Product Guide or product search functions - (this is of course only true for individual user interface development and not if using pre-defined UIs):

  1. we start with wireframes and sketches of the desired concept
  2. (we then prototype it in click-dummies)
  3. we develop (parts of) the editorial content
  4. we get feedback from the customer
    • since wireframes don't show interaction, many UIs tend to be highly underspecified during the concept phase. That's why agencies or service providers and customers don't tend to be on the same wavelength during the design process (unless we spend costly time for click-dummies)
    • the most common missing pieces are: how will it interact? What exactly happens if I click this button? How are animations and transitions have been defined? what is hidden behind this collapsible button?
  5. we develop
  6. you realize it doesn't work like expected
  7. the customer realizes it doesn't behave like expected
  8. the agency is angry at the customer, who is angry at the agency, who is angry at the designer

So, Why are so many questions left open?

"Because developing custom User Interfaces is a very complex task from design through to interaction through to implementation."

With Standard UIs, Things Are Simple

Whenever you only use standard User Interfaces that only need a theme, i.e. adapt color worlds, fonts and sizes, things are easy. However, for many applications, this is not individual enough.


How Components Help in Custom Design and Development Processes

Whenever standard UIs are not enough and you don't want to build a custom UI from scratch, just simply use components. excentos has developed a wide range of components that fulfill almost all requirements of product search and product advisor tools.

Typical components for product search and Product Guides are
  • core layouts like a responsive wizard or longpager user interfaces for Product Guides
  • phase navigation for a wizard
  • question cards
  • filter elements
  • product tiles that display a product
  • navigation buttons for previous- and next-buttons
  • the behavior of off-canvas elements, e.g. to pull-in a product comparison from the side of the result list
Here are examples of the schematic definition of a responsive wizard:
User Interface Layout: Responsive Wizard
User Interface Layout: Responsive Wizard

The user interface consists of a number of components that can be stacked or nested.

Here is a prime example of a good user interface:
Example Screendesign for Responsive Wizard
Example Screendesign for Responsive Wizard

What Are the Benefits of Components?

  • much faster screendesign
  • components contain the interaction design definition - and thus all complex questions are already answered
  • thorough testing
  • much better user experience
  • responsive behavior is defined for every component

excentos owns an extensive portfolio of different user interfaces and of user interface components - make sure to check them out if you want to build a product search or Product Guide tool.

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Advanced Guided Selling methods are changing the world of online shopping. excentos has gathered some of their favorite and most inspiring Guided Selling examples to share with you. Here are our top 3 based on usability, design, performance and result accuracy. (English and German)


1. SportScheck: Running Shoe Guide

If you've ever had to buy running shoes, you know that there can be an overwhelming amount of different product features which can make a buying decision rather difficult. However, SportScheck's running shoe guide manages to ease this decision-making process successfully and leads the user to their perfect running shoes in just a few simple steps.

Guided Selling Solution

Usability: The navigation is simple and functional. The user answers the question and clicks 'next'.

Design:Organized and orderly. Background images change according to what the user answers.

Questions: Very easy to answer if the user knows their running habits, e.g. usual running surface.

Special Features: Embedded videos provide additional explanation content and great branding as Olympic athlete Nils Schumann features.

Results: Each product recommendation provides an individual reasoning which refers to the before defined user needs. An additional filter lets the user adjust the answers without leaving the extensive results list.


Overall: SportScheck's running shoe guide is a sophisticated all-rounder that provides you with matching recommendations in just a few steps.

Visit SportScheck's
Running Shoe Guide

Go to Guide
Guided Selling Technology

2. Yomonda: Gift Finder

Yomonda's Gift Finder is a great example of a highly personalized shopping experience. Personalization starts with defining the person receiving the gift by name, gender and your relationship to this person, then continuing through the entire question flow.

Yomonda Gift Finder

Usability:Nice widgets such as a heart slider. The heart becomes bigger the closer you define your relationship to the gift receiving person. Easy-peasy navigation. Answer. Click 'Next'.

Design: Simple but playful design.

Questions:Lovely, personal questions which use your knowledge of the person you are buying a gift for to find the right recommendation.

Special Features: Great level of personalization. A question flow based on the gift receiver's character.

Results: An extensive list of results that is further specified by an additional filter, accompanied by nice, personalized texts.


Overall: A Product Guide that utilizes personalization to make online shopping very enjoyable. Thanks to the questions focusing on the personality of the gift receiver, you easily transfer positive emotions upon the product recommendations.

Visit Yomonda's
Gift Finder

Go to Finder
Gift Finder Yomonda

3. Victoria's Secret: Sports Bra Guide

Victoria's Secret takes a Guided Selling approach that leads the user first to a "Fit Quiz". The quiz resembles a question flow to collect data about the user's preferences and ends with the "Sport Boutique" where further product requirements such as color or strap design can be specified.

Guided Selling Software

Usability: The navigation is not 100% clear. The split between "Fit Quiz" and "Sport Boutique" is unnecessary.

Design:Clear, simple and modern.

Questions:The questions are easy to understand and additional text explains the answering options.

Special Features: The user can convert between different international sizing. Additional videos provide assistance if you need to find out your measurements.

Results: As soon as the user lands in the "Sport Boutique", product recommendations are visible. However, to receive product recommendations that match, the user has still to add futher data in the form of user preferences.


Overall: You do not need to be an expert to shop for a Sports Bra with this Product Guide. The questions are simple to understand and you receive the necessary explanations if you do not understand the answering options or need to find your own measurements. Sadly, the separation between "Fit Quiz" and "Sport Boutique" interrupts the click flow of users. It would be beneficial to only display recommendations once the user has answered all questions to avoid any inaccurate recommendations.

Guided Selling Product Guide

Conclusion

Despite differences in design, usability, and performance, all three Product Guides are effective tools to guide shoppers to the right product. Each Product Guide displays an individual set of features; such as: great user personalization, incorporated videos of celebrities and explanation content which create a special customer experience. The possibilities of Product Guide features are endless and we look forward to more user-friendly online shopping experiences with Guided Selling.

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It's that time of year again - Valentine's Day is around the corner! Customers are panicking that they've still not found that special gift for their special someone.

We all know how much of a pain gift shopping can be - whether it be for your love on Valentine's or any time of year for that matter: birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries etc. Even when you know someone well, finding a good gift can be tricky and most of the time, it's hard to even know where to begin.

This is where Online Gift Finders can really help and advise your customers. Gift Finders are an excellent tool for providing your customers with gift advice, inspiration and recommendations - both easily and successfully!

Let's take a look at the advantages of Gift Finders as well as an example of how leading online homeware store yomonda is already using them.

LOOK

Having a Gift Finder on your website is enticing for customers - they are bound to be curious and test it out. It's fun to use and provides inspiration and recommendations - particularly useful for those who struggle for gift ideas or even people who find your number of products too overwhelming to trawl through. excentos recommender logic uses an intelligent matching engine and combines your sales and marketing strategy. That is what makes the Gift Finder an invincible tool bound to increase your sales and look good in your online shop.

OBSERVE

With excentos, you can observe and track how your Gift Finder is performing, as well as monitor online consumer behaviors. Our web analytics tool collects valuable user information and buying desires which help to assist you in optimizing your marketing strategy and customer approach. Find out exactly how your customers think and which products they really love!

VALUE

Sales personalization provides great value to your customers and allows your business to create real customer relationships online. Gift Finders provide you with the opportunity to speak with your customers and not at them. Customers who experience a pleasant online shopping experience are more likely to value your business and get to the checkout.

EXPERIENCE

We all know how important user experience is when it comes to e-commerce. Gift Finders make the online shopping experience more interactive and also provide good advice and recommendations like you would receive if you went in-store and spoke to a sales assistant. Customer expectations are rising and so it's important that your business keeps up and delivers a high quality online service. After all, the customer is always right so make sure you are proactively finding new ways to keep them happy!


Love is in the air

yomonda demonstrates that love really is in the air with their excellent gift finder. It inspires and gives online shopping that extra special human touch. Check it out:

yomonda - Leading Home Furnishing Retailer

yomonda sell products which make your home more beautiful - anything from home accessories and textiles, furniture, lighting, kitchenware, garden, bath & wellness and more... They aim to offer an online shopping experience which inspires. Their Gift Finder compliments this ethos perfectly.


Step 1 - Person

By asking the customer to type the name of the person they are buying a gift for as well as their relationship - the shopping experience becomes much more intimate and personalized.


Step 2 - Occasion

Narrow down the search for your customer and allow them to discover gifts which perfectly suit certain occasions.



Step 3 - Interests

Let the customer tell you a bit more about the person they are buying a gift for. What are they interested in?

Step 4 - Style

The Gift Finder only asks questions that your customers can answer. What kind of style does the recipient have?


Step 5 - The perfect Gift

And finally, your customer is presented with clever recommendations which the recipient of the gift is bound to love.


Step 6 - More great recommendations...

For those customers feeling generous, they are also presented with several more suitable recommendations.


Help your customers find their perfect gift this Valentine's

Start your 30 day free trial today