Faceted Search vs. Guided Selling: Comparison
The ability to quickly and effectively find the right product is crucially important for online shoppers. Yet, according to research conducted by Baymard Institute, only 16 percent of top U.S. e-commerce websites offer a comparably good filtering experience.
Most e-commerce retailers rely on a faceted search navigation as the most effective way to narrow down huge product listings, but is this approach sufficient to satisfy the needs of modern shoppers who demand more convenience?
More and more businesses are discovering guided selling (an interactive questionnaire-based process) as a better approach to simplify the product discovery experience.
Let’s take a look at how faceted search stacks up against guided selling in some of the most crucial areas of the customer experience.
1. Usage and Accessibility: Attribute-Based Filtering vs. Need-Based Filtering
Faceted navigation: Facets are a good option for domain experts who are well-versed in a product’s technical details and know exactly what they need.
Guided selling: An interactive product advisor comes in handy for novices and unsure shoppers. Like a good salesperson, a guided selling solution asks them a few questions about their needs and, in the background, links them to product features. Users are able to discover products based on their needs and expectations as opposed to technical features, resulting in a less confusing experience.
2. Functionality: Exclusion vs. Exploration
Faceted navigation: If the meaning of provided facets and filters isn't clear for the customer, they might not be able to discover the most suitable products.
Guided selling: Guided selling solutions ask shoppers a series of easy-to-answer questions that help find out their intentions and expected product usage. This way, even consumers who may lack a clear understanding of the products they need are able to discover and explore suitable products.
3. Flexibility: One Size Fits All vs. Personalization
Faceted navigation: There's no space for personalization in faceted search; every visitor is presented with the same options.
Guided selling: Interactive product advisors are able to adapt to different shoppers. They can dynamically modify the flow of questions based on the user’s previous responses.
4. Experience: Rational vs. Emotional
Faceted navigation: The basis for facets is purely rational and technical, yet most purchases are emotional and impulsive. Shoppers will want to explore and combine different facets, but this option is usually not available. This can cause major disruptions of their exploration process.
Guided selling: As opposed to the feature-focused approach of faceted navigation, a product advisor operates in a customer-focused fashion. It collects a customer’s needs, which are inherently emotional, making for a more fluid and personal experience.
5. Results: No Match Found vs. Alternative Match
Faceted navigation: A "no match found" message is displayed whenever there's no product in the database that matches every filter applied.
Guided selling: Intelligent product advisors are able to compute close alternatives whenever there's no exact match to avoid frustrating the user.
6. Value Communication: Features vs. Benefits
Faceted navigation: Facets don’t support customers in understanding the benefits of certain options; they follow the assumption that consumers are already familiar with the features and terms.
Guided selling: Product advisors educate users throughout the process through contextual information texts. In addition, they explain why suggested products are a good fit by relating them to the shopper’s stated needs.
7. Set-Up and Design: Complexity vs. Simplification
Faceted navigation: Facets often consist of multiple filters and can quickly become too overwhelming, making it difficult to navigate.
Guided selling: Users aren't presented with all questions at once, but are guided through a step-by-step process that gradually gets more specific.
8. UX: Desktop vs. Omnichannel
Faceted navigation: While facets may look nice on desktops, most implementations aren't mobile friendly.
Guided selling: Given their modular nature, digital product advisors can be implemented in a responsive way to ensure mobile-friendly design.
As shoppers expectations grow, online retailers need to adopt new approaches to facilitate a seamless product discovery. Guided selling can deliver all of the conveniences of faceted search, but on a platform that's more engaging, intuitive and effective.
Ada Okoli is vice president of marketing and research at zoovu, an international technology company that provides a smart digital advice technology to quickly set up digital advisors (guided selling solutions).