How Retailers Can Use Guided Selling to Drive Holiday Sales
Every year, retail employees are tasked with learning and selling seasonal items along with brand staples to provide the best experience possible for consumers. Believe it or not, customer service will be the defining key to sales this holiday season.
One crucial element of customer service is trust. If a consumer doesn't trust a brand and its products, they're unlikely to make a purchase. It's critical for sales associates and brands to present shoppers with knowledgeable insights that aid in the purchasing process to earn trust. A recent report from Accenture focusing on the top areas for improving sales effectiveness identified just how important trust is.
Consider the following findings from Accenture's report:
- 70 percent of firms have yet to develop strong relationships with their customers;
- 82 percent of chief sales officers report that their organizations aren't directing customer service representatives to take advantage of cross-selling or upselling opportunities;
- 47.5 percent of sales representatives take 10 months or longer to contribute to company goals;
- 52.1 percent of leads are generated by sales reps and 24.8 percent are generated by marketing, while only 23.1 percent come from customer referrals; and
- guided selling applications have been supporting cross-sell and upsell workflows for over a decade. There's significant upside potential for these organizations as cross-sell and upsell opportunities can be quickly automated, taught to sales reps, and relied on to increase sales and profitability.
How can you immediately improve sales effectiveness and earn customer trust? Sales teams are in an incredible position to use digital marketing tools like guided selling not only online, but in-store with the use of kiosks, tablets, mobile devices and more. Using customer feedback based on a series of lifestyle or usage-based questions, a guided selling solution can suggest products that will provide individualized support based on the customer's lifestyle and preferences compiled within their customer profile.
For an in-store guided selling tool, use a kiosk that prompts shoppers to complete a series of lifestyle or usage-based questions, and offer them the option to print, share or email their results. With a tool that uses guided selling to ease the sales process and provide expert advice based on lifestyle, usage or preferences, every store associate is now the top salesperson with insights into each product, current inventory and knowledgeable advice.
Taking this a step further, make sure you're tracking the data and preferences that customers are providing to build and refine customer profiles that can be used across all channels to create a seamless personalized experience. Additionally, integrating the online and in-store experience gives customers a consistent experience and reinforces your brand as a leader in the space, making you top of mind for future purchases. Giving customers expert advice will also gain trust and create brand advocates that will return again and again to enjoy the quality of service that your brand offers.
Another great use of guided selling during the holidays is as a gift finder. Consider a nonimmediate family member trying to decide on a gift for a child. Guided selling could help suggest toys based on age and general interests. For a toy finder, for example, a retailer would need to follow these guidelines:
- include three questions to seven questions for the customer to answer;
- ask only the bare essentials that are applicable to your audience;
- ask lifestyle or usage-based questions to gain insights into the gift recipient;
- use text, videos, photos and diagrams to illustrate products;
- ask linear questions;
- ask what the product will be used for most (e.g., learning, playing, etc.);
- use customer knowledge of the gift recipient; and
- store the explicit data being collected in the shopper's profile for future interactions.
While early adopters of guided selling tools were typically retailers of complex, high-ticket merchandise like home electronics and appliances, today guided selling tools are being deployed by retailers in virtually every segment. For instance, apparel retailers are deploying "fashion finders," big-box retailers are helping shoppers move quickly to their desired departments and categories, and cosmetics retailers are using guided selling to help consumers find just the right shade of lipstick.
The applications for guided selling are limited only by the retailer's creative capacity, and the typical results are eye opening. Retailers that have deployed guided selling tools have increased category conversion rates anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent; those that have coupled guided selling with product recommendations that encourage add-on and complementary sales have increased average order values 10 percent to 30 percent.
With options for both online and in-store use, guided selling makes everyone an expert and eases the shopping experience. Make your retail employees experts by giving them the tools to succeed and offer shoppers the best experience possible this holiday season with guided selling.
Eric Tobias is the founder and president of iGoDigital, a provider of personalization and product recommendation tools.