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Find Your Customer's Fave: Guided Selling Strategy for Small Businesses

Business.com / Sales / Last Modified: September 27, 2017
Photo credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Guided selling leads your customer to the best fit for them in your inventory. Use these five strategies for your online store.

In a world of simplified supply chains, many small businesses are adding more inventory to their websites to increase sales. Extensive online inventory boosts SEO, but it can make the customer's shopping experience more cumbersome. Small businesses with midsize or large inventories should embrace a strategy of guided selling on their websites to maximize their sales potential and compete with mass-market retail brands.

A recent L2 study of top consumer retail brands found 94 percent of brands offer some form of guided selling on their sites to inspire shoppers, help them find what they're looking for, answer common product questions and personalize the online shopping experience. Here are five ways to adopt a guided selling strategy for your SMB.

1. User-generated content

The simplest way to adopt guided selling for your business's online store is through content, specifically user-generated content (UGC). SMBs should add UGC to their websites via a dedicated UGC gallery and by adding UGC to product pages.

UGC gallery

Incorporate UGC in distinctly themed galleries (style guides, fall trends, yoga, home improvement projects, etc.) to inspire customers, and then link the UGC to the corresponding product page. UGC can be submitted to your business or found in social media. Encourage shoppers to use a hashtag related to your business or tag your business in their posts. UGC can also come from "brand ambassadors." There is an opportunity to surpass traditional retail brands by offering an effective UGC gallery to convert shoppers. In L2's recent retail brand report, only 33 percent of major retailers had a UCG hub.

UGC product pages

You can add UGC to product pages to provide social proof, increase shopper confidence and add inspiration for complementary products. Only 26 percent of top mass-market retailers include UGC on their product pages, and those that do see higher conversation rates.

2. Customer Q&A

Work with your customer service team to find out the most common customer questions for a specific item. By providing the content right on the product page, you allow some customers to skip the step of getting in touch with your business. Other customers will be more likely to convert, as they will feel more informed about the product and as though they have conducted a more thorough assessment.

3. Product filters

Extensive online shopping selections can lead to choice overload for shoppers. Researchers have found that as the number of options increases, the less confident buyers are about their purchase decisions. Make the path to purchase faster and more successful by enabling product filters that allow customers to drill down your inventory. Econsultancy noted that applying product filters can improve conversions by more than 26 percent and increase revenue by over 76 percent.

Favorite filtering options amongst customers include size, color, price range (or on sale), product review rating, and activity or use case. If it's available, also include items eligible for expedited shipping options (as Amazon does with a Prime product filter – popular with shoppers).

4. Product comparison

Many mass-market retailers and popular e-tailers like Amazon have added side-by-side product comparison features to their websites. This helps customers feel they are making an informed choice and reduces instances of customers making returns in favor of another item. Product comparison can also reduce the time to conversion – critical in today's online environment, which is characterized by digital distractions and short mobile-browsing sessions. A key component of this strategy is including links to Add to Cart from the comparison pages and highlighting the product comparison feature prominently.

To give you some examples, Patagonia allows users to select up to four items to compare side by side, listing specific product details and then providing the option to add to cart through Quick View. PetMed Express pops a Compare Now button after each product is selected, making it very clear how to launch the table. Evo, an outdoor gear supplier, includes Buy Now buttons at the top and bottom of its product comparison tables.

5. Storytelling

Often used in traditional content marketing strategy, storytelling elements can enhance your e-commerce operations. Increasing numbers of online retailers include a story promo, introducing the character and their dilemma, and the positive outcome or effect that relates to the product on the page (including a photo of the character). The retailer then links "learn more" to a blog or content piece that tells the story of how the product positively impacted the character/customer. Consumers enjoy reading stories and find them more relatable than product specifications or dry product descriptions. Include why the character selected your product over other options to continue to guide your potential customers toward purchase.

Bonus strategy: Quizzes

The most guided of all guided selling strategies is to offer your customers a quiz or questionnaire to determine product selections. Developing quizzes can be cheaper than developing on-site technology to filter your products. This tactic is the foundation of several digitally native e-commerce brands such as Stitch Fix, Fabletics, Zenni Optical and Z Gallerie. Customers like this type of content, as it's a form of entertainment, and it typically receives substantial engagement on social media.


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