A comparison of the online tools that can help retail staff and customers conquer the mountain of product complexity.
Guides just make life easier. They are helpful, they cut clear paths through confusing landscapes, and they know how to pluck the best answer from a sea of possibilities. Guides do all this, and more, without being pushy.
It is a pity that guides prefer the great outdoors, because we think they will make great sales assistants.
Manufacturers rely on good sales assistants, but because large companies tend to manufacture themselves into a sea of ever-expanding product ranges, both retail staff and consumers can struggle to keep up with the complexity of changing products and technical specifications.
To mitigate the problem of confusion on the shop-floor, manufacturers and retailers use various tools, and with varied results.
These systems predict what you want to buy, based on what others bought or liked. Recommender systems tend to infer what you are looking for, by looking at what you looked at or searched for, instead of asking you what problem you’re trying to solve. We know that an experienced shop assistant can do better than that on the shop floor – so why would we settle for a statistical average online?
Configure, price and quote (CPQ) applications
These are advanced CPQ systems that integrate with all your other business systems. It allows a customer to pick a product and configure the options and features, and can take them all the way through to pricing and quoting – even purchasing, depending on the system. While they can be really cool, from a business geek’s point of view, the customer still has to wade through the technical features of multiple products. From the customer’s point of view, a CPQ system actually makes the experience worse.
We discussed this one in a previous post, and can summarise our findings in a single line:
When online chat systems are good, they are very good. But when they’re bad, they can drive away your customers like nothing else. Use with caution.
So where does this leave us?
Can’t we just get an online salesperson to do the job instead?
Yes, you can. You can use an online guided selling tool.
An online guided selling tool ask the questions a great shop assistant would, and quickly refines an array of choices. It emulates the role of a truly knowledgeable salesperson in a physical store: ask questions, understand the problem, analyse the options, and recommend the best fit. We have seen Google rolling out a guided selling tool to help people pick the best phone, and more recently, a tool to help people find the music they like.
Shop Assistant by Wired Internet Group is such a guided selling tool.
Shop Assistant provides a human touch. Recommendations are based on actual information the customer has provided. It sounds similar to an online recommender system, but it’s better – these are true recommendations, not ratings or predicted preferences. It’s also similar to the Configure-Price-Quote software systems, but Shop Assistant’s style of guided selling is more engaging, and the customer does not need to have technical knowledge. It lends itself to cross-selling and upselling, working hand-in-hand with pricing strategy, but not by pushing unsustainably low margins. And it’s consistently good – unlike retail online chat features.
Next, you may want to look at some of the names that use Shop Assistant.
Photo by Lebendre.