You have a good website with decent search capabilities and personalized recommendations for your visitors. In the backend, you can track their behavior, segment them and follow them across multiple sessions. They browse your site and product portfolio searching for something.
And then they leave...
The missing dialog
So, what is missing in this picture? A dialog! All of the above was just a one-way interaction.
Consider what sales reps would do when talking to a new prospect. They would be genuinely interested in the customer and their challenges and start asking questions like:
- What are you looking for?
- What challenges are you experiencing today?
- What would your ideal product/service look like?
- In what conditions do you operate?
Even if they don’t ask these specific questions, sales would still make sure to understand the customer’s situation and needs before proposing a solution. Then, they would educate the customer on the pros and cons of some appropriate options. Finally, they will reach a conclusion about what the best solution would be in this specific case.
The sales rep would ask for the customer’s details in order to send them some more specific information. They might make them a special offer, recommend some cross-sell options, and keep in touch to close the deal.
Why are we not doing this online? Why are most online stores like a glossy supermarket with endless aisles but no people? No wonder that most visitors leave without leaving their contact data! Why would they?
In this blog, I will outline a scenario where you can get into a dialog and learn about the visitor’s purpose and needs. This scenario will drastically improve your chances of capturing their details and creating a real connection.
The solution is Guided Search, also called Guided Sales or a ‘(Visual) Digital Assistant.’
This kind of application is not new. And even though the domain is developing quickly with increasing flexibility, integrated machine learning, and ease of use, the basic principle is straightforward.
Perhaps you have seen it on websites of retailers that have product portfolios with many similar-looking variants, such as bikes, kitchen equipment, or digital cameras. Research shows that having too many options will reduce the conversion rate. So, instead of letting the customer filter on their own, you can use a dialog format to guide them through the process. This gives customers structure, and more importantly, offers opportunities to educate them on the product’s benefits to help them make the best decision for their specific situation.
Engage and understandThis is a solid use case that has clear benefits. But still, this is only a small part of the story, especially when we’re talking about B2B environments with complex specifications, customized or built-to-order products, personalized price lists, and multi-level approval flows.
In these situations, a ‘Do It Yourself’ webshop or catalog with some filters is often not the answer, even if there is information on the relevance and meaning of all the attributes.
The real magic in this complex B2B scenario lies in understanding the customer first! Start a dialog and ask some simple questions before talking about product features. COnsider this 3-step approach:
- Ask a first triggering question, that engages he customer.
- Ask additional questions, so you will better understand the customer’s context.
- Recommend one or a few products that best align with the customer’s needs.
While these steps are conceptually easy, the execution can give some challenges. What is the best order to ask your questions? How can the answers be used to filter your product- or service portfolio effectively? Which questions lead to drop out, and which ones are correlated to positive outcomes?
It will probably take some experimentation to get it right. And the approach can be different for different categories. That’s why unless you have a very static and limited portfolio, I strongly recommend using a third-party solution and not a hard-coded implementation. This will give you freedom and flexibility to experiment, create different assistants for different cases, and, should you choose our partner ‘Zoovu’, AI-based suggestions that will help you to continuously improve the experience and outcomes.
Converting the anonymous visitor to a known lead
You engaged with the customer, you have collected his input, and managed to create a fitting recommendation. Perhaps you even proposed some add-ons and packaged it all in a nice offer with a personalized promotion.
So, what’s next?
The most important part: closing the deal! Ideally, you will just load the cart page with the offer, and the customer can continue to checkout. This is a realistic next step in a B2C scenario where individuals make their own decision or in a B2B situation of low interest. However, in our case, we are targeting complex products and/or complex B2B dynamics. How do you nurture this lead towards a sale?
You have just received very relevant and valuable information about a prospect in the dialog! The next important step is to capture the customer’s credentials so that you can store all collected data in your CRM or marketing automation tool. As an incentive, you can offer to mail a link for continued access to the Assistant after the session has ended. Or, even better, you can send the customer a personalized PDF!
Imagine, as a customer, that you just received advice based on your personal needs. How cool would it be if you could receive a personalized PDF datasheet on the product? A brochure that happens to list exactly those attributes that are so important to you and relates them to a product that is a perfect match! This will not only reinforce your choices but will also make you look good when you present the proposal to your management. And you can still update the online assistant if you want to adjust a parameter.
So, to sum up; after steps 1-3 above, we now proceed to:
- Offer an incentive, such as a personalized PDF, to re-enforce the decision and influence other stakeholders in the organization.
- Capture the customer’s credentials and store enriched customer data in your backend system. (All data that came out of the dialog)
From here on, your regular sales team should be able to follow-up in case of specific demands or simply to close the deal. You have the customer’s credentials. You know the customer's context and needs and you made a first offer. You have moved an anonymous visitor all the way up in the sales funnel to the level of a qualified lead in a single session with no human effort at all!
If your customers mostly interact with third-party channels, such as distributors, wholesale, retailers or marketplaces, we have a solution for that as well! Read on to the next part: “Connecting with your customers across third-party sites and marketplaces.”