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  GERMAN Personalisation Software Services (SaaS) Intelligent Search
Reduce the bounce rate
Guided Selling
Reduce the return rate
Recommendation Engine
Increase the basket value
Personalised Shopping Area
Increase the repurchase rate
Personalised Email
Increase traffic
Campaigns & Usage Customer Targeting Realisation & Expertise AI Technology Data Science Integration & Optimisation Customer Service Customer Success Monitoring & Controlling Control Desk Other Topics Partner Data protection
References Company Software Geeks Team
100% concentrated personalization competence – even without suit & tie
Jobs
Do you also like to wear trainers and are interested in this internet?
Company News Events
Be it lectures, trade fairs, webinars or other e-commerce events – we’re sometimes here, sometimes there. Get to know us!
Press
We are constantly growing and evolving. New customers, partners, products and much more. Find out now!
Blog Insights Concepts for success Case Studies
Learn how our customers personalize and increase their KPIs.
Webinars
We share our best practices in personalisation with you.
Knowledge transfer Publications
We also share our knowledge in various media.
Info material Press
What’s new about us and our personalisation.

Info about Corona Virus

We continue to work for you from home office

Learn more
Zur Übersicht Startseite / Blog / Online Product Advisor: Support Your Customers in Choosing Products

Online Product Advisor: Support Your Customers in Choosing Products

23. Jan 2017 | Updated on 16. November 2020 | | Minimizing Returns Rate

With an online product advisor, you support your customers in selecting the right article for their needs. In this way, you reduce high return and purchase cancellation rates and increase your turnover in the online shop. Because with the online product advisor, you bring expert advice from the stationary to the digital trade. But what is the best way to implement the perfect online product advisor in your online shop? That's what this article is about.

 

This content awaits you in this blog article:

Why an online product advisor makes sense

Online product advisor vs. search function

How to choose the right product category

Preparatory measures for the use of an online product advisor
Prepare the product catalogue
Capture click and purchase behaviour

Conception of the online product advisor
1. Formulate the right questions
2. Check the comprehensibility of the questions
3. Define criteria for the results list

Visualisation of the online product advisor

Code development

Integration into the online shop

Conclusion: Specialist advice like in stationary trade is possible

 

Why an online product advisor makes sense

An online product advisor carries out a targeted advisory process, also called Guided Selling, in order to determine the right product for the customer and thus support him in the product selection. The objective is to guide the customer to the ideal product in just a few clicks and to avoid returns and abandoned purchases. Often used for functional products that require explanation, such as suitcases and running shoes. However, Guided Selling can also be used for self-explanatory, preference-driven products, such as books and clothes.

 

Online product advisor vs. search function

A legitimate question at this point could be: why does my online shop need an online product advisor if I have integrated a good search function? The answer to this is actually quite simple: when an online shopper uses the search function, he already has some prior knowledge that he can apply to find the right product via the search function, e.g. laptop, 15 inch, Toshiba. Once on the category page, the laptops are narrowed down according to the required specification, e.g. colour, processor, RAM, etc., until the right product is found.

An online shopper who has no prior knowledge needs an online product advisor. This guides him via appropriate questions to the Toshiba laptop, 15 inch in black with a Core i7 processor, etc. Actually, it’s the same as in stationary retail: if I already know which product I need, I walk straight to it in stationary retail and put it in my shopping cart. If I’m not sure which product suits me, I look for a salesperson. That’s how it works in the online shop, too.

 

How to choose the right product category

Before launching an online product advisor, there are some general questions you should ask yourself, such as:

  • Which product category causes the most returns or purchase cancellations?
  • Are the products among those that require advice per se in stationary retail?
  • Do individual products have a high variety that makes it difficult for customers to make the right choice?

This allows you to determine for which product categories an online product advisor has the highest need for advice. You can find out information about your returns and abandoned purchases, for example, via your shop system or Google Analytics. If your:

  • return rate is particularly high for a product category, your customer buys the product but is dissatisfied after receiving it and returns it. In these cases, your online shopper orders a product that doesn’t really fit their needs. The key here is to help your customer choose the right product.
  • purchase abandonment rate for a product category is high, your customer aborts the order process. Uncertainty can play a big role here. Your customer is not 100% convinced of the selected product and decides to cancel the purchase. Here it is important to confirm your customer’s choice of product.

After carefully analysing your results, you should know for which product categories your online shoppers need more advice. Now select a product category for which you want to use Guided Selling.

 

Preparatory measures for the use of an online product advisor

Before you start with the conception of the online product advisor, it is important to build up a knowledge base for your online shop that will advise your customers via an AI engine. The product advisor should not only evaluate clicks on filters, but also take into account the entire click and purchase behaviour of your online shopper. In this way, it can always display the products during the consultation process with regard to the individual preference of the respective online shopper.

The graphic shows the knowledge base for AI-supported guidance in the online shop.
Knowledge base for AI-supported guidance in the online shop

Prepare the product catalogue

To build up the knowledge base, your product catalogue is needed first. Before you submit the product catalogue, however, you should check it and, if necessary, prepare it. A high-quality data basis is essential so that the right product can be determined for the need.

Example: A digital bicycle consultant asks, for example, where the customer usually goes cycling. If the customer’s answer is “in the city”, the product catalogue must contain a category with bicycles for the city so that the product advisor can recommend a suitable bicycle. Alternatively, the value “in town” can be composed of attributes, e.g. type of tyre, etc.

 

Capture click and purchase behaviour

Then the click and purchase behaviour from your online shop is required. By integrating a tracking code into your online shop, the data flows into your knowledge base (in compliance with data protection regulations). This is followed by the learning phase of the intelligent algorithms. This is because the knowledge for the consultation is built up from the product data and the click and purchase behaviour.

 

Conception of the online product advisor

The conception phase is about planning the needs assessment. It is mainly about the questions that are asked to the online shopper to determine the need. These questions are the basic element for the online product advisor. At this point, one more note: for self-explanatory, preference-driven products, instead of questions, possible tags are included that the online shopper can select. Therefore, the following concept mainly deals with function-controlled products that require explanation.

 

1. Formulate the right questions

For example, think about how needs assessment works in stationary retail. What questions does a good salesperson ask in order to determine the customer’s needs and offer the right product?

Example: If a customer comes into the shop and wants to buy running shoes, the salesperson usually asks about the running surface: “Where do you go running, in the forest or in the city?”.

Depending on the answer, the salesperson will recommend running shoes with an appropriate outsole for the forest or the city. Therefore, you should go through the sales process for the selected product category and write down the appropriate questions in order. The number of questions and the depth of advice will depend on your product category. Once you have identified all the questions, you need to match the appropriate answer choices with your assortment to ensure that you have the right products to match the answers.

 

2. Check the comprehensibility of the questions

Once all the questions and answers are set, you should check them for comprehensibility. Are there technical terms that need to be explained before the customer can make a choice? If your product and the associated questions and answers are very complex, it is advisable to include info icons. They provide your customers with additional information for better understanding. This way, your online shopper will have no trouble choosing the right answer that leads to the appropriate product listing.

Example: If, for example, a customer has the option of selecting an expansion fold from a suitcase advisor, this should be defined, as not everyone knows immediately what is meant by this.

Screenshot of the baggage advisor in the Lufthansa WorldShop explaining the info icon for an online product advisor.
Info icon of the baggage advisor in the Lufthansa WorldShop explaining the term expansion fold (Source: Screenshot from worldshop.eu)¹

3. Define criteria for the results list

Products that already differ greatly through minor features should be immediately apparent to the shop customer. For this purpose, an online product advisor offers a reasoning function. The reasoning function supports the shop customer in immediately distinguishing the appropriate product features from those that do not apply. The matching and non-matching product features are displayed visually in a clear form. The shop visitor quickly finds out which features are available for which product and which are not.

Screenshot of the baggage advisor in Lufthansa WorldShop to illustrate the reasoning function for an online product advisor.
Reasoning function of the baggage advisor in Lufthansa WorldShop (Source: Screenshot from worldshop.eu) ¹

This function is important to avoid zero-hit pages. This can also lead to products being displayed that do not correspond 100% to the answers. Therefore, you should define the degree to which the criteria should be fulfilled in order to be displayed in the results list. It is quite possible that your product catalogue does not contain a 100% suitable product for your customer’s needs.

You can show the coverage of needs in the results list, e.g. by means of percentages or by listing included and non-included components. This way, your customer can see directly which criteria the products in the results list fulfill and is not negatively surprised after the purchase if a criterion is not fulfilled. You should also consider the must-have and nice-to-have criteria globally for Guided Selling. It could be that the answer to one question influences the next questions.

Example: The right wetsuit is to be determined via Guided Selling. If, for example, the gender male is selected via the first question, a jumpsuit should be excluded in advance in the subsequent step when it comes to the shape, as this type is only available for women.

You already use an online product advisor in your online shop? Then feel free to share your experiences with us!

 

Visualisation of the online product advisor

Visualisation is the graphical form in which your counsellor interacts with and is presented to clients. It is also called a Graphical User Interface (GUI). In this step, you should think about how you can visualise your questions and answer options using graphics to make it easier for your clients to answer the questions. In this way, you turn the click on a visualised answer into an intuitive filter. This makes the whole consultation process more pleasant for your clients and speeds it up.

Screenshot of the Eterna shirt advisor as a visualisation example for an online product advisor.
ETERNA shirt advisor with the visualisation of the 4 process steps (Source: Screenshot from eterna.de)²

You should show your client the next steps during the Guided Selling. This way your client knows that they are not in for a lengthy consultation. Instead, you convey that this is a quick process to identify their needs.

 

Code development

In the development phase, you realise your concept technically. Here you write the source code that makes the product advisor work and look the way you imagined it in your concept. You then insert the developed code into the test system of your online shop and optimise it. The knowledge base generated in the course of your preparatory measures is connected to the online product advisor. To ensure that your online shoppers receive an adapted list of results with regard to their preferences and filter criteria after each click, an instant result function is used that takes care of exactly that. This is a list of results that immediately adjusts itself by activating or deactivating filters and individual preferences. Only when everything is to your satisfaction should you transfer it to your live shop.

 

Integration into the online shop

To launch your product advisor, you now integrate it into your live system. After the integration, you should check the entire consultation process again to rule out any bugs.

To ensure that your digital product advisor gets the attention of your online shoppers, it is advisable to use a banner. However, you should not hide this in the navigation, but place it prominently in the corresponding category in front of the results list and display it in the results list via the search function.

Screenshot des Banner-Hinweises in der Kateogorie Hemden des Hemdenberaters von Eterna.
Banner reference to the shirt advisor at ETERNA (Source: Screenshot from eterna.de)²

Conclusion: Specialist advice like in stationary trade is possible

An online product advisor can transfer the expert advice from the stationary trade to the online shop. Important here are:

  • the preparatory measures,
  • a well thought-out concept with the right questions about the product category,
  • the visualisation for the use of intuitive filters as well as
  • a personalised and meaningful list of results after each step.

This helps to identify the right product for each customer’s needs and reduces the risk of returns. Your customer also gets the security they need to decide on a product and not abandon the purchase. An online product advisor thus actively supports you in increasing your online shop turnover.
 

Sources: ¹ Lufthansa WorldShop, ² Eterna

More information about Guided Selling for your online shop >>

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Daniela Ilincic

Head of Marketing

Daniela Ilincic is Head of Marketing at epoq. Her background is in digital marketing with a focus on SEO and content marketing. She has built up the digital sales channel at epoq, which she continues to optimise with her team. In addition to her work, she enjoys communicating market-relevant information on digital topics.

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