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It is an interesting observation that most of the webpages that we visit on a daily basis, are a result of curated content on email and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter – things that our friends or in many cases, the platforms themselves, recommend to us. This mode of reaching a webpage can be examined against Googling a particular keyword to reach the webpage, which is rarer, unless one has a very specific enquiry. Why does this happen?

The search bar seems to be the culprit in cases like these. A search bar personifies the ‘What do you want?’ query. But what do we want? What do we really want? The fact is that if we spend a little time mulling over the quintessential search bar question, we realize that it is perhaps one of the most difficult questions to answer. If the first step to a Google search involves an encounter with a psuedo-existential concern, then we better find another way to deal with this internet thing, right?

The idea is that Google knows this. It knows that the search bar is one of the most inefficient ways of user experience design, because it stumps the user with ‘What do You Want?’ This is why, especially with it’s ‘OK Google’ feature on Android, Google is constantly trying to engage you in a conversation – getting to know more about you and then offering you suggestions based on what it knows. This is the essence of guided selling. An interesting analogy here might be the one about going to a mall because you want to buy something specific, as opposed to going to the mall for the experience – the mall wants you to hang around cluelessly, which is why it creates the ambience, the food courts, the events, etc. Once you are present, it finds opportunities to engage you into buying something.

The interaction that a customer has with a salesman is something that must be studied in depth. A good salesman assumes that the customer does not know anything about what they want ( and in most cases, the assumption stands. An interesting example in this context is the ‘Kitna deti hai’ ad campaign by Maruti Suzuki.) As a result, the salesman also knows that the first product that they will show the customer will form a sort of a benchmark for the succeeding ones.

Also, the salesman will come up with a few categories, to try and get the customer to talk about their lifestyle – ‘do you take a lot of pictures on your phone?’ or ‘Do you often browse the internet from your laptop?’ – simple questions that provide more insight and shortlist a set of products that are then shown to you. Guided selling is a way to import this model of salesmanship in the online world. In fact, the online world offers various possibilities for guided selling that a traditional salesperson cannot offer. Let us look at a couple examples of how guided selling is designed, a little more closely.

Guided Selling: A Closer Look

1. Homepage

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This is the main page of the Android phone finder, a website that guides you towards the Android phone you need, when you are confused about which one you want. Of course, we all know that the internet needed this site. Anyone with experience of buying an Android phone online will remember with disdain the ‘compare’ tabs which provide dry information about Snapdragon processors and so-and-so mAh battery, etc. With the amount of Android phones on the market, it is great to see something like this on the official Android website itself. The first thing that we notice, rather refreshingly, is that there is no search tab. Instead, there is a clean interface with some quirky animations and a ‘get started’ button. Very convenient. So let’s see what happens when we get started.

2. Website Leads, Users Follow

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This is where we get to once we ‘get started’. Another thing to notice – not only are we yet to encounter a search option, we are actually yet to encounter any sort of a question at all! The website asks you to fill in the blanks, rather than asking you a direct question like ‘What is your new Android phone for?’ Because that would just be overwhelming. Further, it gives you a lot of options. Now granted that some of them are quite vague – I don’t quite understand what ‘being on the go’ is supposed to mean – but the point is that the user only needs to choose. This page is perhaps the most crucial in the whole guided selling scenario, because the user has to encounter this page multiple times. Once we choose an activity here – say, ‘Listening to Music’ – we are prompted with a few more slightly specific interactions – how often do you listen to music, how do you listen to music, etc. Once you are done with that, you are brought back to this page.

3. Website Provides Suggestions, Not Answers

Once you are done taking this ‘questionnaire’, you are led to the results.

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As you can see, they are not really results, but more like suggestions. This is the job of a good guided sale – to suggest products rather than to push them onto the buyer. The website designer must therefore be very careful about the specific wordings that are used in the process of a guided sale – it is as much an art on the online world, as it is on the offline world.

With half of all shoppers spending more than 75% of their time researching on products, it is no wonder that a simple search and retrieve model can be quite inefficient for an online retail website. The bottomline is that it comes down to the simple matter of translation – a search and retrieve mode documents data about the product in terms of its technical attributes – weight, color, size, capacity, etc. One cannot expect the customer to speak that language. A guided sale is, in that sense, a translator that helps the customer navigate through the technical jargon to reach the product that they need.

To know more about guided selling, and other queries, get in touch with Browntape. We are India’s leading e-commerce solutions providers, and we are always happy to help!

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