Smart guided selling tools are helping manufacturers to increase sales. The end result is a better shopping experience for the consumer and for the retailer.
New Challenges for Manufacturers:
Manufacturers today are facing new challenges due to the disruptive nature of the Internet and the impact this is having on established distribution relationships. In an omni-channel retailing landscape the balance of power has shifted from manufacturers and retailers to consumers.
When a consumer buys online or in-store, they have typically researched the product online, so the importance of front-end retail staff delivering a uniform, high-quality buying experience for the consumer, has never been greater. When interacting with a sales person in store, customers should feel comfortable and assured in their purchase. The delivery of detailed and relevant product information by a trained retail salesperson creates a personalised, high quality customer service experience and is still key to every robust sales strategy.
While this is an effective sales channel for the manufacturer, the costs of maintaining the channel add up fast, and the challenges of retaining talented salespeople at the distributer and dealer level make it even more complicated.
With near universal internet penetration and a much more tech savvy target audience, some manufacturers have built their own online retail channel in order to sell direct to their customers. The obvious merit for the manufacturer in selling direct is the potential to realise higher margins, but at the same time they risk damaging relationships with their retail partners and resellers.
Selling direct, can be a risky strategy because the retail channel is critical for products where the consumer needs to interact with the item and where an in-store sales person can provide the ‘human-touch’ and answer queries, as well as demonstrate the product’s winning features.
A solution to channel conflict and varying customer experiences is connective retailing (also referred to as guided selling). The technology delivers a retail experience that is standard across all channels, whether it is in-store or online. Connective retailing helps the consumer to be better informed and results in far higher probability of sale completion.
Connective Retailing In-Store:
In a physical store, a salesperson helps consumer’s identify the best product for their needs, makes suggestions regarding suitability for purpose and then complete the sale. This experience is achieved with the aid of a connective retailing interface which asks intelligent questions and leads the user towards the product that is fit for their specific requirements.
A number of businesses across the world are implementing guided selling tools to work on their website or on a device in-store. This approach allows the manufacturer to efficiently introduce their latest products into the store without putting pressure on the retailers to constantly re-train their sales staff.
The retailing business is free to focus on sales training and relationship building instead of teaching new product features. Subsequently, the sales team is better equipped to build positive experiences in-store and offer an improved service to tech-savvy consumers. A guided selling tool ensures the customer goes away with the product they were looking for and helps reduce product returns and the associated costs.
Connective Retailing On-Line:
Even with the best search optimising techniques and attribute pickers the lack of a ‘human-touch’ often fails to convert the website traffic into real sales. Products clubbed together in categories defined by manufacturers often confuse the shoppers.
Without any guided selling or assistance, consumers face a buying experience akin to walking into a retail store full of products, with no sales person to talk to about the product or to demonstrate the product features. A connective retailing interaction asks intelligent questions focused on the consumer and then delivers a product choice that fits their needs, resulting in a higher conversion rate and much better experience for the consumer.
Connective Retailing in Action:
Using tailored algorithms that progressively ask questions about the consumer’s specific needs, a connective retailing tool can successfully bridge the gap between the online and physical retail environment. The resulting interaction quickly establishes a connection with the consumer and builds confidence in the product selection.
The product manufacturer can configure the questions in the connective retailing software, giving them more control and analytics from the use of the tool, as well as giving the retailers a sales instrument designed to increase sales and reduce the necessity for in-depth product training. Even new members of the sales staff can confidently recommend the right product to buyers, assured in the accuracy of product specifications and ‘fit’ proposed by the guided selling tool.
In an Executive Technology Report (Guided Selling: In demand information for buyers), IBM recommended guided selling as it “…leads customers through the purchasing process for a complex product and helps retailers discover what customers think about their products and to find out what motivates them to buy. At the same time it can enhance the buying experience.”
This new era of connective retailing is allowing manufacturers to deliver a uniform selling experience to their target audience, irrespective of whether they choose to shop online or in-store. They also earn the retailers’ goodwill by sharing with them a guided selling tool that alleviates issues of sales re-training and finding the perfect fit for consumers from a vast product catalogue.
Connective Retailing Strategy:
Smart guided selling tools are helping manufacturers to increase sales. The end result is a better shopping experience for the consumer and for the retailer. If you are a manufacturer looking to implement effective guided selling to support your retail partners, consider a technology partner who has experience in delivering a proven solution that is configurable according to your needs and empowers you to execute your connective retailing strategy.
Find a specialist provider who will work with you to deliver a uniform, high-quality buying experience for your customers. This will help reduce selling costs and increase sales by enabling retail staff to confidently sell your entire product catalogue.
Keith Lightfoot is Business Development Manager for Connective Retailing and is a Member of the Institute of IT Professionals New Zealand. He is also an author and professional speaker at business conferences. Connective Retailing (Shop Assistant Software) was developed by Wired Internet Group, Christchurch, New Zealand.