“Guided Selling” means different things to different people, even in the narrow context of B2B eCommerce.
Wikipedia’s definition, while somewhat broad and somewhat drab, is a good start:
Guided selling is a process that helps potential buyers of products or services to choose the product best fulfilling their needs and hopefully guides the buyer to buy. It also helps vendors of products (e.g. brands, retailer) to actively guide their customers to a buying decision and thus increases their conversion rate.
In an eCommerce setting, successful Guided B2B Selling will produce at minimum two positive outcomes:
- Rewarding experience for the Buyer because he or she was guided to the product that best met his or her requirements
- Efficient experience for the Buyer because the process was engaging and intuitive, and wasn’t distracted by unneeded items for purchase
Note that you can create an online ordering experience that achieves (1) and fails at (2). That’s when you hear “I finally got what I needed, but it was a nightmare.”
As for (2), creating an eCommerce experience that’s pleasurable and simple is certainly a worthy goal, but simple by itself actually isn’t a bad thing. Many B2B buyers have very low emotional involvement with the ordering process. They want in and out fast. As the famous Scottish philosopher David Byrne once said: “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, / I just want to order a pen and a polo.”
Here are 4 best practices for successful Guided B2B Selling in eCommerce:
The first one starts with product selection. Before you start designing the user experience and the workflow, figure out the proper product mix. Do not overwhelm your customers with hundreds of thousands of SKUs. Do put an email form on your site that says “Suggest a Product.” And while you’re at it, embed a survey on your site so users can provide feedback.
Next, get the basics right. Do the little things that help your buyers stay on track and get the information they need when they need it. For example:
- Include Contact Us information and make it easy to find without being intrusive
- Pre-populate as much data as you can
- Provide a satisfying mobile experience
- Remind them of how easy it is to create a Favorite Order they can repeat with one click as often as they need to
Another popular tactic is using related products to point out complementary offerings that are commonly ordered together. You can also be creative with product categories to keep your ordering site fresh. Users should arrive with a sense of anticipation — “I wonder what’s new?” Examples include:
- Sale, Clearance
- Hot Sellers
Finally, take the pain out of the mundane. Use what you know about every user to create rules behind the scene to prevent errors and simplify (or eliminate) the steps everyone hates, including billing, shipping and cost allocation.
Remember, test all your eCommerce site decisions against this question: am I providing an engaging (or at least simple and professional) experience that quickly guides the user to the correct products and services?