Crash Course in Guided Shopping

Internet retailers face unique challenges when trying to guide consumers through the sales cycle.


Unlike their brick-and-mortar counterparts, ecommerce stores don't have sales associates walking the floor to identify the customers who need assistance. Plus, consumers don't have the ability to touch or try on products when shopping online, which can cause some shoppers to second-guess their purchasing decisions.


Fortunately, various tools and technologies exist to help merchants mimic the traditional shopping experience - from customer service to even trying products on (virtually, of course). Discover three guided shopping strategies below. 


Guiding By Filters


Many brands have put their filtering technology front-and-center, making it a focal point of their ecommerce websites rather than an afterthought. Take Kenmore for example. The company's "Help Me Choose" feature is both interactive and engaging. Aside from boosting conversions, the platform is likely to improve time-on-site metrics, too. Consumers simply need to answer a variety of questions in order to find the perfect appliance for their needs.



Similar to Kenmore's filtering feature is the Shape Stylist from IGIGI. This feature enables plus-sized women to find clothing that complements their shapes. In order to find the ideal clothing, consumers need to answer a series of questions about their body types. Once body types are determined, consumers are provided with a list of tips on what types of clothes are the most flattering, as well as have the option to "Shop My Shape".



There are actually many examples of this type of filtering strategy out in the digital wild, including on sites like JustFab, Olay and Merlin. Among the most popular technology providers for this type of guiding shopping is iGoDigital. The company's Guided Selling Tools ask a series of questions and then recommends the best products based on the answers. This technology is not only interactive, but also empowers consumers to make smarter purchasing decisions.


Guiding Through Customer Service


Another way to guide consumers through the sales cycle is with customer service solutions. While the obvious technology for this strategy is live-chat, merchants should also consider virtual assistants and "expert advocate" solutions, too. By having customer service options readily available on your site, you can help customers find what they need and provide the correct information to help them make purchasing decisions.


Take personal assistant solutions like Nina Web and CodeBaby for example. These platforms enable ecommerce retailers to feature virtual sales associates on their websites that can help customers during the entire shopping experience, not only boosting buyer confidence but also metrics like conversions and average order values. These solutions provide the same benefits of live-chat, but can be more eye-catching and engaging.



Also shaking up the online customer service world is Needle, which turns loyal customers into expert advocates who help push other consumers through the purchasing process. Essentially, Needle identifies a brand's best advocates and then certifies them to sell the brand's products from anywhere. These expert advocates tend to not only increase company revenues, but also customer loyalty and retention. This is because consumers are more receptive to their peers than to sales associates - the very reason that consumer reviews are so impactful.



Guiding Through Virtual Fitting Rooms


Perhaps the best way to make the online shopping experience feel more like the traditional brick-and-mortar one is with virtual fitting rooms. This type of technology takes a lot of the guesswork out of purchasing decisions.


For instance, Warby Parker enables site visitors to try on glasses through the computer. Consumers simply need to upload two pictures to the site so they can see how the glasses will look on their face from different angles. Plus, the website gives users the option of trying the glasses on models too. Conversely, Hugo Boss UK leverages a different type of fitting room technology. Instead of uploading an image to the site, consumers simply enter their measurements and are presented with a virtual model with a body type that matches the submitted data. From there, consumers can try different sizes on the virtual model, which provide insights to how a specific item (and size) will fit.



The technology behind Hugo Boss's virtual fitting room is from a company called, which is a software-as-a-service solution that uses robotic mannequins to mimic the shape of different body types. This type of solution can ease customer concerns about clothing fit, thus increasing conversions and decreasing returns., however, is far from the only virtual fitting room technology available to retailers. Other solutions worth checking out include True Fit, Clothes Horse and My Virtual Model.


Be the Guiding Light


In order to be successful on the Web, it is important for merchants to match consumers with the right products. In doing so, merchants stand to gain a more loyal customer base, an increase in conversions, and a decrease in returns and complaints. That said, the aforementioned technologies and strategies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways retailers can guide consumers through the sales cycle. Share your favorite tips and/or technologies in the Comments Section below.