Trendspotting: Easing the Customer Purchasing Journey With Guided Discovery

Shoppers are targeted with promotional messages from brands on smartphones, televisions, online and even while walking through the mall. While it seems like this is a smart approach – targeting shoppers everywhere they might be can also have the negative affect of creating ‘shopping paralysis.’ This occurs when shoppers are overwhelmed by too many choices and are unable to make a purchasing decision.

Brick-and-mortar retailers have battled this phenomenon by providing helpful sales associates who can personally guide shoppers in narrowing down selections that fit their tastes and needs. With eMarketer estimating that more than 80 percent of online shoppers enter a website without knowing what to buy ahead of time, there is huge opportunity for digital retailers who provide a similar service online. This has spurred the growing trend toward guided discovery, and has retailers on the lookout for tools that provide an interactive and more personal approach to online shopping.

Advances in data-driven technologies present exciting possibilities for guided discovery tools. However, most retailers have only taken a rudimentary approach, implementing basic search filters or function-based guided selling tools that ultimately rely on the shopper knowing what they want, and finding it on their own. Engaging the large majority who are figuring it out as they go (and quickly bouncing off sites that provide little assistance) requires a level of interactivity and predictive analytics to elevate the customer journey to the next level, and deliver discovery that eases product selection in a meaningful, entertaining and personal way.

Next-generation product discovery

Today’s consumer is digitally savvy and accustomed to personalized services and on-demand entertainment. Everything from education to cars to TV uses an interactive approach to capture consumers’ attention and engage them while they learn, shop and browse online. This type of interactive experience is now a part of the next-gen product discovery model for retailers.

The evolution of digital retail has given dawn to a variety of engagement tools, including search, site personalization techniques, ratings and reviews and social media. The push to differentiate in an ever-growing crowded retail environment makes personalized guided discovery the next ‘no brainer’ approach to increasing shopper engagement. It balances retailers’ need to drive conversions with customer demand for personalized offerings. A 2014 report asserts that consumer expectation for a better experience is increasing, and companies must make customers feel like they’re receiving special treatment or service that is tailored to their needs and interests. As more customers turn to mobile and online commerce, it’s increasingly important for brands to provide the equivalent of a helpful in-store associate, compelling content and entertaining methods that guide and delight customers during the shopping journey.

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