There have to be a million different versions of the sales funnel. Many generic funnels start with “Prospect” and go to “Lead” and eventually end up with a sale but here is one you may not have seen. This one is modeled after the flow of visitors to your website. I didn’t invent this and in fact, I saw a version of this most recently on findandconvert.com so I know I am not the only one who uses it.
What I like about this funnel is that it is a modern view of Internet-based leads. Here is how it works. First, a visitor lands on your site. Next, they are interested enough to click on some call to action and then they decide to engage in the material you offer. If you haven’t lost them yet, you can use the content of your website to further nurture them until they have the confidence to purchase.
It’s a useful exercise to consider how your website facilitates this process. What is your “call to action” that drives the initial visitor to click through to more content? Once they have clicked through, how do you engage and further nurture them so they land on the product or service most relevant to them? And after they have been through that content have you sufficiently built their confidence in your company and your product so they will make a purchase?
If you are like most vendors who utilize (and value) Internet leads you spend a disproportionate amount of your lead generation budget on the very first stage. That first stage is the advertising or SEO required to get visitors to your site. You probably also spend a lot of money on the salaries and systems required to create a proposal or take an order when someone is ready to engage 1-on-1. The area where you spend the least is in the middle. That’s the website content that provides a self-service experience for your customer to identify what product and options is right for them, what they should value and why they should trust you. Customers expect to be able to serve themselves on your website through this part of the research and decision process but it is often the weak link in the chain.
Here is another way to look at the process. When a prospective customer goes shopping on the Internet they first want to educate themselves on the available choices and use this information to formulate their purchase criteria. Maybe in some shopping situations they already have all of their shopping criteria in mind but more likely they only have part of the criteria and they visit websites like yours to determine what should be important. Next, they want to see what is available and narrow down the choices based on their criteria. If all goes well, they find a product on your website that meets these criteria and they are confident you can deliver it so they initiate 1-on-1 contact (or they purchase directly).
The implications of this customer behavior is that you, the vendor, want your website to easily facilitate this process. To do that, you will need to invest in organizing your website in way that a customer can explore your products and options, understand why they are important and how they are priced. Think about the first 3-5 questions that your sales person uses to determine what product configuration is appropriate – does your website do a nice job of narrowing down the choices for the customer like the sales person does? To serve this stage of a customer’s research and decision process you don’t need to present all the detail In fact, you are better off keeping it simple and making it easy to navigate. Just be clear about your differentiation so the customer begins to build that into their decision criteria.
Finally, make the experience fun and engaging so the customer wants to spend more time on your site rather than your competitors. Oh, and by the way, a highly visual, 3D product configurator may really help!]]>
It is increasingly important for you to improve your ability to engage your customer online. According to Marketing Charts Research, 50% of consumers spend 75% or more of their total shopping time conducting online research. In fact, 15% of shoppers spend 90% or more of their shopping time online doing research. This trend is accelerating. According to Gartner Group, by the year 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without human intervention.
Not only do customers spend an increasing portion of their purchasing time online, they are also much further along in the purchase process before they contact a company. In a Forbes article entitled “The Disappearing Sales Process”, Scott Gillum describes how customers are almost 60% through the sales process BEFORE contacting a Sales Rep regardless of price point of the product being purchased.
This is not to suggest that your sales force does not provide value. It does. What it does mean is that critical to allow your prospective customer to learn as much as possible about your products online, or you may never have an opportunity to interact with them.
For customizable products, this means that the more a customer can learn about your product on your website, the more likely it is that they will contact you. With interactive 3D visualization and configuration capabilities, a customer can find their ideal product by exploring various product options and accessories to create the exact product they wish to purchase. When they do contact you, they will be confident that they will receive the product they order.
Your customer is educating themselves on future purchases online. Make sure you have the ability to educate your customers on the possibilities you can deliver before they ever speak with you.]]>
Note the inefficiencies and expense involved in this process: First, you can expect a significant drop-off between step #2 and step #3. A customer who is not ready for a one-on-one conversation will continue their web search to find a product that they are confident will meet their needs. Second, your sales team must engage with the prospect regardless of how well-qualified they are. They will spend significant time explaining the capabilities and configuration options. And they will spend time revising quotes and iterating with the customer. Third, your sales and support teams must instill confidence in the customer that they are getting exactly what they want. This may require creating detailed renderings of the final product or reviewing, in detail, final specifications. This is a time-consuming and expensive process.
ENABLING SELF SERVICE DESIGN
Now consider a second model that enables the customer to make their own guided design choices, on their own time, before they contact you. (In fact, some customers may purchase the product without ever contacting you, completely eliminating the inefficiencies outlined above.)
Note: A live example can be found at Studio Shed, a manufacturer of configurable backyard sheds (visit https://www.studio-shed.com/configure/).
The changes are subtle but important. Prospects have more confidence in the offerings because they see the exact products they have configured. They know the prices, and they have made all the major tradeoff decisions before contacting your team. When prospects reach out to the sales team, they ask more insightful questions, and they are more ready to buy. Prospects who have access to an online configuration tool for custom products are more likely to do the following:
Ultimately, this optimal online experience for custom products will translate to more sales and greater profitability. Fewer potential customers will abandon your site for another. And your sales team can focus their efforts on the most valuable customers (those most likely to purchase), ensuring the greatest return for their efforts.]]>
Elizabeth Spaulding and Christopher Perry from Bain & Company delivered a great article on this very topic: Making it personal: Rules for success in product customization.
One key takeaway from this article: “Those customers that had customized a product online engaged more with the company.”
This article also outlines several important implications of the customization trend:
Customers are willing to pay more for a custom product. According to Spaulding & Perry, 20% more than for standard equivalents.
The products configurations consumers buy can provide an early indicator of changing product trends. For example, Brooks Brothers uses information about what its customers buy to plan future products. Information gleaned from actual purchase behavior is much more valuable than what can be gathered through surveys and focus groups.
Customers that purchased customized products were more loyal, which meant they bought more and made more referrals than those that didn’t customize.
For those offering customized product or considering it, this article provides some important recommendations about how to increase your likelihood of success. Their study found that successful companies followed five key rules:
Decide on your objectives for providing customization, such as branding, improving product margin, differentiation, or even creating a new core business around customized products.
Decide how much customization you should to offer. More is not necessarily better.
Keep it simple. Providing too many options confuses your customer and can lead to negative experience for your customer
Let people share. Allowing your customer to post their personalized product on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter means building greater loyalty and brand awareness for you.
Enhance the customer experience. Your customer needs to enjoy the design process
As consumers engage with products and companies that allow for customization, the expectation is set that this is now possible and should be available for all products. Companies looking to stay ahead of their competitors should be evaluating how they can offer customizable products to their customers.]]>
However, if you manufacture configurable products, it can be difficult to communicate to the end customer the possibilities you can provide through a distributor, especially when your distributor is selling online. How do you deliver a compelling customer buying experience through an online channel?
Online 3D Visualization and Configuration software like that provided by IdeaRoom Technologies can be utilized anywhere your products are available on the web. This allows you to deliver a consistent, engaging, and interactive product configuration experience on every website your product is sold. This provides significant benefits to you, your channel partner, and the buyer of your products.
Key benefits to you and your distribution partners
Ubiquitous. Configuration capabilities can be launched from anywhere. Your customers get same engaging experience anywhere they find your products for sale.
Branding. Your channel partners can brand IdeaRoom to fit their online experience.
Differentiated. Your channel partners will have a much easier time selling your product than your competitors.
Up-To-Date. You have one central location to update as new options become available.
Sales Productivity. Your distributors’ sales reps can use your Configurator to sell to their customers.
With a Configurator, you deliver consistent information about your configuration options and accessories everywhere your product is sold. When you change options or expand your offerings, those offerings are available everywhere your product is listed.
This also means you are no longer tied to an annual catalog cycle! You can update your product offerings or product configuration options anytime, and those changes are available immediately wherever your Configurator resides.
Your distribution partners benefit as well. By giving their customers the ability to visualize, select, and interact with your product configuration options on your partner’s website, you help them build greater customer loyalty. By enabling customers to visualize different options and accessories, they will be more likely to purchase – driving yours and your partner’s profitability. In addition, your distributor no longer needs to update your product page every time you add new products or options, making their operations more efficient.
Lastly, customers can purchase your product from the company they trust (their distributor), while easily configuring and selecting the exact product they wish to buy. When new options and accessories are introduced, there is no delay in their availability.
Providing a compelling, visual interactive product configuration capability to your distribution partners can drive significant competitive advantage. You win by helping your channel win!]]>
As a manufacturer of customizable products, you are in a great position to appeal to today’s consumers. But how do you show the breadth and depth of your offering without confusing them? How do you empower them to create their perfect product without overwhelming them with too many choices? How do you best support their desire to educate themselves? How do you keep sales cost under control?
Customers begin nearly every major purchase decision online. They do their own up-front research–exploring alternatives, learning about different vendors, reading reviews, and choosing the product that best meets their requirements.
Manufacturers of configurable products have unique challenges in serving their online customers well. Although the customer has a sense of the basic configuration, how do they get a complete picture of the product? What color looks best? How do the accessories change the appearance? What will the final product look like? What is the final cost? How can they be sure that they’re ordering the right one?
Fundamentally, you need to empower your customers to educate themselves about your offerings, easily explore configuration options, and select the configuration that best matches their needs. Integrating 3D visualization and configuration software into your website can help your customer achieve these goals, in a fun and engaging way.
A prospective customer engaging with 3D visualization and configuration capabilities can choose colors, finishes, options, and accessories. They can compare how two different configurations look. They can see the product from all sides, in a realistic 3D representation. And they can see how their choices impact the final price.
They do this “purchase-decision pre-work” on their own time, in the comfort of their own home, at their own pace. And as they do this, they become more invested in your product, your company, and your brand. Your product becomes their product–tailored to their precise needs and wants.
When the customer does engage with you, they are closer to making a purchase decision. They are more qualified and committed. They are confident in their purchase because they’ve seen exactly what they’re purchasing. They see the colors and accessories. They see an estimated price. They see the product from all sides and perspectives. Customers lacking this confidence will move on to the next website, likely a competitor.
IdeaRoom not only creates a more engaged and confident customer but also improves your sales productivity. Your salespeople start with better-qualified leads. Your customers already know what they want and that it fits within their budget. You spend less time describing basic choices, providing quotes, and iterating on options. Time with customers is better spent, as you focus on the finer points that differentiate your product from others. Conversion rates will naturally increase.
These benefits continue throughout the rest of the organization. When the sales order is completed, the detailed information about the configuration–including images of the completed assembly–can be provided immediately to manufacturing to ensure the proper configuration is built.
Ultimately, IdeaRoom Technology is helping manufacturers create more intimate relationships with their customers by engaging them directly in configuring their ideal product and then giving them the confidence that they will receive exactly what they designed.