A digital advisor is a concept that is becoming more popular, as businesses across the board are trying to find ways to be more customer-centric. E-consultancy recently surveyed digital leaders across a number of global markets and asked them about the most important characteristic a business should have in a digital age. The majority of respondents (58%) said that customer-centricity needed to be the strategic key theme. They concur in saying that…
The focus has to shift from products and services to the customers
But, how exactly do you make this shift? How can you create a customer-centric business?
The answer: You start by making real efforts towards moving away from selling something to somebody to selling the right “thing” to the right customer.
Digital advisors are effective means to help companies do exactly that. Many successful companies are using this technology to reflect their customer-centric mindset and generate positive results for both their customers and their business. A customer who feels sure in their decision is a lot more likely to purchase than one left confused.
But hold up. If you are now thinking about creating digital advisors, proceed with caution, as there are a few things to consider to ensure that your advisors are actually customer-centric!
First things first: Digital advisors are not filters!
(Check out the Infographic)
If you are planning on creating digital advisors that aren’t more than glorified filters, you’ll not be able to take advantage of the full potential Digital Advice and Guided Selling has to offer. Making customers narrow down a list of products by selecting technical product-centric attributes should not be your way to go as it isn’t always exactly helpful.
Useful digital advisors follow a more needs-based and hence, customer-centric paradigm. They start by understanding customer needs and apply intelligent algorithms to identify suitable matches based on these.
On the SMARTASSISTANT website, you’ll find a wide selection of digital advisors for many different products and solutions which are worth checking out.
But you don’t have to analyze them all. With this article, we want to provide you with a shortcut and explore a few important aspects to consider if you want to create a customer-centric, useful and, most importantly, successful digital advisor.
1) The Q&A Process – Understanding Needs
– The Customer’s Personal Needs Should be No. 1 Priority
The very first question of your digital advisor is most important. This is the question that will either engage or dissuade a customer. It should be asked with a clear purpose and direction.
Make sure your first question is:
- Focused on basic uses of your product
Example: Halfords – Tent Selector
By keeping the first question simple and needs-based, you can a) draw them in b) entice them to explore your offerings in detail.
– Start Broad, Get More Specific Later
Once the user has decided to use your digital advisor, you can begin to work out his/her specific needs.
The order in which you ask users questions and the complexity of these questions affect how useful they will perceive the digital advisor, how engaged they will be as well as their level of commitment (drop-off rate vs. CTR).
The trick is to gradually increase the complexity.
Progress from low complexity to high complexity.
Users are more engaged with the first few questions and tend to consider them more carefully. If your initial questions overwhelm them, they’ll soon grow tired, choose the default option, and wind up with a less satisfactory result.
– Ask the Right Question
The most successful digital advisors are those that ask questions to help you understand more about your customers – their situation, their needs, what they are trying to achieve and how your product fits in their world. Asking the right questions will also make the user feel completely understood and respected.
For example, if a user tells you through the advisor dialogue that they’re looking for a bar stool, it doesn’t make much sense to follow up with a question about arm rests. On the other hand, this follow up question could make perfect sense for someone looking to purchase an executive chair.
Therefore, consider creating digital advisors with question flows that adapt to each user dynamically and feel natural. Digital advisors should be understood as dynamic, interactive applications after all.
If you ask users the right questions that make sense to them, you are able to create a trusted and much more satisfying advice experience.
Example: Canon USA – Printer Advisor
For example, a user who selects “Home” as the area of use for a new printer will automatically receive relevant questions relating to this need first.
While users who’ll want to use their printer in an office will be asked about the size of the office.
Tip: The Flow Editor of SMARTASSISTANT’s Digital Advice Technology allows you to easily customize and optimize your advisor for each user persona you target. You can define individual advisor flows to ensure that the user is only presented with questions that are relevant and important within their context.
2. Design with the User in Mind
– Showing Rather than Telling: Using Pictures
Written words can only go so far in delivering an emotional connection. It’s much easier for the human brain to process a picture before it can process words.
Make sure you incorporate compelling pictures that aid the understanding of your questions and answers.
Using the right picture does not only make your advisor look more visually appealing but also easier to use.
Example: T-Mobile USA – Accessories Finder
Another benefit is that users are able to visualize themselves actually using, wearing or interacting with your product.
The right picture can affirm to them that a product fits their lifestyle’ and in the end, can decide whether they stay browsers or end up becoming buyers.
– Educate But Don’t Be a Bore
Customer education is a critical element in any decision-making process. This is not only true when it comes to deciding which product to purchase but also when it comes to deciding whether you are a preferred retailer or brand.
The University of Cambridge (UK) explored the effects of customer education and customer expertise (the result of customer education) on loyalty in the financial services industry. They found a positive and significant correlation between customer education and loyalty.
Customer loyalty is stronger when customer expertise is high.
What does this mean in the context of digital advisors?
It means that there is all the more reason for you to use your advisors as an opportunity to educate your customer base!
You can do this through info texts that pop up when a user hovers over an answer or a short video that opens when they click on a button to request more information.
The goal is not to overload users with random (marketing) information, but to integrate the content where it truly adds value and is tied to the immediate context of their decision.
Example: Mizuno – Sports Glove Selector
The aims of education via digital advisors should be to
- Explain benefits of certain features and functionalities i.e. how it will affect the end-user product experience
- Highlight reasons why a certain feature is needed i.e. by addressing a latent need
- Provide simple details to help them understand the impact of a given option or use of the product
Digital advisors with concise info texts and other content help your customers not only find the quickest way to products but the quickest way to products that are just right for THEM. Introducing education in your digital advisors increases their decision confidence and helps them make more informed choices.
– Offer a Relevant, Trustworthy and Informative Result
When your customer reaches the end of your advisor, it is essential that you don’t only make a recommendation but provide useful information with it.
The result should make sense, that’s a given. However, another aspect to consider is trust.
You should explain why you recommended certain options and why they are right for your customer. Allow him/her to relate their needs to recommended products to understand why your recommendations are good fits.
Example: Evans Cycles – Bike Finder
By offering a trustworthy result that makes sense, your customer will be more likely to take the next step.
– Offer Alternatives
When users land on the final page of your advisor, they have already put in some work and expect to be rewarded.
However, there can come a time that you don’t offer products that fully match their needs. In these cases, displaying “Sorry, no match found” or similarly frustrating sentences should be a no-no.
Instead, display alternatives that may not fulfill all needs but still are suitable options for the user to consider.
Example: Beko – Dryer Advisor (in Serbian)
Show them which trade-off decision they would have to make by highlighting the needs that aren’t fulfilled as well as what they would receive instead.
Good luck with your own!