Imagine walking into a brick-and-mortar store, with a personal assistant tailoring your shopping experience by understanding your tastes, needs, and budget. They guide you through the shop, offering product suggestions and comparisons to help you make the best decisions. Now, imagine having the same personalized experience online. This is precisely where product assistants come into play.
First, what are product assistants?
Product assistants, sometimes referred to as virtual shopping assistants or digital sales assistants, leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to enhance the online shopping experience. They provide personalized recommendations, answer queries, and help customers navigate through the plethora of product options. From assistants that respond to customer inquiries in real-time to AI-powered recommendation engines, product assistants are changing the way we shop online.
Example of how virtual product assistant could be in the future (here displayed as an hologram)
The essential role of product assistants in ecommerce
Product assistants are not just a nice-to-have feature. They’re an essential element in the ecommerce and retail landscape for several reasons:
1- Personalized shopping experiences
Online shoppers often face the paradox of choice, which can be defined as an overwhelming number of options that leads to difficulty in making a decision. Product assistants help solve this problem by providing personalized recommendations based on a customer’s past purchases, browsing history, and preferences. This level of personalization emulates the in-store experience and can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. In fact, studies show that people are 40% more likely to spend more than planned when they identify the shopping experience to be highly personalized.
2- Real-time customer service
Product assistants can provide instant responses to customer queries, eliminating the need for customers to search through FAQ pages or wait for a customer service representative. In fact, more than 65% of people have higher expectations for customer service today than they did three to five years ago, and over 50% of consumers will switch to a competitor after one bad experience.That’s why the instant gratification provided by a digital assistant is crucial in a digital landscape where customers expect quick and efficient service. Moreover, good customer service is the most important factor—outside of price and product—when deciding what to buy for 83% of consumers, and 75% of customers are willing to spend more to buy from businesses that give them a good customer experience.
3- Scalability and efficiency
Product assistants can handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously, something human customer service representatives cannot do. This scalability allows companies to manage a larger volume of customer interactions efficiently and at a lower cost. Research from McKinsey estimates that AI technologies could potentially deliver up to $1 trillion of additional value each year, of which revamped customer service accounts for a significant portion. It also found that companies operating at the highest levels of AI-enabled customer engagement maturity can handle more than 95 percent of their service interactions via AI and digital channels. This ability to deliver proactive, service-led engagement through AI and technology, as seen in sectors like ecommerce and banking, leads to better service, higher satisfaction, and increasing customer engagement. Even though product assistants and similar technologies can reduce human-assisted volumes and costs, they also support other customer service touchpoints, delivering high-quality outcomes across all channels.
3D VR Kit configurator for Odace, the neat future of product assistance – NextUser
Why do product assistants represent the future of shopping?
Product assistants are not just a passing trend. They represent a significant part of the future of shopping for the following reasons:
1- Advancements in AI and machine learning
The advancements in AI and machine learning are enabling a new level of sophisticated product assistants. Large Language Models (LLMs) like GPT-3.5 Turbo are being used in a wide range of business cases, including customer support tasks traditionally performed by call center agents. These models, managed and controlled effectively, can deliver accurate and personalized responses, enhancing the customer shopping experience. Models like these can be integrated into existing Conversational AI platforms without requiring a complete overhaul of the system, preserving capital and maintaining compatibility with third-party integrations.
2- Growth of voice commerce
With the increasing popularity of voice-controlled devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, voice commerce is set to explode! Product assistants will be essential in this context, helping customers browse and purchase products through voice commands. Read our previous article How Voice & AI will disrupt Retail & Ecommerce to learn more about this topic.
3- Increasing customer expectations
Customers are becoming more tech-savvy and expect a seamless, personalized shopping experience, whether online or in-store. As explained before, a majority of consumers have higher expectations for customer service now than they did just a few years ago. Product assistants help meet these expectations by providing a tailored, efficient, and interactive shopping experience.
4- The need for data-driven decisions
Product assistants not only aid customers but also provide valuable data to businesses. This data can be used to understand customer behavior and preferences better, helping businesses make data-driven decisions. AI-enabled customer service can increase customer engagement, thereby offering increased cross-sell and upsell opportunities while reducing cost-to-serve. Companies are using AI and technology to support proactive and personalized customer engagement through self-serve tools, revamped apps, and new interfaces. The integration of AI capabilities into customer service can create a virtuous circle of better service, higher satisfaction, and increasing customer engagement.
But in terms of performance, what do product assistants really mean?
We now understand the concept of product assistants and how they work, but what do they bring to the table? Here are 2 NextUser’s use cases to enlighten you on that part:
Schneider Electric – Enhancing efficiency and customization with configurators
Schneider Electric is a multinational company specializing in digital automation and energy management. In order to highly personalize their clients’ experience, we created several configurators for the brand. Configurators are responsible for guiding the user. Here, they took the form of 15 tools (8 designed by NextUser), such as a packaging configurator, a 3D configurator, a wiser assistant, a cable configurator, a chatbot selector and a unica assistant. All these features help the user go through the website and buying process without feeling lost. These initiatives resulted in +2.5 millions in sales.
Configurators built for Schneider Electric by NextUser
Chandon – Guiding users through an exciting wide wine collection
Chandon is one of Moët Hennessy’s brands, a holding company constituting the Wines & Spirits branch of the LVMH group. The brand wanted to boost Direct to Consumer (D2C) by optimizing the lower conversion funnel. To do so, we deployed 6 real-time personalization initiatives, such as an exit intent workflow, cart and product recommendations, and a product assistant. The assistant features 7 questions, and helps users know easily what they want. It resulted in an increase of 24% in revenues in one year.
Product assistant built for Chandon by NextUser
In conclusion, product assistants play a pivotal role in enhancing the online shopping experience, making them an essential part of the ecommerce and retail landscape. As AI and machine learning continue to advance, and as customer expectations rise, the importance and use of product assistants will only grow, cementing their place in the future of shopping. In the near future lies the probability of combining product assistance with augmented reality, as suggested in the previous video of a 3D VR Kit configurator for Odace. In fact, companies are developping tools that will make this possible sooner than expected, such as Apple’s Vision Pro innovation. This technological gem both combines augmented reality and virtual reality, a duo which could totally revolutionize the way we buy in retail stores and on ecommerce websites.
While waiting for new inventions, and to stay at the forefront of innovation, you can match your clients’ needs for a more personalized experience. To do so, get started with NextUser!