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The Best Digital Assistants of 2018: How 30 Brands Prepare for the Engagement Economy

Consumers are drowning in choices. Whenever they visit your website or store, they want to see something that immediately resonates – “This is for me!” 

In 2019, you can’t expect people to pre-pay with their time, searching for the right products, before they pay with their money. It has become even more important to tackle choice overload and choice complexity head-on if you want to drive sales, reduce high return rates, and combat eroding consumer loyalty.

People expect authentic engagement

If you look at successful brands, they have one thing in common: They’re good concierges. They know how to interact, engage and, more importantly, assist people in a personal way, helping them navigate the digital waters and find what they want faster.

Thanks to the accessibility of artificial intelligence, it’s even easier now to create and scale these assistive experiences on digital channels.

With digital assistants ranging from personal style consultants to seasoned product experts, 2018 saw brands take major steps forward in making the digital experience much more personalized and engaging for customers.

We reviewed 100s of digital assistants, and our shortlist will give you a sneak peek into what other companies are currently doing.

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Cosmetics and Personal Care

Almost everyone uses cosmetics and personal care products on some level, and yet, they remain one of the most difficult product categories to shop for thanks to the staggering number of options. Be it a simple shampoo or moisturizer, perfume or hair color, finding the right one out of hundreds is an Olympic-level challenge.

Thankfully, there are brands that have developed fantastic digital assistants that, like a real-life product expert, understand customer preferences and needs to recommend the best products that will perfectly meet their requirements.

1Pinrose

Just how do you pick the right scent for you? There are so many options, all with exotic names and exquisite details.

Pinrose’s personal scent assistant simplifies the job by uncovering a customer’s personal scent style and personality. All customers have to do is choose pictures they are drawn to. The entire experience is emotive and ethereal. Pinrose has created a digital assistant to be reckoned with.

pinrose’s personal scent assistant

 

2Function of Beauty

Choosing the right shampoo is its own battle. Hair problems are as diverse and complex as the solutions available for them. Need a shampoo that’s perfect for your wavy, dry hair or one that also takes care of split ends?

Function of Beauty asks a few questions to help customers cut through the deluge of choices, customizing their perfect hair care formula in a matter of seconds.

 

2Scentbird Scent Finder

The Scentbird Scent Finder opens with the dreamy question, “Where would you rather be?”

That one question sets the stage for a delightful journey, and everything from the following questions, the imagery, and the almost aromatic experience of choosing a favorite fragrance based on what customers like, makes it a winner.

The amusing little animation of a bird joyfully jumping around, picking the best scents for customers adds to the experience, and in all, Scentbird has created an engaging solution for its customers.

scentbird scent finder

 

4The Shade – Color Consultation

Picking the right shade for your hair – that’s another area most people can spend hours mulling over. But The Shade’s interactive color consultation appears to have mind reading skills.

It asks a series of simple questions, including some very intuitive ones about skin tone and even the color of a customer’s veins. It ends by showing customers the one shade that would be perfect for them. Not only is their advice precise, but it also makes customers feel that The Shade really knows what they’re doing.

The most intriguing part of this digital assistant is its attention to detail. It manages to gather some really important information through a few strategic questions. Some most customers, on their own, wouldn’t stop to think about when buying a hair color.

the shade – color consultation digital assistant

 

5My Clairol

Coty’s My Clairol assistant takes the guesswork out of choosing your hair color. With questions that cover everything from hair length and texture to where a customer would like to color their hair, My Clairol doesn’t miss a beat.

The end of the visually appealing quiz suggests a perfect shade for the customer and offers a few alternatives. Also, on the result page, customers see a recap of their preferences that led to My Clairol suggesting a particular shade. It helps make the buyer feel completely at ease with their suggestions, so they can proceed to comfortably buy the color.

 

6Nexxus Hair Helper

Choosing one hair product alone is a tough call. Choosing the perfect combination of shampoo, conditioner, serum, mark and leave-in foam is an even bigger challenge.

The Nexxus Hair Helper positions itself as a true savior for people with this dilemma. The well-illustrated quiz asks simple and detailed questions. It concludes with not just one product recommendation but an entire regimen, including the mask, serum and leave-in foams that customers may need to solve their many problems —  because of course, there’s never just one hair problem, right?

nexxus hair helper

 

7Pleij Salon Esquido Eyelash Finder

If you’ve ever had to buy false eyelashes, you’d be absolutely blown away by the number of choices available. Straight strands, crisscrossed or clusters? How’s an average buyer to decide?

Pleij Salon makes it easy with their super-detailed, yet simplified, eyelash assistant. It opens with an impressive illustration of 8 different types of eyes and even takes a customer’s personal style into account to find them the perfect pair of eyelashes that will accentuate their natural eyes without looking over the top.

 

Fitness and Lifestyle

Every customer’s fitness and lifestyle needs are unique. Many of these products are extremely personal and greatly impact a consumer’s well-being. A large number of companies provide digital assistants in this category to help consumers find the right products for their needs.

8Manduka Yoga Mat Finder

Buying a yoga mat is supposed to be the easiest part of yoga, right? Well, given the number of choices available, not really. You need one that, among other things, doesn’t slip when you move, doesn’t get sweaty, and is soft and easy on your joints.

So to help every customer find a yoga mat that has everything they need, Manduka, an environmentally conscious brand, has created a yoga mat finder that ensures their customers buy the right yoga mat that meets their requirements so well that it will last them a lifetime. Manduka is particularly keen about this, too, since it will help to prevent more rubber from ending up in the landfills.

manduka yoga mat finder

 

9Amazon Wine Finder

Amazon’s unique wine finder helps customers find the right wine in just 5 simple steps.

It begins by asking about the occasion a customer is buying wine for and then asks questions such as, “What will you be serving the wine with?”

With the information gathered through these nuanced questions, the digital assistant recommends wines that are tailored to the customer’s preferences. In addition to a conversation that leads to great wine discoveries, the digital assistant also doubles as a wine consultant and offers product education to help customers make a sound purchasing decision.amazon wine finder

 

10Wilson Tennis Racket Assistant

Wilson, a leading sports brand, has designed a tennis racket finder that matches customers with the tennis racket best suited to them in a matter of seconds.

The simplicity and ease of this racket finder make it a great shopping assistant.

All customers need to share is their age group, the kind of tennis they play, and that’s it, they can quickly see a top choice and two runners up. Being able to quickly decide the best racket allows Wilson’s customers to spend less time sitting around and browsing for the right racket and more time enjoying tennis itself.

wilson tennis racket digital assistant

 

11Nespresso Coffee Selector

Nespresso, the coffee company that sells fine espressos coffee capsules as well as coffee makers and other accessories, wants to ensure that every customer can make barista*quality espresso at home.

But coffee comes in a wide array of flavors, textures, and intensity. So to make sure every customer can find the cup that’s perfect for them, Nespresso created a delicious looking coffee selector with alluring coffee and cake pictures that asks simple questions and uses the gathered information to suggest the best coffee for each customer.

nespresso coffee selector

 

12Pot Noodle Dream Job Finder

Pot Noodle, the famous company that makes some delicious instant noodles and pasta, created a very unconventional digital assistant that, instead of selling its products, helped the company interact with and learn more about its audience. It created some buzz around the company and was deemed a big success.

pot noodle dream job finder

 

Tech

Tech happens to be one area where almost every customer needs help. Unless you’re a pro techie yourself, it can be difficult to understand all the technical jargon that comes with tech products. That is why, if you’re selling products in this category, having a digital assistant is almost mandatory.

13JBL Headphones Digital Advisor

JBL offers a wide range of headphones, speakers and home and car audio systems. To take the guesswork out of finding a great pair of headphones, the company has created a digital assistant that helps customers find the perfect option based on their preferences.

jbl headphones digital advisor

 

14Microsoft Office Finder

Microsoft helps its customers choose the best Microsoft Office subscription plan. The simple, well-visualized digital assistant asks some direct questions like “Are you buying for a home or a full-fledged office?” and “Are you using it on one or many devices?”

Based on the customer’s answers, it suggests the best Microsoft Office suite and plan. Taking things a step further, it offers a side-by-side comparison of other plans, helping customers make the best decision.

microsoft office software finder

 

Financial Services and Telecoms

If only they’d taught us financial management in high school, we’d probably have a better understanding of equities, asset values, and capital gains. As of now, the financial sector is one of the most confusing industries out there, and since there’s big money involved, it’s also one of the most crucial.

The same goes for telcos, where one plan hardly seems different from another and choosing the right one can be a frustrating experience. That’s why telcos and banks can create a huge competitive advantage by integrating engaging digital assistants that remove any friction from the digital experience.

15Sky Mobile Digital Assistant

Sky’s mobile digital assistant lets customers choose the best option in three important categories – phone, tablet or SIM only. It takes customers through a few simple questions that gauge their needs and preferences to suggest suitable matches.

The digital assistant proves to be particularly useful since it cuts through the jargon and makes the purchase experience more engaging. It is used in pop-up stores in malls to guide shoppers through Sky’s offerings.

sky mobile digital assistant

 

16Manulife Plan Selector

Choosing the right insurance plan is both confusing and critical. Manulife’s Plan Selector asks a few critical questions to help customers find the insurance plan best suited to their needs. On the results page, the assistant offers a detailed explanation of why a plan was recommended and lets customers explore other options. In all, it is a great digital assistant for customers overwhelmed by a world of similar insurance plans.

manulife insurance plan selector

 

17Citizens Bank Investment Advisor

If you thought that choosing an insurance plan was a challenge, choosing an investment plan is even more ambiguous. Citizens Bank makes the task a lot easier with its extremely detailed and easy-to-understand digital assistant that pays extreme attention to detail.

In fact, it’s an assistant within an assistant. While asking about the customer’s income, savings and goals, it also has a question about their risk tolerance. Just when customers begin to fret about how they’d judge their risk tolerance, another assistant pops up that allows them to “Assess Your Risk Tolerance.”

The Citizens Bank Investment Advisor also cleverly allows customers to enter their email addresses to get on the banks mailing list for any updates on newer plans that align with their needs.

citizens bank investment advisor

 

Home

While less sweat-breaking than financial services and tech, shopping for home products is no less confusing and overwhelming. Too many appliances seem to do the same thing, and it’s hard to define all the things you want to do with these products. Digital assistants are here to make the digital experience more engaging. How else do you know if you need a $280 stand mixer or a $99 hand mixer when they seem pretty similar in function?

18Whirlpool Fridge Finder and Kitchen Suite Builder

Freezer on top, below or at the side, two doors or many doors, refrigerators that can dispense water and ice, fridges that keep track of your groceries. With technology invading the kitchen, the humble icebox is not so humble anymore, making choosing even more difficult and shopping for a new fridge an overwhelming experience.

Whirlpool’s refrigerator finder takes consumers through a step by step process by asking intelligence and data-driven questions that help consumers narrow down their choices of the right Whirlpool product.

Whirlpool - Refrigerator finder

But the guide does even more. After the consumer has selected the appliance of their choice, they can launch the Kitchen Suite Builder. It allows them to mix and match different appliances to equip their entire kitchen in style.

Whirlpool - Kitchen Suite Builder

 

19Migros – Garden Furniture Finder

Migros’ keeps it simple and helps customers choose the best garden furniture to perfectly complement their style and personality. A few easy questions ask about the type of furniture a customer wants to buy, narrows it down by a few basic designs questions and then asks to define a budget. Customers will then find a page that offers a curated assortment of garden furniture they can choose from more easily.

migros - garden furniture finder

 

20KitchenAid – Appliance finder

KitchenAid, the maker of fine kitchen appliances, helps its customers choose the best fit out of their varied collection of stand mixers and coffee makers.

The excellent product assistant acts as the customer’s companion that asks intuitive questions that the customers, on their own, might not have stopped to ask. By asking the right questions, it also functions as a subtle upsell generator that manages to increase the average order value.

kitchenaid - appliance finder

 

21Power Washing Machine Guide

Washing machines all do the same thing, right – wash clothes? So aren’t they all pretty much the same? White and boxy. Well, not really. They can be quite different and choosing one can be quite tiresome.

The Power Washing Machine Guide helps make sense of the technical details only product experts may understand and helps customers pick the best washing machine for their family’s needs. By asking some simple questions about a family’s size, primary laundry requirements and special needs, it assesses a customer’s priorities and recommends the best washing machine for them.

power washing machine guide

 

22Nespresso System Advisor

Nespresso scores a spot on this list one more time for its coffee maker machines. For all those who love their coffee and go to great lengths to brew the perfect cup, choosing the right coffee maker is paramount.

Nespresso’s system advisor carefully gathers all the information it needs to understand a customer’s coffee preferences by asking intuitive, binary questions that don’t make customers think or contemplate too much. This assistant does not only deliver an engaging and outstanding experience, but it also pairs customers with the coffee maker that will produce their favorite blend every time.

nespresso system advisor

 

23Lilla Rugs Style Finder

Lilla Rugs London designed their digital assistant to help customers truly understand their personal style and buy a rug that’s perfect for their homes.

It begins by asking customers to describe their general style and taste, ranging from classic to modern,  and then it asks about their choice of colors, patterns and texture. The most intriguing element of this quiz is the last question. Customers are shown 8 pictures of home interiors and asked which one they feel drawn to the most.

There must be some deep neural science behind this picture quiz because I absolutely loved the rug they recommended to me after the quiz.

lilla rugs style finder

 

Gifts

All the above product categories were, in most cases, focused on the customers buying for themselves. If finding the right product for yourself is a challenge, then gifts are even more challenging. Here, you are shopping for another person, and to accurately determine what they’d like in a gift is a herculean task.

24LEGO Gift Bot, Ralph

In a successful campaign, the leading toy manufacturer LEGO launched Ralph, a Facebook Messenger Chatbot that guides shoppers through the process of finding the best gift for their loved ones on Christmas. Through a series of fun, entertaining questions focused on the child’s age, play interests, and more, it determines the best gift option for the child. Integrating digital assistants with chatbots and giving it a fun personality like Ralph’s worked to make the campaign a big success:

  • 4X higher return on ad spend for click-to-Messenger ads
  • 71% lower cost per purchase when clicking through to the Messenger experience
  • 9X higher value for website purchases made from click-to-Messenger ads

Source: Facebook Business

 

25Flaconi Gift Finder

A unique gift finder that pays a great deal of attention to the recipient’s personality and style, the Flaconi gift finder asks questions like, “What does she/he like to do on weekends?” and  “What’s she/he a great fan of?” These nuanced questions lead to a page of gift inspirations that all seem like the perfect choice and take the guesswork out of giving someone special a great gift.

flaconi gift finder

 

26Mattel – Amazon Playfinder the Gift Finder

Mattel embedded its Playfinder on Amazon to help parents find a toy that will keep their kids engaged and off the mobile and TV screens. This helpful digital assistant assesses the child’s interests, aptitudes and preferences to suggest a toy that aligns with their desires and helps them develop age-appropriate skills.

By syndicating this assistant to Amazon, Mattel not only increases its reach, visibility and brand awareness but also generates more sales.

mattel - amazon playfinder the gift finder

 

27EA Sports Amazon Videogames Gift Finder

Similar to Mattel, EA Sports integrated their digital assistant into Amazon. It helps gift shoppers sort through the huge world of video games that can perplex anyone but the most enthusiastic gamers.

It captures the expertise of EA Sports product developers and helps shoppers find the best video game for gift recipients. The gift finder asks simple yet important questions and uses machine learning to identify, recommend and explain the best match.

cole and bennet product finder

 

28Cole and Bennet Product Finder

Cole and Bennet’s product finder keeps it simple. It asks customers a few basic questions like, “Man, Woman or Child?” and ‘What’s the Occasion?” Having answered these, customers are shown a curated list of gift ideas for loved ones without feeling overwhelmed.

cole and bennett product finder

 

29The Present Finder

Another really interesting digital assistant comes from The Present Finder. It aims to dig up the most unusual gifts by asks questions. But what really takes the cake is their collection of quirky gifts and even quirkier categories, like the favorites, “Always Eating” and “Hip and Sassy.”

In addition to helping customers find some truly memorable gifts, this digital assistant makes shopping an absolute delight with its funky categories and a simple, yet richly visual experience.

the present finder

 

30Signals Gift Finder

The first thing that you’ll notice about the Signals Gift Finder is that it lets you discover the perfect gifts for not just friends and family but also customers. This little detail is an absolute charm.

The gift finder questionnaire asks intuitive questions that help to reveal deep set preferences. This results in the best gifts to give your loved ones, including the customers themselves.

signals gift finder

 

Digital assistants will become even more crucial as customers demand much more personalized, contextually relevant experiences.

With the above brands already having set the bar so high in terms of accuracy and relevancy as well as engagement and visual appeal, other brands need to pull up their socks and get creative with their digital engagement strategies.

 

 

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