The Simplifydigital online Personal Shopper lets customers define their needs in plain English and the search technology does the rest for them
Simplifydigital is the UK’s only Ofcom accredited retailer of digital TV, broadband and home phone services online and via a call centre.
In keeping with the web 3.0 trend towards semantic search, which aims to understand people’s needs more intelligently, the company set out to transform the online buying experience in a category where online sales conversion rates are low, as the services in question are complex to buy online.
Many potential customers simply do not understand the technical jargon (e.g. Mbs and download caps), feel unable to make a choice online and leave the site in frustration.
To address this problem, Simplifydigital has created the the Simplifydigital Personal Shopper which is the world’s first natural language guided selling tool for digital services. It can be applied to a wide variety of complex products which people struggle to buy online.
It works in two simple steps and such is its ease of use, that is has gained support from the Plain English Campaign.
In Step 1, users simply “tell” the Personal Shopper what they want in plain English – much as they would a shop assistant – and it matches their unique needs to the best value broadband packages, digital TV, or home phone package.
To do this, the Personal Shopper dynamically serves a natural language “narrative” via an intelligent user interface (much like predictive text), which doesn’t involve lengthy tick boxes and radio buttons.
Step 2 presents the results back to the customer, reducing the baffling choice to a single recommendation and “best buys” from all the leading providers. The recommendation is impartial and is derived using Simplifydigital’s Ofcom accredited search capability.
What’s more, each result shows how the customer’s needs match the technical specification of the recommended package. E.g “You asked for a good all round family broadband service, so we have found you an up to 8 Mb broadband package with a 40GB usage allowance…”
In addition the Personal Shopper recommends special deals (cross sale and up sale opportunities), on the basis of what it has learned about the customer’s needs and circumstances.
As Charlie Ponsonby, CEO of Simplifydigital says:
“The Simplifydigital Personal Shopper will fundamentally change how we shop for digital TV, broadband and home phone packages online. Customers do not need any product knowledge – they can simply express what you want in plain English and the Personal Shopper does the hard work to find the right package at the right price.”
The underlying technology
The Personal Shopper is a managed 'retail as a service' software tool. It can therefore be used by third-party retailers to augment their current online customer experience without the need to modify their existing product databases.
It contains a “natural language engine” which powers the Flex front end. The engine dynamically serves drop-downs which contain phrases for selection by the user, in order to build the narrative in natural language.
The drop-downs are intelligently created in real time, based on the previous selections and other meta data available to the engine, including source of traffic, geographic location and internet service provider.
The Personal Shopper reviews the 'story' from the customer and generates a set of product attributes related to the natural language. These attributes are dynamically passed into the product database. The Personal Shopper then analyses the results of the product database search, to perform a final check on the suitability of the product(s) for the customer's needs, before presenting the products back.
Applying the Simplifydigital Personal Shopper to other product categories
Any complicated product that requires customers to have lots of technical knowledge (such as consumer electronics) is a prime candidate for the Personal Shopper. Charlie Ponsonby continues:
“Anyone who has tried buying a flat-screen TV, laptop or mobile phone online, will know that pretty well every web site offers a very similar and frustrating experience.”
“The sites require you to have product knowledge that many of us simply don’t have, in order to navigate through the huge choice of products. Should I choose a 1080i flat-screen TV or a 1080p? Or, for example, do I want UMTS and HSDPA on my mobile phone handset?”
“We have designed our Personal Shopper technology to be highly flexible. It is easily applicable to any number of other categories (such as mobile phones and flat-screen TVs) and we are already in discussions with some major companies to apply the technology to their online services. ”
Trying the Personal Shopper
The Personal Shopper is live at the Simplifydigital beta site: http://pre-release.simplifydigital.co.uk. Click on the personal shopper “get started” button on the home page.
Simplifydigital.co.uk offers a unique service in the UK, providing a free and impartial consultation for anyone looking to save money on their broadband, digital TV, or home phone bills.
Simplifydigital cuts through the confusion; offers the widest range of digital service providers available (including Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, AOL, Orange, 02, Top UpTV etc); and manages the customer through the install of the services.
It is the only retailer of digital TV, broadband and home phone services in the UK to have been accredited by Ofcom as impartial and transparent and, on average saves customers £360 pa by finding them better deals.
Customers call their London-based experts free on 0800 1388 388 or use the online service at www.simplifydigital.co.uk