Future Shop is in the limelight again, as we celebrate their award-winning achievements in online customer experience! As mentioned before, a major part of their online success has been their community. But it hasn't just been the community itself that made Future Shop's online presence stand out - it was the way they have integrated the community experience into their online presence. From the press release:
"To help personalize and enhance the user experience, Future Shop integrated its community with a virtual product expert, or avatar, which lives on the Futureshop.ca homepage. The avatar encourages users to "Ask an Expert" if they have a technology-related question, and helps users find answers by scanning conversation threads and highlighting relevant information. If a user doesn't find the answer they are looking for, the avatar offers to post their question to the appropriate discussion area in the community. There, the question can be answered by other customers or Future Shop product experts."
As a bit of technology 'gee-whiz', their avatar expert is a nice novelty. Providing a more human face the site and its search functionality is pretty cool the first couple of times, but if you kept getting the same answers it could get pretty stale and repetitive. The solution? Make your avatar search a window into the community, with its continuous supply of relevant, fresh content! The avatar now is not a just a proxy for the company, but a guide to the Future Shop community, facilitating the 'introduction' of new members and even offering to place the first post on the user's behalf.
If you get a chance, take a look at their site and try it out - as Future Shop is a Canadian retailer, there's both English and French versions to see. And learn how they are using their community to make the customer experience better!