Conversational Maturity Index: Hardware Companies 2021 Ranking

8min read - Terrence Fox

What makes a brand conversational? Is it the use of AI chatbots? Or empathetic, expert human respondents? We’ve taken a closer look at the ins and outs of what makes a stand-out strategy, and categorized the necessary components.

iAdvize created a unique assessment known as the Conversational Maturity Index(CMI) to do just that. The CMI uses a quick online simulation to generate a score based on six pillars to evaluate how conversational brands are in relation to their industry.

This month, we examined the most conversational companies in the hardware industry.

Hardware 2021 Ranking

Our CMI research found the most conversational hardware companies shared a method of prioritizing relationships and expert advice. The top scorers were Build, Home Depot, and Lumens followed by the rest of the full industry ranking.

Industry Standouts

Build

The chat on Build allows shoppers to immediately start a conversation with an expert, as they are called on the site. The expert is connected to a shopper in a matter of seconds and they infuse personalized expertise into the conversation. The messaging strategy is unique in that the expert respondents take the time to understand what type of project a customer is working on. They truly want to understand how they offer up the best support!

Home Depot

Home Depot’s chat blends well into the site interface and brand identity. The colors match the company’s look, the chat is quick and uses a sound notification to alert users when a new response has been sent. Shoppers are first connected to a bot, and then sent to an associate depending on the type of question.

Lumens

The chat on the Lumens site is easy to find, as it is marked with a large “chat” circle in the bottom right corner that matches the blue color of the brand. Customers are asked a few identifying questions, and then quickly connected with an agent for expert advice. The chat respondent’s name is shown, along with a photo of them for a personal touch.

Key Findings for Hardware

Outstanding Approaches for Appealing Messaging

The hardware industry ranked highest in the Empathy, Expertise, & Authenticity and Rich & User-Friendly Messaging pillars. Messaging interfaces blended well into the sites and match the look and feel of the company’s identity. It was simple to engage with chat, as the option wasn’t hidden or difficult to find. Chat respondents provided relatable advice and recommendations for customers and adapted to any question or situation.

Scalable, Omnichannel Components Still Need Some Work

The lowest scores for hardware companies were in the Scalability and Omnichannel & Seamlessness pillars. The industry has room to grow in terms of ensuring they are using asynchronous messaging approaches, allowing customers to start a conversation with messaging and add to it overtime. Typical best practices include adding the option to stay connected with messaging even after leaving the site as well as finding the right mix of AI chatbots and human respondents to optimize scalability.

How Conversational Maturity Index Research is Conducted

This CMI is powered by insights from more than 2,000 retail brands and 10 years of experience in the CX industry. It has become essential for retail brands to provide online consumers with the kind of authentic, seamless conversational experience they have everyday through messaging. The assessment helps retailers to analyze their conversational strategy and find out how they can improve to better meet customer needs.

For this fifth industry analysis on the hardware industry, we examined leaders using the CMI framework of 80 discrete-value questions based on the six pillars. We analyzed 23 top brands and retailers based on revenue, reputation, and market presence. We visited each website to perform assessments of conversational features using our standard question sets.

To dive deeper into conversational capabilities, we utilized available chat or messaging features on websites. We would engage with a customer-facing representative to gain information on a specific product and ask both general and specific questions to evaluate the experience.

With this information, we would then assign scores using our standard question set and calculate scores for each pillar, each brand overall, as well as industry averages.

A Framework Built on Six Pillars

The CMI examines the current experience of a brand or retailer measured against six critical pillars of an ideal CX for today’s consumer. Those pillars include:

  • Expertise, Empathy & Authenticity
  • Scalability 
  • Personalized Engagement
  • Rich & User-Friendly Messaging
  • Omnichannel & Seamlessness
  • Business Drive

Expertise, Empathy & Authenticity

An exceptional conversational approach can provide genuine, humanized connections between shoppers and brand representatives. There’s nothing more memorable about a digital experience than when a chat respondent recognizes needs and priorities 1:1 conversations that flow easily and invoke emotion. Those interactions represent what is measured in the "Empathy, Expertise, and Authenticity" dimension.

Scalability

Scalability can be challenging when it comes to delivering personalized conversations. Using chatbots to keep up with rising demands is a simple fix, but it can often lead to impersonal conversational experiences. Leading retailers use a mix of bots and humans intelligently and perform well on the "Scalability" dimension of conversational maturity.

Personalized Engagement

Purchase history and browsing interest might seem like an obvious way to recommend products for customers, but these methods aren’t necessarily personal. Forward-thinking retailers have human agents who foster personal connections to understand shoppers' true intents, needs, and questions while shopping online. These are the factors taken into account when looking at the “Personalized Engagement” pillar.

Rich & User-Friendly Messaging

In an online shopping environment, messaging should be integral to the digital experience. Ideally, messaging options should be easy to locate and use while blending seamlessly into the user interface (UI) which should match the branding and be uncluttered. Messaging should also open on that same shopping page, preventing the need for customers to switch back and forth between tabs.  Retailers who lead in this dimension offer a rich, engaging multimedia experience that allows for consumers to even share emojis, photos, and documents. 

Omnichannel & Seamlessness

As online shopping becomes increasingly popular, brands and retailers need to offer support in various ways. Leaders use asynchronous messaging approaches, allowing customers to start a conversation with messaging and add to it overtime. They offer the ability for shoppers to have a complete conversation, or stay connected with messaging even after leaving the site. This signifies a job well done in the “Omnichannel & Seamlessness” category.

Business Drive

The first five pillars of conversational maturity are found in features and experiences delivered on a brand's external website or mobile app. Business drive, however, is the internal factor that underpins an organization's conversational efforts and thus can only be uncovered through close examination of a company’s culture and values.

As the CMI and engage with more companies on their CMI scores, we'll have more insights and metrics about business drive to share.

How Hardware Compares

Our last Conversational Maturity Index industry assessment was conducted on the sporting goods sector. We found that the most conversational brands in sporting goods excelled crafting authentic, relatable experiences, something shared by hardware companies. Both industries were able to make customers feel confident with pre-sales recommendations and buying process assistance.

Companies in the hardware industry and brands in sporting goods both shared the lowest score in the Scalability pillar and the highest score in Rich & User-Friendly Messaging.

To find out where you stand, complete the CMI or send it to our team here.

About the iAdvize Conversational Maturity Index

Launched in March 2021, the iAdvize Conversational Maturity Index (CMI) is a resource for brands to evaluate their digital strategy and benchmark against other companies in their industries. iAdvize independently analyzes well-known companies in select industries to report on the state of conversational maturity. In addition, brands can complete an online self-survey to understand the current state of their conversational initiatives.

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