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What is a digital assistant anyways

Wondering what digital assistants are and if they can help your fitness brand? You're not alone. Technology is advancing faster than most of us can keep up with, so we dedicated this article to help make sense of it all.

What is a digital assistant

Digital assistants are computer programs that interact with humans in spoken languages. You have already seen them in action. When you are searching on the internet, you are using a digital assistant that searches the web for you and returns the results.

Digital assistants work the same way. You type in or speak your request to the digital assistant, and the digital assistant responds to your specific request. Also, the same way that search engines keep us connected to the web, the digital assistants keep consumers connected to brands.   

Could digital assistants help your business?

If you own one of the 500 million Alexa, Siri, or Google Home device, you probably wondering if your business can benefit from this technology? 

In your business, do you need to:

  • increase efficiency while keeping costs in check?

  • scale your business processes without hiring new staff?

  • better control over your messaging to your consumers?

  • connect with consumers at scale while deepening the relationship?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, keep on reading because there is a good chance your business can benefit from this technology.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the primary building block of digital assistants. AI allows chatbots and digital assistants to perform tasks and answer questions more or less like a human. The system gets better at understanding user intention with time. Understanding the user's request is a multi-step process. The system performs several data processing techniques including tokenizing, parsing into speech parts, sorting, and more, followed by matching result to the previously learned model.

The level of user engagement with a digital assistant depends on the assistant's level of sophistication. Some digital assistants do not understand the conversation context while others do. For instance, a context-aware digital assistant knows what the "it" is referring to when the user asks, "how much does it cost?" 

Some digital assistants only have short term memory, while others have long term memory. For example, some ould remember the member's home club and be aware of it in all member conversations. Without long term memory, the user will need to introduce himself to the digital assistant for every new conversation. 


There are more than 500 million digital assistant enabled devices in the hands of consumer today.


The evolution of human and computer interaction

Two decades ago, internet, email, and web browsing came to life, followed by the mobile app revolution. Internet is great, but navigating websites can be frustrating. Often it takes too long to find answers to simple questions. Compared to websites, mobile apps are more personal; however, navigating across screens is not easy. 

Digital assistants, on the other hand, make it easy for consumers to find answers to both simple and somewhat complicated questions. Digital assistants respond in real-time, to specific requests, in channels preferred by consumers. They do so while empowering the consumer to lead the conversation. What is even more impressive is that the technology learns from each interaction!


Recent technological advancements, including cloud computing and Big Data paired with consumer's affinity for messaging, have ushered in a new paradigm in human-computer interaction. This paradigm is powered by artificial intelligence, allowing humans to interact with computers in natural human languages.


Conversations are powerful because they are convenient, personal, and timely. This combination enables brands to create and deepen their relationship with consumers in ways that were not possible until now. 

Conversations are convenient

Interacting in natural language is, well, natural, and comfortable. Navigating websites or mobile app screens are not convenient. Therefore it is not difficult to see why conversation is the preferred form of communication by consumers. This convenience is one of the primary reasons for the popularity of digital assistants.

In less than three years, Amazon has sold more than 100 million Alexa digital assistant devices. Consumers have shown a similar affinity for digital assistant devices from competing brands. The user adaptation of these devices is arguably shattering previous records.

Conversations are personal

Digital assistants enable 1:1 conversation. This feature allows consumers to get an answer to their specific questions without the need to go through a large amount of information and decipher or deduct the answer. Consumer presents his/her inquiry to a digital assistant and in return, receives a specific response or triggers the digital assistant to perform a task.

By enabling the consumer to lead the conversation, digital assistants create a unique and welcoming user experience every time. This personal user experience usually produces a higher conversion rate.Imagine every time you contacted customer support, the agent knows you, your preferences, and your account history, without asking you a single question. THAT is powerful! 

Conversations are timely

Conversation happens because consumers have a need. Maybe they are looking for an answer or have a request or perhaps trying to comment on something. In all these scenarios, the consumer drives when he/she wants to communicate. What better way to be able to be there for your consumer than with a digital assistant that is ready and willing to be helpful 24/7? You could hire staff around the clock, but we know how expensive that would be. So why not have your digital assistant do what it does best which is to serve your consumers?  


Conversations are natural, personal and timely!


Industries that have successfully deployed digital assistants

One of the industries that are having success with chatbots and digital assistants is retail and e-commerce. When done correctly, chatbot stores information about website visitors so that it can ask relevant questions and directs them to relevant products on subsequent visits. 

Of note is the eBay chatbot called ShopBot. It can remind bidders when auctions are ending and understands what users are looking for by processing their text messages and images to find the best match. ShopBot is praised for its contextual understanding and machine learning abilities. 

Where we're at with this technology

Consumers still value human-to-human interaction, and live agents are best in addressing some scenarios. However, chatbots and digital assistants can make coordination between humans far more manageable than they are today. They can do so by connecting a customer with the right support person at the right time.


Hundreds of millions of consumers are using personal digital assistants today. The right question is not whether digital assistants are better than humans. The right question is, what is the best way to utilize the strengths of each.

We developed Charlie, our digital assistant for health and fitness clubs to help brands improve conversion rate, member engagement, and understanding of their prospects. The goal is to help brands to accomplish more with less. Contact us to explore how you can benefit.

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