B&Q has tested the use of avatars to help answer customers’ DIY queries, with each avatar run in real time by an in-customer assistant.

The avatars each have a unique ‘i’ name, which matches them to their human in-store assistant partners. For instance, Megan Peters at B&Q Wallasey controls avatar i-Megan.

The iB&Q trial took place in B&Q Wallasey, where customer assistants also took over B&Q’s Twitter and Facebook accounts over the bank holiday weekend, responding live to requests for advice.

The DIY store commissioned research that found that 70% of people were reluctant to seek DIY advice and that 26% would rather go online than consult a person.

Of the 70% of people who did not want to seek advice, 17% felt they could manage on their own, 29% were too embarrassed to ask and 24% did not want to impose.

B&Q customer and marketing director Richard Sherwood said: “Some customers may be nervous about asking for advice, but help is always at hand at B&Q.

“Whether you’re planning a project, buying your tools or materials, or needing a bit of guidance during your home improvement, our colleagues can help you in person, online, and from other new technologies in the near future.”