Voice assistant technology, such as the use of digital in-home assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home, is gaining in popularity. It’s estimated that Amazon Echo devices have made their way into over 10 million homes in the span of just a few years.
In many ways, voice technology is a natural extension of the digital transformation that is reshaping retail. Since the advent of omnichannel retailing, the industry has grappled with how to reach consumers who are “always connected,” namely “always on their phones.” With digital voice assistants, the consumer is literally hands-free but still digitally engaged.
Why It’s Important
Voice technology promises to translate into big business for retailers. It already has for Amazon. As Multichannel Merchant reported earlier this year, Amazon Echo owners spent 10 percent more than other shoppers with Amazon during the first six months after buying the device. But it’s not just Amazon who stands to benefit. Other retailers have the potential to interface their own mobile apps and loyalty programs with digital voice assistants. Consider this hypothetical example from Multichannel Merchant’s article:
“Imagine a scenario where you wake up in the morning and Alexa reminds you of a sale at your favourite boutique or, even more tied to the moment, that you have unused rewards at Dunkin Donuts. … ‘Good morning Paul, you have DD Perks to use. Shall I order your usual? It will be free today.’ ‘Yes Alexa, sounds great.’ ‘Okay. I will place the order when you are 5 minutes away from the store.’ ”
This is frictionless commerce at its best, making it super easy for shoppers to find what they want and quickly complete their transaction. Indeed, Apparel Magazine’s article “Is 2017 the Year of Voice Interfaces in Retail?” said, “speaking in natural language is three to four times faster than typing.”
For retail chief executives, it’s important to have a voice technology game plan because digital assistants are a means of driving sales and growth. They also are important for brand building. Who can afford not to “have a voice” on a platform that is so popular with the end consumer? The Apparel Magazine article cited ComScore projections that 50 percent of searches will be voice searches by 2020.
Store operations leaders also have a lot to gain. As the Dunkin Donuts example illustrates, digital assistants will drive shoppers into the physical retail store. There, associates can be waiting in the wings with the desired product. Plus, armed with a 360-degree view of the consumer’s shopping behaviour, they will be ready to engage the customer with highly personalized product offers and special deals.
For the CIO and IT Team, voice technology presents yet one more way to facilitate the free movement of information. These evolving digital ecosystems will no doubt require more to manage from a third-party provider perspective. However, there should be advantages for retailers who have invested in cloud deployments of connected commerce solutions. They are well positioned to add new devices to their centralised platform.
Retail e-commerce and marketing mavens, get ready for the challenge of your career. If ComScore’s predictions are correct, then come 2020, about 20,000 voice search queries will be happening every second on Google alone. It will be more imperative than ever for your brand to appear in the top search results. As Retail Assist reported, “Retailers must also be looking to online search capabilities to factor in the search algorithms of virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.” The media outlet referred to a recent comment by Planet Retail’s Miya Knights to Retail Week. “We know that shoppers will not go past the second or third page of a Google search result — voice will be like that on steroids,” she said.
As the artificial intelligence baked into Siri, Alexa and other digital assistants improves, these technologies promise to do much more than present shoppers with results that comply with a straightforward command. They will be more schooled in the art of providing creative suggestions and content designed to inspire. This promises to open great opportunities for luxury retailers, among others, says a piece by Luxury Society, “If we can create new behaviours for voice that adds to people’s experience, then we will be onto something quite exciting”. “For now, brands must focus on identifying what behaviours they want their consumers to have with voice, so that when the technology develops, luxury will be poised to inspire audiences in a way that is currently unimaginable.”
Amazon’s Echo Look already is venturing into some of this uncharted territory. Through the “hands-free camera and style assistant,” consumers can ask Alexa to take their picture or a video of them wearing different outfits. Echo Look gives shoppers the option to start their own “lookbooks” and “discover new brands and styles inspired by” their lookbook contents.
Are you inspired to make voice technology a part of your connected commerce strategy? Contact Cegid today to learn how we can help you. Your wish is our command.