Where is the shopping opportunity with voice commerce?

Source: Google
Mar 27, 2018

According to a survey from Capgemini, 40 percent of consumers predict that three years from now, they will be more likely to use a voice assistant rather than engage with a retailer’s mobile app or website. That’s up from 24 percent who use or would use the technology today

At a slightly lower level, the study also found consumers expect to be using voice assistants over a number of other retail tasks within three years, including visiting a shop, dealing with customer support/call centers and using a salesperson.

The study, based in a survey of over 5,000 consumers in the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany, explored voice assistants via smartphones (Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant), smart speakers (Amazon Echo, Google home) and non-phone, screen-based devices (Amazon Echo Show/Amazon Fire TV).

Convenience, speed and the ability to multi-task are the primary reasons consumers prefer to work with voice assistants.

For instance, convenience, cited by 52 percent, and the ability to do things hands-free, 48 percent, are the two biggest reasons for preferring voice assistants over mobile apps/websites. Being able to automate routine shopping tasks and a higher level of personalization was tied for third, at 41 percent.

Asked which parts of the shoppers journey they would like to conduct in interaction with voice assistants, the top answers were checking delivery status and making a shopping list. But solid interest was found for using voice assistants for research, customer service needs, receiving recommendations and making purchases.

The majority of consumers also agreed that the voice assistant experience could improve with a better understanding of context, such as understanding different accents and providing relevant recommendations that are personalized to the specific user.

Some skeptics of voice commerce feel the purchasing opportunity with voice commerce is mainly restricted to replenishment of grocery and standard CPG items. A recent Glossy article explored the potential challenges voice assistants may have selling unique, high-end items or helping with choices for items involving size or color.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Where do you see voice commerce making the biggest difference in the shopping journey? Are you skeptical or optimistic about the technology’s potential to drive purchases?

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18 Comments on "Where is the shopping opportunity with voice commerce?"

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Chris Petersen, PhD.

With more people turning to their mobile device, voice is a natural interface for search. On the back-end, as people increasingly purchase online there is a need for package tracking and scheduling delivery.

The key to growing voice commerce lies in the quality of the AI. Voice recognition will continue to improve, but it is getting close enough. What kills the experience right now is connecting by voice only to be run through layers of menus, or being served information that is of little value. Voice commerce has to be both easy to use AND provide a streamlined, differentiated experience.

Bob Amster

I agree totally on the “quality of the AI” and “the layers of menus.” You answer one of those incorrectly, and you’re back to square one.

Sterling Hawkins

Voice will continue to grow and consumers will continue to adopt it as the quality of the experience improves. Integrating it with other technologies will be part of the enhancements. Personalization will support voice surfacing relevant information and offers. IoT in the household may support reordering reminders. And even mobile or other screens can pick up the experience when it becomes too much for just voice. Looking at voice alone is a mistake; it’s about the holistic experience for the shopper of which voice is an (important and growing) part.

Chris Buecker

Voice commerce will be the next game changer. We have just conducted a survey among the top management of the leading tech retailers in the EMEA region and it showed that voice commerce is one of the top innovations in retail technology to come. Retailers need to get prepared quickly, otherwise voice commerce will be dominated by the big tech companies. The threat is that in the future somebody besides (e.g. Amazon, Google, etc.) the shoppers themselves will decide which product to purchase.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

Voice is database-driven on the response side, so any data enquiry such as a yes/no, a number, date or pre-determined text, such as delivery status are good candidates for voice and audio interaction. The ability of voice assistants to drive purchase is being well tested by Alexa and Google and the refinement process will continue. The efforts to have Alexa installed in a range of locations from hotel rooms to offices is in part to refine interaction for commerce. Voice will grow and become an interface for commerce.

Bob Amster

Voice commerce won’t “drive purchases.” But it will become a qualified norm for purchases of certain product categories from one’s home. The question is whether or not voice commerce has a place in the store. For example, a grocery store’s mobile app could enable the consumer to ask where to find a specific product, a general category of products or the price of a product, before starting to search for the product itself inside 20,000 square feet of aisles. I know it would help me.

Shep Hyken

The idea of asking a question with your voice and not using your thumbs to type is about convenience. A good system will let customers know where items they are searching for are located and if they are in inventory, will give alternative suggestions if they are not, and more. Voice commerce is still in the early stages. Just as Alexa and Siri are sometimes confused, early iterations of voice commerce will also be. But when it’s perfected — or at least close to perfected — it will be a great tool that is convenient for both the retailer and the customer.

Gene Detroyer

I am writing this response with voice response.

I use voice response for my emails, my text messages and my notes. It’s quicker and easier. I’m not tuned into Echo or Google Home yet, but it will come.

There is no doubt that voice will replace touch and keyboard. I don’t know if it is going to be three years, but it will be soon.

Dave Wendland

I’m optimistic that voice assistants will continue market penetration and become an everyday element in the path to purchase. These “smart” devices will answer questions about products, guide choices about how/where to order or shop, and help consumers make better-informed decisions. Our organization focuses on improving results across the retail supply chain — voice assistants most definitely need to be factored into the landscape. Perhaps our company’s long history in the consumer healthcare space jades my view, but I believe the technology will contribute immensely to the health and wellness industry.

David Weinand

I know Mr. Bruno will have a strong opinion here but from an in-home perspective, I see replenishment of common items as the best use case. For more complex items, say a TV or digital camera, I see voice being used for research. From an in-store perspective, the ability to speed up the checkout process using voice will be a great use case.

Ralph Jacobson

The statistics in this survey are not all that surprising, as the numbers shared show more of an evolution than a revolution. I believe this technology will grow as more shoppers adopt it as they become more comfortable with its use and satisfied with its outcomes.

There is no question that the best natural language processing voice assistants, either physical or online, are driving shopper purchase decisions right now. As merchants refine the algorithms utilized, more and more of the entire product assortment ranges of retail and CPG brands will be shopped by consumers, rather than the traditional top 20 percent of the best movers. This is good stuff.

Neil Saunders

Generally, the public is a poor judge of what technology they will and will not use in the future. However, voice control will become a more important part of life in general and shopping.

That said, it won’t be used for everything; it will merely be another way of buying and consuming.

Ken Lonyai
First, I have said to the scorn of others, that Alexa as an “assistant” and all her skills are a subterfuge to a frictionless purchasing tool. Amazon couldn’t care less that anyone hears a joke or has their lights controlled by voice. All of that is a pacifier and smokescreen to a more effortless way for consumers to make purchases that Amazon can often steer to products it chooses. People seek convenience and as Gene noted, speaking is easier than typing. It eliminates or mostly eliminates searching and speeds the purchase cycle by skipping steps, like reading product details and/or reviews. For contemporary humans, although a learned trait, speaking is almost, almost a natural trait and a more efficient communication channel than typing or touching. So it’s an inevitability that until chips are embedded in human skulls, it will be a dominant interface. And that’s the last point: voice is just an interface. A very cheap sensor called a microphone is all that’s needed to enable it on the front-end, but it takes computing power… Read more »
Karen S. Herman

I see voice commerce as a gamechanger in the shopping journey and am very optimistic about its potential to drive purchases in the short- and long-term. Right now, shoppers are in the discovery stage. They are learning to use a voice assistant as a shopping tool to search, learn, compare and consider products and purchases. As the shopper grows comfortable with their preferred voice assistant, the technology will continue to improve and grow more targeted. Forward-thinking brands are working to integrate voice assistants and, in the long-term, they will benefit from the ease of use and enhanced shopping experience that voice commerce provides.

Doug Garnett

The shopping opportunity with voice is important, but minimal. A minority of people will engage with it and only order a minority of their goods — staples like TP and allergy medicines.

I’m reminded of the incredible GroupOn fad — when somehow the world convinced itself “everyone” was a discount shopper and coupon clipper and that the best way to sell all goods in the future would be with GroupOns. And, it turns out that, as always, there’s a minority of people who are coupon clippers and they order some goods through GroupOn. Important, but minimal.

Manufacturers need to stay focused on their future. A TP maker? Yes. Stay aware of what’s going on with voice. A drill manufacturer? There are far better options for creating profit with your time.

Ricardo Belmar
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
4 years 2 months ago
In the near term, voice will see most adoption for purchasing staple items and other consumable items where there isn’t a strong brand preference or where private label options are satisfying to the consumer. Complex items that require more research to make a purchase decision will still be best served by devices with a screen, however, as the AI improves, voice could be the input mechanism to ease this discovery and research phase. During other aspects of the shopping journey, we could see voice take a more prominent role. At this point, I think consumers themselves are the wrong indicator for predicting how voice will be used in commerce. I’m reminded of what Steve Jobs used to say about focus groups and why he hated them. Consumers don’t know what they want when it comes to new technology until they see examples of how it can be used. It’s up to retailers to be the ones to pave the way for innovation around voice-enabled commerce — otherwise, the big tech giants will run away with… Read more »
Ken Morris
Ken Morris
Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors
4 years 2 months ago

Easy to order replenishment of grocery and standard CPG items will be the gateway for consumers to adopt voice commerce. Once consumers are comfortable with easy to order items, they will branch out to gradually more complex product purchases.

It is all about convenience and accuracy. During a conversation, devices can understand about 150 words a minute and a fast typist can type about 40 words per minute. Studies have shown that a voice command purchase can be completed up to 3 times faster than typing on a keyboard or phone. Adoption will continue to grow as the accuracy of voice commerce improves from currently 90% to 95%.

We should be looking at voice devices beyond commerce and more of an ecosystem that can connect with your customers in real-time.

Dan Frechtling
4 years 1 month ago

There is a vast difference between the speech recognition capabilities of basic IVR (or “checking delivery status”) and the capabilities of digital assistants being refined by the tech giants.

The latter have advantages of deep learning technologies and large, active training sets. They are on track to human parity — about 5% error rate and the ability to distinguish active voice from background noise.

This technology has the potential to drive purchases, especially as it can understand more complex questions. The greatest returns will flow to IBM, Amazon, Samsung, Apple, and/or Google as consumer-facing businesses license their superior speech recognition.


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