Ask the Expert: Why should retailers invest in voice-activated commerce?

This week’s Ask the Expert is answered by Sal Visca, Chief Technology Officer at Elastic Path

Sal Visca

This week’s Ask the Expert is answered by Sal Visca, Chief Technology Officer at Elastic Path.

Ask the Expert: Why should retailers invest in voice-activated commerce?

That is a great question! Let’s begin by outlining the capabilities of voice-activated commerce and then discuss the opportunities and benefits this technology can bring to brands and retailers today.

Voice or conversational commerce allows customers to add to their shopping or wish lists while they’re thinking about it and also complete or change orders, be it at home, on the move or elsewhere. As strange as it may seem to have people walking down the street blurting out something like “Alexa…groceries, add milk” or “order Monday night’s dinner and have it waiting for me for pick up after work”, this voice enabled commerce tool allows for a much more seamless and intuitive experience for the shopper.

Voice is extremely useful for routine tasks or repeat purchases. It can allow customers to avoid the holiday rush at home and within physical brick and mortar stores, providing a huge customer experience improvement. In particular, Amazon will continue to do well thanks to the pervasiveness and usefulness of Alexa.

With more shoppers capitalising on the ability to purchase at their convenience, more and more retailers are pivoting to support the growth of online and voice shopping and I expect to see engagement and adoption of conversational commerce continue to grow.

Although, I do think we’ll have to wait a few years to see full use of voice-activated shopping. This is true especially in the case of clothing or goods that require multiple choices such as size and colour. And according to an eMarketer study, only 37% of respondents have performed a shopping activity via voice.

To reach its full potential, the voice purchasing experience needs to be integrated into other touchpoints that the consumer has with the brand, such as mobile shopping. Retailers need to ensure consumers have a unified experience across online and in-store interactions – a consistent commerce experience builds brand loyalty and so the time to invest is now.

What’s next?

In the future, voice-activated commerce will come into its own. For example, voice purchasing in the grocery industry will combine online and in-store activity with smart fridges. AI will then learn purchasing history and pre-empt orders for the user and stock levels for the supplier.

Voice interfaces can already work pretty well with traditional devices such as phones, tablets, computers (e.g. “read off my shopping list”, “show me the order before submitting on my phone”, etc.) but much more sophisticated conversational commerce will be enabled when working with new devices such as digital displays, heads up displays, connected glasses, audio devices, wearable devices, augmented reality and virtual reality.

There is a bright future ahead for voice ordering and other interactive types of ordering, both in-store and at home. Retailers should invest in a technology strategy to ensure they’re ready to deliver the commerce experience that these consumers will expect in the future.

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