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6 min read

Voice Shopping Assistant Series Part 3

By Mike Krasner on Feb 6, 2020 11:55:07 AM

In Part 2 of this series, we looked at the the expectations and hype of voice shopping. We can be skeptical of projections of $40 billion of voice shopping purchases by 2022, but this is still a small fraction of online retail. And major retail and brand CMOs are viewing voice shopping as an opportunity for driving conversion and sales, with over 90% currently making investments and even more increasing those investments in the coming year. (If you missed Part 2, it can be found here).

In this Part 3, we will look at what is actually deployed and what those systems can do. Followed by what consumers are saying they want.

Voice Shopping Is Already Here. Voice Purchasing Is in Its Early Stages. 

Today, consumers are using voice-interaction for search and information as part of their shopping journeys. Actual purchasing by voice is still in its early stages, but will grow quickly as voice shopping deployments enable the ability to browse and find desired items in a large catalog. 

Capgemini survey of 12,000 consumers globally reported that 78% have already used voice assistants for parts of the shopping journey — researching products and services, creating shopping lists, checking order status, purchasing, etc. 

That number will continue to grow. And consumers will want voice shopping to span more of the journey including browsing your entire store, comparing products and purchasing.

Yes, they will want an easy way of contacting customer service, getting store hours and location. And for adding to a shopping list and reordering a gallon on milk. But consumers want to shop–browse the full catalog to find desired items. And, just like when they walk into a brick-and-mortar store, they want your shopping associate there to help. Simply put, consumers want an intelligent, interactive shopping assistant. 

In this article, we’ll look at the state of actual deployments and consumer reaction to interacting with voice assistants, ending with what the near future may bring.

What Is Deployed Now. Really.

The deployments that illustrate the current state-of-the-art in deployed voice shopping are Walmart on the Google Assistant and Whole Foods / Prime Now Groceries on the Amazon Echo. Not surprisingly, both center on grocery shopping.

The table below summarizes these deployments. The Walmart app allows Walmart shoppers to add items to the cart for later checkout and purchase. Since it knows your order history, reordering items is very simple. And, for grocery, reordering is a very common task. The app can also do simple browsing, understanding a grocery category and telling you about a few items one by one.

The Whole Foods and Prime Now app is similar. Reordering items is simple. For items for which you have no order history, it can use other customer orders to suggest the top item(s) that match.

  Walmart Grocery Voice Order Whole Foods / Prime Now Groceries
Voice Technology Google Assistant: top-level dialog and basic conversational natural language issues Amazon Echo:  top-level dialog and basic conversational natural language issues
Capabilities Deployed Google Assistant connects to Walmart app. Adding items to a shopping list for later checkout. Specific items added based on order history or instruction. Build cart and purchase. Specific items added based on order history. If none, based on other customer orders. Checking order status.
Example Utterances “OK Google, talk to Walmart.” “Add orange juice to my cart.” “Add Sara Lee Honey Wheat Bread to my cart.” “Hey Google, ask Walmart to recommend Thai curry sauce.” “Alexa, add steak to my Whole Foods cart.” “Alexa, order milk.” “Alexa, order more paper  towels” “Alexa, check out.”

 

While these apps are a great first step, they are quite limited. Browsing, finding products and filtering product categories based on user input to narrow down to the user’s preference is not ready for voice shopping of product categories beyond grocery.

What’s Next for Voice Shopping?

 

 

According to Invespcro.com, consumer electronics, books and apparel are the top items purchased online. Grocery may be the starting category for voice shopping due its relative simplicity, consumers will demand voice for much more of their shopping.

CapGemini’s recent consumer survey found that nearly 70% of consumers say they will progressively replace visits to a store or bank with their voice assistant within three years’ time. The underlying reason is that consumers have increasingly praised the ability of conversational assistants to provide a better experience. In 2017, 61% of consumers expressed their satisfaction in using a voice-based personal assistant like Google Assistant or Siri on their smartphones; this number rose to 72% in 2019. 

When consumers say they plan to use voice assistants for shopping, this goes way beyond the early grocery deployments. Compared to electronics, books and clothing, grocery is a minor category for online purchases. Granted, driven by billions of dollars of capital investment, grocery delivery by Instacart, AmazonFresh,, Google Express, and others, is expanding the online share of the grocery market quickly.

As consumers embrace voice shopping with voice-interactive personal assistants, all product categories need to be ready.

Next Voice Shopping Article:

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5 min read

The State of Voice Shopping, Part 2: “OK Google, when will I be able to shop by voice?”by Mike Krasner | Jan 16, 2020 | Voice Shopping

By Mike Krasner on Feb 6, 2020 11:38:25 AM

In Part 1, Status of Voice and Virtual Assistants, we looked at the smart speaker market driving adoption of the voice user interface. The ubiquity of the voice-interactive virtual assistant, now on 100 million smart speakers and 2 billion phones and other devices, coupled with really significant advances in the performance of speech recognition and natural language understanding technologies has made the voice capable of being the everyday user interface to our devices. (If you missed Part 1, it can be found here).

In this Part 2, we explore voice shopping expectations and hype, as well as how major retail and brand CMOs are viewing the opportunity.

Voice UI Usage Growing Dramatically

The optimists in voice R&D used to say that “next year would be the year that users really start using voice”. And they said that every year starting in the early 1990s. Although the technology was suitable for solving many important tasks, the market evolved slowly. Sprint Voice Command, deployed nationwide in 2001, had several million users dialing their mobile phones by voice everyday, particularly in the car. A great performing and very useful point application. But voice was not ready to be the user interface for general applications.

Fast forward to today. Technology capability has improved dramatically, speech recognition combined with natural language understanding leading to Google Assistant correctly answering 93% of questions in a recent test. And people are embracing voice on their devices. 

Voice Assistant Usage Growth Drives Voice Shopping

There are lots of statistics that indicate that the voice user interface has reached critical mass. In the chart below, eMarketer reports that over 110 million users in the US using a voice assistant at least monthly. And PwC’s survey in 2018 found that 65% of 25-49 year olds reported that they talk to their voice-enabled devices every day reports. Statistics and projections are often misleading, but the clear trend is that people are interacting with their virtual assistants by voice for an increasing range of uses.

Voice assistant usage has reached critical mass

$40B Voice Shopping Projected by 2022

Back in February 2018, OC&C projected that voice shopping would reach to grow from the then current $2B to $40B by 2022, driven by the surge of smart speakers. 

Since then, many of the newer smart speakers have added screens. Thus, they combine the audio and video output of phones and tablets, but with the UI based on voice input and and virtual assistant. This is a major change that will impact voice shopping for categories where visual feedback is important. And, as said previously, smart speakers are only a small fraction of devices with voice virtual assistants and the majority of those other devices–phones and tablets–already have screens.

Voice Shopping Influences Much Larger Percent of Shopper Journeys

OK, let’s give that some perspective. For 2019, according to Digital Commerce 360, total global online sales are $3.4 trillion, about 16% of $21 trillion total retail sales. So, $40B voice shopping is about a 1% share. 

However, 1% is misleading. If we look at the entire customer journey, from initial research to purchase, reviews/ratings, support and reordering and consider all the purchases where voice interaction with a voice-interactive virtual assistant will be in the loop, the amount of purchases that will be influenced in part by voice shopping is much larger than that 1%. 

The reasonable conclusion is that the actual purchasing by voice will continue to be only a small percentage of e-commerce for the foreseeable future. But, the use of voice in various parts of the shopping journey will be significant percentage very soon. The use of voice in daily activities has reached critical mass and will continue to grow rapidly. Retailers and brands ignore this trend at their own risk. 

The CMO View of Voice Shopping

CMOs are recognizing the need to prepare their brands for voice shopping. A major Adobe survey of CMOs in 2019 in COM.com found a consensus that we have reached a tipping point as as more and more consumers use voice services consistently. Just like with their adoption of mobile, time is of the essence. Consumer and brand adoption is similar to mobile circa 2007, quickly moving into the mainstream.

“Voice technology is quickly becoming the status quo for brands looking to reach and better engage consumers. The numbers make that clear: According to a new study by Adobe Analytics, 91% of 401 business decision makers surveyed said they already are making significant investments in voice, and 94% said they plan to increase their investments in the next year.”

CMO.com, 2019

CMOs surveyed clear: Brands are experimenting now. And the driver for voice commerce is simple — the ability to drive conversion and revenues. The companies who have deployed voice shopping report that voice is a differentiator and can be a strategic competitive advantage.

Next Voice Shopping Article:

In the next article, The State of Voice Shopping, Part 3, we will review the reality of voice shopping deployed today, what’s next, and consider how brands are investing.

Mike Krasner is a co-founder of Vioby, a Boston-area developer of AI-based marketing automation tools for e-commerce retailers and their agencies. Leveraging their extensive background in creating and deploying enterprise-scale voice-interactive systems, Vioby is now developing voice shopping for retailers and brands.  Click here to learn more about Vioby.

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5 min read

The State of Voice Shopping...

By Mike Krasner on Dec 22, 2019 4:15:11 PM

Happy to begin publishing a series about Voice Shopping technology written by one of our clients, Vioby.    

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