Anyone who has tried to ask Siri or Cortana a question might be skeptical when told that voice commerce is the future of retail. Limited functionality, misunderstood commands and off-the-mark responses are several obstacles that come to mind when imagining a future of voice-controlled retail experiences. But industry leaders are making strides with the technology that will change the way customers interact with brands – particularly Amazon’s Alexa.
With more than 11 million Amazon Echo devices sold before January alone, Alexa is becoming a more familiar voice. And as Amazon invites third-party manufacturers to use the Alexa microphone and voice processing technology, the assistant will no doubt become even more ubiquitous.
With increasing opportunity to integrate Alexa functionality, brands and retailers have endless possibilities to create more convenient, personalised experiences for consumers. Here’s how they can start that journey.
Remove friction from the customer experience
A streamlined CX is a top priority for brands, but exactly what a “streamlined” experience means is rapidly changing.
Customers who once had to call service representatives to check the stock of products or even wait in line to order their morning coffee are now used to getting what they need with with a few clicks on their smartphones. But advanced voice commerce support could eliminate even the need to click — and make products more accessible than ever.
Imagine a customer who wanted to pick up dinner on her way home from work. Without taking her eyes off the wheel, she could instruct an Alexa-powered phone to place an order for her.
Alexa would not only place her usual order (without having to prompt for more information), but could time the order to be placed when the customer was within 10 minutes of her destination.
>See also: Taking voice interaction to the next level
A scenario like that might not be far away, as brands are given the opportunity to innovate the Alexa technology. But it means huge steps towards a seamless CX that removes hurdles from the path to purchase.
Voice commerce presents better opportunities to personalise interactions
It’s easy to see why the customer in the previous example is happy: she walks away with her favourite meal without so much as clicking a button. But beyond a better CX, voice-controlled commerce allows brands to collect and use data more efficiently throughout each customer interaction.
In March, Adobe revealed a prototype for an application of Alexa in hotel rooms that could recognise patrons automatically (without a need to for the patron to enter additional information) and ask specific questions about their preferences and experience. If Alexa knew what activities the patron was interested in, it could provide personalised recommendations, promotions and other information.
This not only amounts to better, more individualised experiences for each specific consumer, but provides valuable information to brands that use the technology about consumer behaviour and preferences. This information then empowers brands to develop more effective marketing and product strategies.
Voice commerce brings new challenges for retailers
Of course, voice commerce marks a radical shift in the way customers interact with brands, and will come with some growing pains.
First, shopping via digital assistant must be regarded as a separate channel, with a unique user experience and interaction model. This requires companies to abandon siloed legacy systems for adaptive technology that can integrate data across all channels – including voice.
Retailers must not only invest in the technology to support this new channel, but also rethink their approach to product attribution, product descriptions and more. A customer ordering by voice won’t have the visual reference of ordering on a phone or a laptop, so retailers need quick, efficient methods for sharing product information by voice.
Additionally, privacy concerns arise any time advanced AI technology comes into play. There’s a thin line between personalisation and violations of privacy, and as consumers grow weary of technology that might be listening in on their every word, retailers would be wise to keep this in mind.
Regardless of the challenges, there’s little stopping voice commerce from gaining widespread consumer demand as big names continue to innovate. The evolution of the market favours convenience and personalisation — both offered by devices like Amazon’s Alexa. To get ahead, retailers need to start strategising for how they will prepare for these changes now.
Sourced from Igor Gorin, CEO of Astound Commerce