Voice Commerce: Hot Tech in E-Commerce

Today, voice recognition technology, coupled with artificial intelligence (AI), is so effective that it can replace touches, swipes and keystrokes that we have become so accustomed to over the years.

Any action that would have traditionally been done via a search engine can now be spoken out and the intelligent voice activated systems can search for products online without any physical contact, and make purchasing even more easier and convenient.

Voice commerce is the new wave of e-commerce and a hot topic at present – eight million Amazon voice-activated Echo devices were sold in 2016 in the US, and Microsoft’s voice assistant, Cortana, now has 133 million monthly users.

As buying via smart phone levels off, buying via these and similar voice activated devices, including, Google Voice, Apple AirPods and Android mobile apps is taking off. Consumers are slowly but surely becoming accustomed to using voice command as a presence in their everyday lives, in everything from checking the weather, to ordering an Uber or shopping for groceries.

In fact, it’s predicted that within two years or less, consumers will be able to tell a voice-activated to order their entire week’s worth of groceries and it will know exactly what to order and how to pay for it.

The same thing will happen in our cars and other places that can accommodate “smart speakers,” according to Ken Cassar, principal analyst with mobile and e-commerce researcher, Slice Intelligence. “New input devices will be the driver of this new commerce,” Cassar told attendees at this year’s annual Internet Retailer Conference.

However, this shift in consumer behaviour isn’t likely to take off right away, according to Gian Fulgoni, co-founder and chief executive of e-commerce research firm comScore.

“We are not seeing many people using these devices to make payments in an automatic manner,” Fulgoni tells PaymentsSource. “But that will change very soon and, when it does, (it will grow) very quickly.”

The UK has been a bit sluggish in uptaking voice technology, however, 37 percent of smartphone users have used voice command technology at least once a month, with stats showing that almost one in five British shoppers use voice command to buy something without looking online first.

Because voice commerce makes it so easy for consumers to purchase, it holds promise for serious gains for retailers, both online and offline.

Amazon reports that its Echo owners spend, on average, 10 percent more in the six after buying the gadget, than they did before.

New opportunities will open up for retailers who are willing to prepare for and embrace voice commerce. It has the capacity to bring more business to retailers while creating convenience for customers, for instance, a family can use voice command through their cars to order food or drink while stuck in traffic – the retailer gets the business while it saves the family time.

Retailers have the potential to make voice command work for them as it promises change across retail providing customers with an easy, interactive channel that covers purchase, payment, loyalty and order-tracking.

Implementing this, however, will require expertise and retailers that don’t have large enough scale will probably have to partner up with a third party voice-led platform provider in order to create their voice-activation systems.

An important part of staying on top of your offerings in retail is to pay close attention to the initiatives launched by the web and what the e-commerce giants that have the resources to innovate are doing in the industry. They will then need to acquire the right technology required to implement and integrate, to fully take advantage of the automation benefits that AI brings.

As voice commerce strengthens in e-commerce and becomes a stronger force in the way consumers shop, retailers, whether big or small, will need to adapt by not only implementing new initiatives, but also by up skilling their teams so they are not overwhelmed by change.

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