Retail trends

Do voice assistants present the biggest opportunity for retailers?

Voice assisted technology is revolutionising retail and how we shop.

We’re becoming more comfortable with our information being digitally stored in exchange for convenience and easier transactions.  

Last year saw a tipping point for contactless payments in the UK.  Over 108m contactless cards are in circulation and total transactions surpassed a third of all card payments for the first time (British Retail Consortium, 2017).

Voice assistants have the potential to be the ultimate ‘frictionless payment’ and the technology is set to explode in 2018.

Explosion of providers

Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Cortana and so on are being integrated into phones, watches, speakers, televisions, cars, fridges, washing machines and even robots.

This widespread adoption of voice assistants will evolve shopper behaviour, presenting one of the biggest opportunities for retailers since the rise of the internet.

Apple’s Siri got the ball rolling in 2014, providing iPhone 4 users with a more convenient means to interact with their phones using voice commands.

But it’s Amazon that has led the way with Echo. No longer do we need to locate our phone, open an app and type instructions, we simply ask Alexa.

There’s no doubting the success of Echo devices. Capturing more than 70% of the global smart speaker market, it was expected to significantly exceed 40 million units by the close of 2017 (CIRP, 2017).

Voice assisted shopping

As the world’s third largest retailer, it’s no surprise that Amazon has not neglected the shopper. Alexa can add to your shopping list and make purchases directly from Amazon using your voice.  

Around a third of Echo users have made a purchase (Experian, 2017) and nearly 50% of those already using voice assistants would be interested in using the technology to purchase groceries in the future (IPA, 2017). 

Brands are developing their own ‘Alexa skills’ too; the Domino’s skill allows you to order your favourite pizza and track home delivery without moving from your sofa.

The opportunities for brands and retailers are almost unlimited, shoppers can already find their local stockist and check opening times, listen to product recommendations and reviews, and locate discount vouchers.  

Retailers that understand how, where and why shoppers are using voice assistants and which find creative ways to engage in meaningful conversations with them, are going to be the big winners this year.

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Richard McAleavy is Head of Client Engagement