Voice in retail and e-commerce: use cases

[Cette publication est la seconde partie de l’article rédigé par Oxana Gouliaéva, consultante en innovation.]

The habits of using voice assistants developed in the family setting make the voice interface in public places more acceptable, even desirable. The study conducted by Cap Gemini in 12 countries, including France, showed that globally 77% of consumers (74% in France) try to avoid any shared interface and prefer technologies that do not require contact, such as voice.

This is a lasting trend: 62% of respondents (63% in France) want to use them more and 59% would prefer to use voice interfaces in public places, such as shops, banks, etc. For example, to reduce the risk of cross-infection, voice recognition was installed in an elevator at Haidian Hospital in Beijing to reduce the need to press buttons.

Brands and retailers should take advantage of voice technologies to minimize physical contact for health reasonsIt also homogenizes the online and offline experience, allowing buyers to manage shopping lists, find the products they are looking for more easily, and reduce the need to take out their smartphones. Advances in suppression of ambient noises recent announcements, such as those recently announced by Google, will be decisive in removing this acoustic barrier to the use of voice technologies in public places.

Voice applications used by businesses

The current preference for voice is at the origin of a whole range of applications started before or during the pandemic. So, adding voice to existing products or creating new experiences?

  • During the pandemic McDonald’s continued to deploy voice control in its drives in the United States. The company, which serves 68 million customers a day in its home country, relies on voice recognition to improve the customer experience by reducing errors in orders, waiting times and outside queues of carsand with the pandemic, the use of touch screens. The initiative became official in September 2019, after the success of the first tests in two drives, and deployment is underway. When will it arrive in France, where the drive accounts for 45% of sales?
  • According to the experts, the McDonald’s example could inspire several retail players to create “talk and collect”. Kiosks located at the approach to large shopping areas or in their car parks would allow customers to check the availability of specific items, order them and pick them up in a dedicated area without going through the store.
  • When Starbucks began the gradual reopening of its coffee shops in the United States, the availability of voice control on its mobile applications has been put forward.
  • In the United States, customers with Alexa or Echo Auto equipped vehicles will be able to pay for their gas via Alexa in 11,500 Exxon and Mobile service stations by the end of 2020: all you have to do is say “Alexa, pay for the gas” and the assistant will confirm the address of the station and the pump number. Transactions will be processed by Amazon Pay, using payment information stored in the customer’s Amazon account.
  • For e-merchants, the voice search integrated into the website and mobile app allows them to browse offers and filter them by colour, price, size, availability and other preferences. If the brand has a sound signature, it ensure a seamless brand experience for its customers between the online and the physical store.

voice waves

The voice to replace everything

Other technologies, such as SoundHound’s Speech-to-Meaning, Google’s Voice Match or payments using ultrasound by CopSonic are also under development or testing. In the near future, typing your code on a bank card terminal or even getting out your smartphone will no longer be necessary to go shopping.

Big Tech companies work for create habits and install voice assistants in the most common uses. It is up to companies to seize the opportunities and use these new “touchpoints” to respond effectively to the challenges of the “new normal”. As economic activity resumes, organizations will be judged on how they have acted during the crisis and what they have done to care for their customers, employees and the community at large. Using the safest methods of health safety will be a way for companies to show that they place the human being at the centre of their activities.

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