Emerging retail trends: voice commerce is taking off

Capgemini predicts that in 2021, as much as 40 per cent of consumers will shop using smart voice assistants
ASOS and Argos, renowned British retailers, enabled their customers to shop via the Google Assistant
While voice commerce has yet to be implemented by a number of online grocers, several top retailers have already done it, including Kroger
As smart voice assistant become more popular and present in households worldwide, voice commerce will be neck and neck with other shopping channels

Retail is one of the most proactive sectors when it comes to tech implementation. The moment new tech emerges, we can be sure that retailers are already working on ways to leverage it, especially if it shows potential to boost revenue and improve customer service. And if customers already use the tech they want to implement, the more reason to do so! Such was the case with smartphones and the rise of mobile shopping, where in the US alone, as much as 62 per cent of smartphone users completed a purchase with their mobile device in 2017. But the next big thing in retail is voice-enabled shopping.

Amazon Pay’s VP and GM, Patrick Gauthier, notes that “If we try to reproduce with voice what has been working with mobile, it will be a lost opportunity. I am absolutely positive that the introduction of voice as an interface, and the frictionless embedding of payments, will open up new commerce use cases. There’s no limit to the type of conversations that humans can have.”

Voice-enabled devices have become a staple in a lot of households. In fact, 32 per cent “of consumers own one of these devices”, though only 3 per cent were used to complete a purchase. This only shows that voice-enabled shopping hasn’t gained enough traction yet. But that’s about to change in the next couple of years, according to Capgemini, as “40% of consumers will shop with the help of these devices, spending 18% of their total shopping budgets in the process”.

And forward-thinking retailers that have recognised the growing trend of voice shopping have already started offering this service.


British retailers ASOS and Argos rolled out voice shopping on the Google Assistant

A British online fashion and cosmetics retailer, ASOS, has become one of the first fashion retailers in the UK to enable its customers to shop via the Google Assistant. Jonny Pennington, the head of SEO at the digital marketing agency Visualsoft, notes that “This is a bold move that all e-retailers should be paying close attention to. Voice search may feel unnatural at first, but ecommerce was the same way in its formative years. Businesses that opted not to sell online subsequently spent years playing catch-up, and the same could be true for voice commerce.” And the service is very convenient. Customers activate their Google Home smart speaker by saying “hey Google, talk to Asos” to shop items “viewable on their smartphone”.

“With the launch of Enki on Facebook Messenger and now Google Assistant, we’re exploring ways that conversational commerce can help us make the Asos shopping experience as easy and intuitive as possible,” shares ASOS’ senior product manager, Jason Gregory.

Argos is another British retailer that has decided to test the waters of commerce via voice assistants. It also launched a voice shopping service enabled through the Google Assistant. As Mathew Field writes for The Telegraph, “the search giant’s voice assistant for smart speakers, can now search the web for Argos products and reserve them for its ‘click and collect’ service”.

“We are Google’s biggest commercial customer and we want to be the first to market,” says Argos’ chief executive, John Rogers. “Over 70pc of our digital sales are thought [sic] mobile and most are fulfilled in our stores. With this you can go through a Google Home device or mobile to click and collect with voice.”


Kroger launches voice assistant grocery orders

While voice commerce has yet to be implemented by a number of online grocers, several top retailers have already done it – including Kroger. Customers activate a conversation by saying “Hey Google, talk to Kroger”, and the voice assistant will enable shoppers to add products to their cart. “It’s all about convenience and speed,” says Chris Hjelm, Kroger’s chief information officer.

The service is available “in six Kroger-owned banners: Fred Meyer, Fry’s Food and Drug, QFC, King Soopers, City Market, and Ralphs”, and it’s expected to be launched “at additional banners later this year and throughout 2019”. “What we see our customers do is check on the status of an order, add one or two items to an existing order for pickup or delivery, change the time of pickup or inquire about a specific promotion,” says Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer. “Where we expect voice to potentially increase in terms of adoption and share of total traffic is (in ordering) one solution, one meal, one dinner likely to be delivered or picked up.”

Voice shopping is gaining some serious traction, and retailers aren’t overlooking its potential, readily implementing the tech. And as we see more retailers offering voice-enabled shopping, consumers will be more willing to test-drive this new service. As smart voice assistant become more popular and present in households worldwide, there’s no doubt that voice commerce will be neck and neck with other shopping channels.


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