Voice shopping has arrived, and consumers are starting to latch on. Here is a review of the various ways shoppers can use their connected devices to shop by voice and make purchases online.
Voice assistants are big business. Enabling them for shopping is even bigger.
Amazon was the first entrant into Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven voice assistants (VAs), and it’s still a huge profit center. This past holiday season, Echo Dot was the best-selling item across all products on Amazon globally, and customers purchased millions more devices from the Echo family compared to last year,” Jeff Bezos said in a statement.
Naturally, Amazon quickly found a way to let users shop via the built-in Alexa VA to access the millions of products sold on its marketplace. The company is also now working to integrate voice shopping into its Fire Stick, so your TV can become a virtual shopping mall.
Groceries by Voice Command In Seattle and other select cities, you can fill your grocery cart on Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods Express using voice commands with any Alexa-enabled device, then pick up your bags at a counter (behind which looms a giant, stocked grocery warehouse), just like collecting your packages at the post office. Kiosks in the lobby use QR readers to check you in and locate your filled grocery bags from their waiting shelves. (A human still brings them to the counter, but that’s probably next to go.)
Later entrants to the shop by voice-assistant ecosystem include Google Voice and Apple’s Siri. Walmart is reportedly building its own voice-assisted shopping system after withdrawing from Google’s beta group of merchants who participate in Google Shopping.
Next, we’ll review what you can do and where you can do it in the world of shop by voice.
The different levels of shop by voice currently available
Voice shopping is still relatively new, and the shop by voice experience differs depending on the device you’re using.
For this article, “shop by voice” is defined broadly, because the landscape is still evolving. In 2018, Voicebot found that 1 in 5 U.S. adults had used voice as part of their shopping journey, which could be any point on the path to purchase (searching, checking reviews, etc.), not just the transaction itself. In 2019, Voicebot also found that more than 40% of smart speaker users in the U.S. have searched for a product using a smart speaker.
Branded Devices + Owned Marketplaces
There really are only two enterprises in this space, who make up half of the GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple). Amazon has Alexa, Google has Voice. Activate either VA with its traditional wake-up call (“Hey, Alexa,” or “Hey, Google”), then start your shopping with a search on either Amazon or Google.
Alexa is only installed on the Echo family of products– not on smartphones. However, you can use Alexa to complete the purchase using your stored Amazon payment info, check the contents of your cart, add to your order, and then track the order until it arrives.
Google Voice, on the other hand, is enabled on both Android and Google phones as well as on the Google Home device, so it wins the device-enabled competition. Google has engineered the shopping experience to start with a Google Voice search for a product on either your phone or the Home smart assistant, surface products matching your search, and take you to the merchant’s order page to buy it, or place them in the Google Express shopping cart for checkout.
Branded devices + Payment processing
Apple’s Siri VA and Apple Pay have yet to come together for buying things, but you can still shop with Siri. Siri enables you to search for products and reviews, locate the places nearby where you can buy them (using Google’s Local Search technology mounted on its Safari browser), and will provide talking directions to the store. If Apple ever decides to expand Apple Pay beyond brick and mortar stores and its own Apple Music, App Store, TV and other online entertainment options to a broader marketplace of goods, it will be a powerful competitor to Google.
Another win for Apple in the “seamless experience” category is that if you are purchasing something at one of Apple’s stores, you can start your shopping on any Apple device, including phones, tablets, the HomePod or your Mac computer, and automatically hand off the transaction to be completed on any other Apple device.
Google is trying to create the ultimate seamless experience.
Google Shopping Actions takes it a step further by handling the transaction on behalf of the merchant whose product was selected from a search. Google is moving further toward giving everyday users the convenience of a personal assistant, ready to take commands and fulfill your wishes. One of the most potent features the company built into its Shopping Actions program is full integration with Voice Assistant and Google Search.
The Magic of AI in Action From their mobile device or on Google Home, a consumer can use voice commands to search for a particular item they need to buy, make a selection from one of Google’s merchant partners, and verbally toss it into their shopping cart on Google Express. Still using their voice, they can instantly buy it through Google’s Instant Checkout using their Google-stored payment information.
So far, only a limited number of major brands and merchants are participating in Google Shopping Actions. These include Target, Ulta Beauty, Home Depot, Costco, Samsung and Kroger.It’s still early, and each of the three major players in voice-assisted shopping still have some limitations and more progress to make. But one thing’s for sure: shop by voice is here to stay.
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