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Speak to me: How voice commerce is revolutionizing commerce

We’ve seen profound advances in technology, especially with the development of artificial intelligence and deep learning which are increasingly for voice assistants. This, in turn, promises to bring about huge changes in consumer behavior — what’s being called “voice commerce”. This is a new channel, governed by a new set of rules. Here, communication is key. 

These shopping assistants use AI and are changing the rules of the game when it comes to customers’ purchasing behavior; they can even make purchasing decisions for the customer if desired.

New voice-based customer journey

The changes and challenges that are associated with voice commerce are obvious when considering the customer journey:
  • Discover
  • Select
  • Buy
  • Experience

Think about the experience of researching a product online. The visual aids, such as images and videos are an integral part of aiding the purchasing choice. With a voice assistant, you won’t get that chance. And it’s unlikely that the buyer will want to listen to long speeches describing the product.

This means that in the consumer goods industry, as in retail, entirely new customer-aiding mechanisms are needed to help people with their purchase decisions. That has implications across your business: from the AI tech needed to power your voice assistants to the marketing function that supports the customer journey.

Of course, the challenges don’t stop at the Discover and Select stages. Voice payment is raising new security challenges. Is your voice recognition capability good enough to allow would-be purchasers to get all the way to checkout without forcing them down a traditional login system?

Here, the German supermarket group, Rewe, is leading the way. It has created a voice assistant with an impressive array of capabilities. The voice assistant can pull-up recipes from “Rewe Your Kitchen”, read off the steps one by one, and tell you what is on offer in Rewe supermarkets.

In the future, it might also be possible for the customer to do their weekly shopping using the voice assistant, without even touching a computer, smartphone or tablet. The existing omnichannel shopping experience in either a physical shop or online has been expanded to include the option of shopping via the digital voice assistant.

Developing voice assistants

Just like with web browsers and mobile phone operating systems, we can safely assume that a few voice assistants will establish themselves as the market standard. One of the reasons for this is because of the large data sets that are needed to develop highly specialized algorithms that are needed for a functioning digital assistant.

The winners in this field are likely to be those companies that can create voice assistants that feel natural for consumers to use. And don’t forget: shopping is frequently a leisure pursuit; your voice assistant needs to be fun. Brand new design paradigms for conversations with voice assistants and their personalities will need to be developed.

In doing so, various cultural aspects will need to be considered. The voice assistant should be highly customizable. It should act as a kind of salesperson, one who knows the client well and poses relevant questions to them.

Modern software frameworks make it possible to build engaging voice assistants but it will take more than a technical framework to keep your customers coming back. At Thoughtworks, we’ve come up with five critical factors for success when creating a voice assistant:
  • Problem-oriented. A voice assistant must be employed in a place that makes sense to the end-user.
  • Personality. Voice assistants need a personality that conveys the client’s brand and is pleasant for the consumer.
  • Physical and digital. Voice assistants are opening up another channel in a multi-channel sales environment.
  • Personal by design. Verbal communication is the most natural form of communication. The information collected during this exchange must be treated confidentially.
  • Pervasive platform. A voice assistant should be available on the platform for the client and should be a consistent part of the customer experience.

Voice assistants are taking over

In the future, we will encounter voice assistants everywhere. According to a study carried out by ComScore, by the end of 2020 over half of all online searches will be done using a voice assistant. This just goes to show how quickly and radically the way consumers interact with computers is changing. With regards to the customer journey, which used to be “touchpoints” will become “listening points”.

The customer wants to enter into a natural and intelligent conversation with the seller in order to take them along their journey.

According to Forbes, users that are using the voice search functionality are more likely to
commit than simply to search without committing. This will raise new challenges when it comes to the processes and IT systems involved with commerce. The entire business and marketing models will radically change. This represents a huge opportunity for those that recognize this trend early on and come to the right conclusions.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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