Voice ushers in a new retail era

voice ushers retail

Across the board, voice has been tipped as the big-ticket trend for 2018, and only a few months into the year, that prediction is coming to fruition.

From how we shop to the way we pay, and even behind the scenes, voice technology is rolling out in new and innovative ways to improve the retail experience.

Here’s an insight into how voice is ushering in a new retail era.


Voice shopping

Late last year research firm Salmat tipped the influx of available smart speakers would shepherd in a new wave of voice-based retail in Australia.

At the time they noted despite only 1% of their survey respondents owning a smart speaker, almost half (46%) were “willing or excited to use an in-home voice assistant to interact with and shop from retailers”.

“When asked how they would use in-home voice assistants to research and buy products, three out of five of respondents (60%) say they would use it to search for the best price, far ahead of searching for local products and services (26%), or a specific brand (8%),” Salmat explained.

“In addition, they are expecting in-home voice assistants to primarily help them find the best bargains, discounts or sales (48%), ahead of researching products and services (45%), and helping with admin tasks (45%). Finally, another 59% say that alerts to sales, discounts and promotions would be a helpful feature for in-home voice assistants.”

Fast forward four months and all the big name smart speakers are now available in Australia including Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit. Their ready availability and smart home infiltration extend the voice assistant services of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, who have long been available to assist on smart phones or tablets.

Salmat’s Senior Voice Experience Designer, Peter Nann, said: “As Australian customers are increasingly expecting convenience from brands, voice assistant technology will grow in popularity.”


A shout out to retailers

And Australian retailers should be listening to his advice. The Conversation reports:

“The growth of smart digital home assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Apple’s Home Pod will also influence the way many of us shop in the future.

“Mobile searches for “where can I buy” grew 85 per cent over the past two years. Meanwhile, 44 per cent of those who use a voice-activated speaker, said they use the device to purchase groceries and household items at least once a week.

They also note, Google recently launched “Shopping Actions” — an initiative that lets users make purchases via voice using Google Assistant, or by clicking on shopping ads in Google search results.

Meanwhile, in November last year, eBay partnered with Google to offer voice shopping. Launching the service is as simple as saying “Hey Google, ask eBay…”, or “Hey Google, let me talk to eBay” to search all the millions of products available on the site.


Voice payments

The rise of voice in retail isn’t just confined to searches and products, it also now extends to voice payments as well.

In the past 18 months, voice assistants have been given access to finances, with major institutions like Amex and banks teaming up with Alexa to permit users to check their bank balance and even pay their bills.

In Australia, ANZ bank launched Voice ID in September last year. The feature allows people to make ‘Pay Anyone’ payments of more than $1000 on their mobile without needing to log into internet banking, or remember additional passwords or PINs, or visit a branch.

“They can also use Voice ID to make BPAY payments of more than $10,000 on their mobile,” ANZ explains.

Meanwhile e-commerce behemoth PayPal has partnered with Siri to enable voice prompted payment transfers.

While mobile vice payments are already in the mainstream, all major smart speaker companies are also racing to integrate it into their services.

And it’s a quickly growing trend.

Business Insider states US voice payment usage is expected to grow fivefold through 2022 — at the same time that popular voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have added or are exploring P2P capabilities.


Voice picking

Behind the scenes in retail, voice is also playing a role, with more and more major retail warehouses utilising voice to streamline their systems.

Known as voice directed warehousing, the technology is by no means new. It first debuted as early as the 1990s. But it’s a sector experiencing major growth.

Wikipedia explains: “In a voice directed warehouse, workers wear a headset connected to a small wearable computer, similar in size to a Sony Walkman, which tells the worker where to go and what to do using verbal prompts”.

“Workers confirm their tasks by speaking pre-defined commands and reading confirmation codes printed on locations or products throughout the warehouse. The speech recognition software running on the wearable computer ‘understands’ the workers’ responses.”]

Originally limited to picking, voice now extends to replenishment, goods receiving, put-away, shipping, and returns processing.

The rollout has seen huge growth in the voice picking sector, with a further increase tipped over the coming years.

Voice is just one of the arenas changing the retail landscape and as Peter Nann from Salmat states: “With almost half of Australian consumers willing to try or excited to use an in-home voice assistant for shopping, it offers opportunities for local businesses to develop new voice-based customer experiences, services and initiatives, and create innovative marketing campaigns.”