In Part 2 of this series, we looked at the the expectations and hype of voice shopping. We can be skeptical of projections of $40 billion of voice shopping purchases by 2022, but this is still a small fraction of online retail. And major retail and brand CMOs are viewing voice shopping as an opportunity for driving conversion and sales, with over 90% currently making investments and even more increasing those investments in the coming year. (If you missed Part 2, it can be found here).

In this Part 3, we will look at what is actually deployed and what those systems can do. Followed by what consumers are saying they want.

Voice Shopping Is Already Here. Voice Purchasing Is in Its Early Stages. 

 

Today, consumers are using voice-interaction for search and information as part of their shopping journeys. Actual purchasing by voice is still in its early stages, but will grow quickly as voice shopping deployments enable the ability to browse and find desired items in a large catalog. 

Capgemini survey of 12,000 consumers globally reported that 78% have already used voice assistants for parts of the shopping journey — researching products and services, creating shopping lists, checking order status, purchasing, etc. 

That number will continue to grow. And consumers will want voice shopping to span more of the journey including browsing your entire store, comparing products and purchasing.

Yes, they will want an easy way of contacting customer service, getting store hours and location. And for adding to a shopping list and reordering a gallon on milk. But consumers want to shop–browse the full catalog to find desired items. And, just like when they walk into a brick-and-mortar store, they want your shopping associate there to help. Simply put, consumers want an intelligent, interactive shopping assistant. 

In this article, we’ll look at the state of actual deployments and consumer reaction to interacting with voice assistants, ending with what the near future may bring.

What Is Deployed Now. Really.

The deployments that illustrate the current state-of-the-art in deployed voice shopping are Walmart on the Google Assistant and Whole Foods / Prime Now Groceries on the Amazon Echo. Not surprisingly, both center on grocery shopping.

The table below summarizes these deployments. The Walmart app allows Walmart shoppers to add items to the cart for later checkout and purchase. Since it knows your order history, reordering items is very simple. And, for grocery, reordering is a very common task. The app can also do simple browsing, understanding a grocery category and telling you about a few items one by one.

The Whole Foods and Prime Now app is similar. Reordering items is simple. For items for which you have no order history, it can use other customer orders to suggest the top item(s) that match.

  Walmart Grocery Voice Order Whole Foods / Prime Now Groceries
Voice Technology Google Assistant: top-level dialog and basic conversational natural language issues Amazon Echo:  top-level dialog and basic conversational natural language issues
Capabilities Deployed Google Assistant connects to Walmart app. Adding items to a shopping list for later checkout. Specific items added based on order history or instruction. Build cart and purchase. Specific items added based on order history. If none, based on other customer orders. Checking order status.
Example Utterances “OK Google, talk to Walmart.” “Add orange juice to my cart.” “Add Sara Lee Honey Wheat Bread to my cart.” “Hey Google, ask Walmart to recommend Thai curry sauce.” “Alexa, add steak to my Whole Foods cart.” “Alexa, order milk.” “Alexa, order more paper  towels” “Alexa, check out.”

While these apps are a great first step, they are quite limited. Browsing, finding products and filtering product categories based on user input to narrow down to the user’s preference is not ready for voice shopping of product categories beyond grocery.

What’s Next for Voice Shopping?

According to Invespcro.com, consumer electronics, books and apparel are the top items purchased online. Grocery may be the starting category for voice shopping due its relative simplicity, consumers will demand voice for much more of their shopping.

CapGemini’s recent consumer survey found that nearly 70% of consumers say they will progressively replace visits to a store or bank with their voice assistant within three years’ time. The underlying reason is that consumers have increasingly praised the ability of conversational assistants to provide a better experience. In 2017, 61% of consumers expressed their satisfaction in using a voice-based personal assistant like Google Assistant or Siri on their smartphones; this number rose to 72% in 2019. 

When consumers say they plan to use voice assistants for shopping, this goes way beyond the early grocery deployments. Compared to electronics, books and clothing, grocery is a minor category for online purchases. Granted, driven by billions of dollars of capital investment, grocery delivery by Instacart, AmazonFresh,, Google Express, and others, is expanding the online share of the grocery market quickly.

As consumers embrace voice shopping with voice-interactive personal assistants, all product categories need to be ready.

Next Voice Shopping Article:

In the the last part of our four part series, (to be published soon), we look at how brands can prepare for voice shopping and the requirements and experience needed to develop and deliver compelling voice shopping experiences.

Mike Krasner is a co-founder of Vioby, a Boston-area developer of AI-based marketing automation tools for e-commerce retailers and their agencies. Leveraging their extensive background in creating and deploying enterprise-scale voice-interactive systems, Vioby is now developing voice shopping for retailers and brands.  Click here to learn more about Vioby or visit our website, www.vioby.com.