As a result, retailers need to stay relevant to maintain and reach new consumers. It will be challenging for retailers to fill the gap of physical stores in terms of branding, marketing, product recommendations and, more importantly, fulfilling the consumers’ need for social interaction. Retailers need to create an experience where customers can interact and engage with the brand as part of a natural and engaging shopping experience. The need to offer an immersive customer experience is an essential factor to stimulate the acceleration of e-commerce which includes enriching the digital channels with the human touch.
To enable a more immersive customer experience, some prerequisites must be in place to ensure that the consumers’ needs are met regarding product availability, services, and shipping speed. Some methods and processes have been proven successful to meet these needs, such as improving supply chain agility or a next-gen order management system and helping the customers with recommendations, information, and support before and after a purchase.
However, some emerging trends create a more immersive and interactive customer experience. Augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D modeling, and live-streaming are examples of the ongoing trend of social shopping. These are great tools for consumers to visualize the product, create an interactive purchase process, and engage with the brand. Live shopping is also a trend that has been proven successful in offering consumers interactive content and humanizing the digital arena. In addition, there is a similar technology that has gained attention: voice commerce, also known as “the voice.”
Voice commerce is a technology that animates the customer experience. It creates a natural conversation between the consumer and the brand beyond the classic chatbots and apps. The technology relies on digital devices with voice recognition, such as smartphones and smart speakers, and there has been tremendous growth in sales of these products. In the last two years, the number of installed smart speakers in US homes has grown by 40% annually. By January 2020, 88 million US adults had a smart speaker. In addition, a survey involving smart speaker owners shows that 1 of 5 users state that they have used voice commerce, indicating that the trend is growing and deserves the attention of European retailers. By literally listening to the consumers, retailers can not only retain consumers but also gain an advantage in the increased competition online even after the uncertainties of the pandemic have faded away.
Speaking is the most intuitive and powerful form of communication. Voice commands do not need a screen or take your attention off the road while driving. Give children a new device, and they instantly default to the most efficient way to unlock the technology. We have all seen videos of babies swiping TVs thinking they are broken iPads, and kids instinctively use voice messaging over text. When viewing the world through a child’s eyes, the easiest way to communicate is through speech. As smartphone users become more comfortable using their voices, we are not far away from asking our devices to order frequently purchased groceries. In the future, we may even buy clothes in this manner. It is not difficult to imagine being able to take a picture of a garment and asking your phone to track down the product and order it in your size for delivery to your home. In many ways, voice is not the future: it takes us back to our most basic means to express our wants and needs.
The fight for your audio attention is just about to start. Large players such as Google and Amazon continue to expand their services from computers and smartphones to your bedside table.
Interestingly, not only are direct voice services growing, but human voice services like Clubhouse are also popping up. During the last six months of 2020, Spotify announced a doubling in available podcasts.
Initiating conversations with customers requires a focus on smartphone solutions. Voice is best deployed via smartphones, so creating an app for customers to access the brand is vital. To do this, retailers need to comprehensively review their customer journey experience to identify areas where voice functionality would add the most value and check the supporting technology architecture to ensure that the business can respond quickly enough to customer commands. Once this review has been completed, organizations can identify suitable technologies to bring voice communication with their customers to life.
Some impediments are hindering voice from hitting the global stage. Two of the biggest barriers to voice are trust and integrity. People are used to making agreements in writing and reviewing written contracts before signing, especially when payments are involved. Another impediment is integrity. The need for user-friendly technology must be balanced by integrity and the fear that some people have of being listened to when not actively using voice technology. To effectively implement the technology, it also needs to handle different languages and dialects seamlessly.
Online is not “killing” retail. Online is retail.
Retail executive, NRF.com
Voice is a technology that animates the customer experience and creates a natural and genuine conversation between the client and the retailer. It is not wrong to believe that voice commerce is one of the ways of the future. When analyzing consumer patterns and needs, it is clear that retailers need to interact with consumers online to retain their interest and provide an experience similar or superior to the one traditionally offered in the store. A leading global retail chain is breaking new ground by introducing voice shopping to their AR-based styling app, offering customers the option to order outfits by voice thanks to an integration with Google Assistant.
During 2020 the retail market evolved faster than ever, and customer behavior changed like never before, and it is likely things will not revert to how they were. With this in mind, now is a great time to consider the big future trends. How can you create a universal customer experience, personalized at the point of need, whether in-store, at home, or on the move? Relevance, simplicity, and convenience will differentiate the winners from losers. The question is, are you listening to your customers?