Amazon Says Voice Ordering Enables Near-Instant Conversion for Restaurants

Amazon Product Parade Showcases Tech Ecosystem

As technology providers compete to offer restaurants the most powerful digital tools, Amazon is promising eateries the ability to capitalize on consumers’ cravings nearly the moment they arise.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Mark Yoshitake, general manager and director of Alexa Skills at Amazon, explained that the company’s voice ordering partnerships (enabling Panera Bread loyalty members to order via Alexa and offering Uber Eats customers updates on their deliveries via Echo devices) go a long way toward removing friction from the purchasing process.

“We’re bringing simple, ambient experiences to customers to let them be much more present … at their homes, so that they’re not using their mobile apps as much,” Yoshitake said. “Instead of tapping or swiping through lots of menu pages and selecting options on an app or a website, you simply use your voice to order. … The North Star for us is ‘thought to order in a matter of seconds.’”

The use of conversational artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise. According to data from the March edition of PYMNTS’ ConnectedEconomy™ series, “ConnectedEconomy™ Monthly Report: The Evolving Digital Daily Edition,” which drew from a February survey of more than 4,000 U.S. consumers, 86 million consumers now use voice assistants each month. Compared to February 2022, 21 million more consumers participated in activities involving some type of smart home device in February 2023, a 31% increase.

Plus, many voice assistant users are growing accustomed to using the technology to place food and beverage orders. For instance, research from PYMNTS’ April study “How Consumers Want to Live in the Voice Economy,” which drew from a survey of nearly 3,000 U.S. consumers, revealed that, of the 65% of consumers who have engaged with voice technology in the last 12 months, 11% have used it to place coffee orders for pickup. PYMNTS’ Karen Webster pointed out back in 2021 the impact of voice technology on the connected economy.

Yoshitake noted that these kinds of technologies offer a far more intuitive experience for consumers — one that integrates restaurant ordering more seamlessly into their day-to-day routines. He said “we’ve accepted” the experience of tapping through pages and scrolling through menu items, but voice commerce offers a more frictionless option.

Amazon has made several forays into the restaurant space recently. In addition to offering voice capabilities, the company is also working with Panera on Amazon One palm payments in stores for loyalty members, and recent reports indicate that the company is testing on-premise payment options in India.

Yoshitake noted that the technology giant can present restaurant brands with solutions that leverage teachable AI to offer smart recommendations and other capabilities that drive conversion and upselling, features that many restaurant brands do not have the resources to develop themselves.

In this way, the technology giant can make its offerings essential to restaurants’ ability to compete, cementing the company’s role in the restaurant ordering experience and growing its presence in consumers’ day-to-day lives.

“I would think of these as not just voice-based experiences but AI-driven experiences,” Yoshitake said. “This type of experience hasn’t been deployed at scale, and for many different restaurants to try to come up with these types of experiences on their own, there would be a higher hurdle. … I think there will be more of a democratization — a wider availability and access — to these technologies.”