Innovation

This Thanksgiving, Even Butterball Turkeys Ask Alexa

This Thanksgiving, Even Turkeys Are Going Digital

The old carving knife will appear on countless tables this Thursday (Nov. 28) – and other longstanding Thanksgiving Day traditions will also take place. People will eat too much pie, some will drink too much booze and celebrants of all ages will fall asleep watching football, despite their best efforts to stay awake.

Even so, Thanksgiving has firmly entered the 21st century, and even the turkey – well, the whole dramatic process involving the preparation and serving of that big hunk of meat – has gotten an update.

Let’s start with Butterball, the brand of turkey that accounts for one of every three frozen birds sold in the U.S. during the holiday season, according to Rebecca Welch, senior brand manager at Butterball, in a new PYMNTS interview. Sure, pretty much everyone knows about the Butterball Turkey Talk Line, which offers advice from live turkey experts for consumers who are confused about how to best cook and otherwise deploy their birds for the big Thursday feast. As Welch told it, some 100,000 people from the U.S. and Canada call that line in the months of November and December, when the service is in operation. Butterball has offered the Turkey Talk Line for more than 30 years.

Voice Commerce

But phone calls, while still often efficient, are hardly the only means of communication as we head toward 2020. Voice-assisted retail – a potential killer app for connected commerce going into the new decade, according to PYMNTS research and coverage – is making its way into more homes, and more kitchens. Indeed, the share of consumers who own voice-activated devices has doubled since 2017, with more of them using those devices to make purchases, listen to music or simply check the weather than ever before, according to that PYMNTS research.

Alexa – one of the big success stories of the last holiday shopping season – is increasingly finding its way into consumers’ kitchens, and that’s one big reason that Butterball launched its Alexa skill last year. While it doesn’t offer the same live advice as the Turkey Talk Line, consumers can access prerecorded advice from turkey experts via voice command. “We want to make sure that holiday cooks have the best possible (information) available to them,” Welch said. “We want to be able to offer holiday cooks the information they need, anywhere and any way they want to get it.”

One doesn’t need to have an exact question to use the Alexa feature. “If you are not sure what you want to be answered, simply say ‘Alexa, open Butterball’ and it will walk you through the questions,” Welch told PYMNTS. “Indeed, such a feature offers a glimpse into how kitchen commerce might work in the 2020s, as voice-assisted retail technology makes even bigger gains.”

Better Utensils 

Other tasks associated with turkey and Thanksgiving are also getting modernized in late 2019.

That includes the all-important meat thermometer, vital to ensuring that guests go home with leftovers instead of food poisoning. On Tuesday (Nov. 26), in fact, a company called BlackBox RND announced it was launching Kickstarter sales for what it called “the first-ever temperature-profiling meat thermometer for cold-spot detection on the crowdfunding platform. With 12 sensors along the length of the probe, the app displays the real-time data so the user can see exactly where the cold spot lies in the meat they are cooking.”

You can imagine how the ongoing shift to Big Data – as well as more mobile commerce and other technologies that promise to gain more mainstream use in the 2020s – will result in more updates of common kitchen utensils, and not just for Thanksgiving.

Most of you are probably lucky enough to have a long holiday weekend ahead of you, but not everyone will be off, of course. And by that, we don’t necessarily mean retail workers – who are obviously important to merchants making their holiday revenue projections – but fraudsters.

Thanksgiving was among the biggest fraud days of the season last year, and there is little reason to believe that will change in 2019, given how much shopping happens on what some people like to call “turkey day.”

Even so, you can bet that Thanksgiving, like all major holidays these days, will become ever more digital with each passing year. Happy eating.

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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. In the November 2019 Mobile Order-Ahead Report, PYMNTS talks with Dan Wheeler, Wahlburgers’ SVP, on how the QSR balances security and seamlessness to secure its recently launched WahlClub loyalty program.

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