It’s going to be a very vocal year when it comes to retail.
Voice is the killer app of the connected commerce experience, according to the How We Will Pay: 2019 Edition study. For the third consecutive year, the use of voice-enabled devices and assistants to enable purchasing has increased faster than any other type of connected commerce. About 31 percent of consumers now own voice-activated devices, up from 27 percent in 2018 and 14 percent in 2017. By comparison, ownership of smart TVs has increased just 5 percent, and ownership of connected cars has increased 3 percent since 2018. The rise of voice is the big factor behind the rise of smart homes, where consumers are doing more commerce and payments.
That’s not all — voice is becoming more emotionally attuned to consumers. As in so many things with payments and commerce, Amazon is among the leaders here. On Nov. 26, the eCommerce operator — via its Alexa Skills Kit Blog — announced the debut of “two new Alexa capabilities that will help create a more natural and intuitive voice experience for your customers.”
What that means, according to Amazon, is that Alexa users “can enable Alexa to respond with either a happy/excited or a disappointed/empathetic tone in the U.S. Emotional responses are particularly relevant to skills in the gaming and sports categories. Additionally, you can have Alexa respond in a speaking style that is more suited for a specific type of content, starting with news and music.”
As of the 2019 report, nearly a third of consumers (31 percent) report owning at least one voice-activated device, up from 26 percent the previous year and 14 percent in 2017. And out of those consumers, about a third (31 percent) report they have used their voice-activated devices to make a purchase. All in, that means in 2019 — about five years after Alexa and the Amazon Echo made their first appearances on commercial markets — roughly 10 percent of consumers have used voice-activated devices to shop.
The most popular uses involve ordering food — either groceries or takeout — with an emerging enthusiasm for clothes.
And those skills are literally expanding daily. For instance, SoundHound Inc., a voice-enabled artificial intelligence (AI) and conversational intelligence technologies startup, recently announced a partnership with Aisle Ahead Inc. – specifically, its BigOven recipe platform that contains instructions for roughly 500,000 food and drink items.
Via the new pair-up, the voice AI user can make simple voice queries to ask for the name of a dish, type of cuisine, ingredients needed for a recipe, nutrition information and more.
“This partnership with [SoundHound’s] Houndify will not only elevate the home cooking experience but also allow us to connect more people with the foods they love,” said Steve Siopsis, CEO at Aisle Ahead Inc. “It furthers our mission of bringing food content anywhere, whether it’s for making grocery lists, throwing together dinner based on what you have in your cabinets or easily sharing your favorite dishes with your loved ones. Houndify is one-of-a-kind in that it is the only platform that allows brands to remain in complete control of their data and their brand.”
Incidentally, it also creates the right context for commerce, as consumers can add the recipe items they are missing to their digital shopping list as a seamless part of their meal prep process.
And voice can do more than make it easier to buy items. Increasingly, according to both the How We Will Pay data and recent news items, voice is a critical player in commerce-adjacent activities that ultimately boost the net number of successful conversions.
According to the data, of the 31 percent of voice-enabled device owners who use voice to make a purchase, 45 percent do so across multiple voice-enabled environments.
And in retailer news, there is an increasing push to integrate Alexa into the purchase path. Oreo, for example, earlier this week announced a “guess the mystery flavor” contest, which came with an accompanying Alexa skill for support. Alexa will respond to the question “What’s new with Oreo?” with news and information about the cookie brand, including special announcements. Alexa will also offer clues about the mystery flavor.
Get ready for more voice-enabled retail in 2020.