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Voice shopping seen as new frontier

June 19, 2018 • Gadgets and Gaming, Online & Social, Top Stories

The use of smart speakers has expanded the possibilities available through smartphone chatbots or text-based systems including those from Facebook and Apple.

The use of smart speakers has expanded the possibilities available through smartphone chatbots.

Earlier this year, Google announced the introduction of Shopping Actions.

According to Google the program “gives customers an easy way to shop your products on the Google Assistant and Search with a universal cart, whether they’re on mobile, desktop or even a Google Home device.”

Ever since the invent, voice shopping using smart speakers and smartphone apps has began gaining traction among consumers, opening up a new “conversational commerce” channel and potentially disrupting the retail sector.

Devices such as Amazon’s Alexa-powered speakers and Google Home, which use artificial intelligence to respond to voice commands, are offering new choices to consumers who are looking for more convenient ways to order goods and services.

A recent eMarketer survey found 36 percent of US consumers liked the idea of using a home-based assistant like Amazon Echo for making a purchase.

Voice shopping is expected to jump to $40 billion annually in 2022 in the United States, from $2 billion today, according to a survey this year by OC&C Strategy Consultants.

“People are liking the convenience and natural interaction of using voice,” said Victoria Petrock of the research firm eMarketer.

“Computing in general is moving more toward voice interface because the technology is more affordable, and people are responding well because they don’t have to type.”

Amazon’s devices, which hit the market in 2015, were designed in large part to help boost sales, and Google Home was launched a year later.

The use of smart speakers has expanded the possibilities available through smartphone chatbots or text-based systems including those from Facebook and Apple.

In France, Google Home devices can be used to shop at the giant retailer group Carrefour. And retailers in China have been partnering with tech firms for similar services.

According to OC&C, Amazon Echo speakers are used in around 10 percent of US homes, with four percent for Google Home.

According to the report Apple is lagging in this sector because its Siri assistant lacks the AI capabilities of Google, and the new HomePod has only just hit the market.

Apple just this year rolled out “business chat,” enabling consumers to ask questions and place orders through iPhone text or voice commands, and see images of products on the iMessage service. Retailers Lowe’s and Home Depot are among the partners.

Some analysts, however, expect more players to enter the market, with speculation rampant about a speaker from Facebook, which now allows business and consumers to connect through Messenger chatbots.

“Voice commerce represents the next major disruption in the retail industry, and just as e-commerce and mobile commerce changed the retail landscape, shopping through smart speaker promises to do the same,” said John Franklin of OC&C.

By Neo Sesinye
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