Conversational Commerce: Shopping via Alexa and Co. promises great potential for online trade
Shopping, informing and playing with Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Co. is already part of everyday life for many users. This holds great potential for online trading. Some companies have already adjusted to this and opened up their online shop or services for these platforms.
Is it the next big thing in online shopping? Amazon does not announce sales figures but one thing is clear: Alexa has started her triumphal march and quietly and secretly conquered numerous living rooms, kitchens and children’s rooms. Integrated into the smart speaker echo, the virtual language assistant can shop, play music, read out recipes and control the building services. And all this is contactless because Alexa reacts to voices. Digital language assistants from companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple are gaining ground. No matter whether the user takes care of his children, cooks or works: He doesn’t have to type anything, has his hands free, simple sentences are enough. This makes the operation very comfortable, intuitive and also explains the high acceptance. Experts from the Zukunftsinstitut have defined Voice shopping, Voice Commerce, as one of the retail trends for this year. For many retailers, 2020 is a magical barrier to achieving important goals on the road to digital transformation. “For this reason, the retail sector is being driven primarily by digital and tech trends in these months,” says Theresa Schleicher, author of the Retail Report 2018. The current discussion is therefore primarily characterized by the potential applications of artificial intelligence and the chances for this use are good because digital language assistants are already accepted and appreciated by consumers.
Will classical websites soon be a thing of the past?
Last autumn, the consulting firm Capgemini surveyed more than 5000 consumers in the USA, Great Britain, France and Germany. A quarter of consumers already use smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. Via smartphones, as many as 81 percent of respondents used a language assistant such as Siri or Google Assistant. Usually, information such as news, recipes or weather forecasts are searched for. More than one-third of respondents have already made purchases via digital language assistants. They are predicting a great future for this technology: 40 percent of consumers assume that they will rather shop via language assistants in three years’ time than via a website or an app. Nearly one in three states that in three years’ time he will prefer the language assistant to visiting a shop.
Companies position themselves for purchasing via voice input
Reason enough for many companies to reposition themselves and position their products, services and offers for contactless, convenient online shopping via voice input. At Walmart, customers can order more than two million items via Google Home. Rewe also relies on Google: With the Caro application, hobby chefs have hands-free access to around 3,000 recipes designed by Rewe nutrition experts via Google Assistant. The Rewe assistant provides cooking inspiration, searches for recipes, reads out lists of ingredients and accompanies the chefs through the individual preparation steps. Last fall, Otto started networking with Google Assistant. If the customer says “Ok, Google. Talk to Otto”, he is connected with the so-called Otto action. The digital assistant answers questions about actions or offers, for example and in doing so he or she will conduct a conversation with the user, actively asking what else he or she can do, answering questions and finally saying goodbye to the user. Marc Opelt, Otto’s Chief Marketing Officer and spokesman for Otto: “We are convinced that voice control will change e-commerce.
We are therefore pleased to be able to offer our customers the first features via speech recognition and to test new functions and services directly with them. We see great potential in voice commerce and would like to try the technology as a further point of contact which makes it even easier for our customers to interact with Otto.“ For Otto, these interactive info dialogs are a first step in conversational commerce. In the future, many other and more personal applications are conceivable. For example, the assistant can then check the current shipment status of an order.
Hasbro has released Amazon Alexa-enabled version of Trivial Pursuit
Many other companies rely on Amazon’s assistant Alexa. According to the magazine Stern, the Group has a market share of just under 75 percent in the field of voice control with this product. On the one hand, the customer can also purchase via Alexa by voice control, just like on the normal Amazon website. If the customer asks Alexa for a product, he can have the goods put on his Amazon list and buy them there. On the other hand, companies have the opportunity to offer users added value by means of so-called skills which are installed similar to an app. Douglas offers a fragrance consultation via Alexa and limango lets it read its daily actions out loud. Mercedes drivers can use Alexa to start the parking heater or lock the doors, among other things. At this year’s CES trade fair, Bosch presented its vacuum cleaner robot, which can be controlled by Alexa. Starting this spring, the entire Bosch Smart Home System will be controllable via Alexa.
In addition to such convenient benefits, the digital speech assistants offer even more new business opportunities. Hasbro launched an Alexa-compatible version of its classic game Trivial Pursuit just in time for the last Christmas season. Players use round buttons called echo buttons, which are linked to the Alexa Echo device, for an interactive gaming experience. Jonathan Berkowitz, Senior Vice President Marketing, Hasbro Gaming, says, “This dynamic home technology will make Trivial Pursuit even more alive and exciting than ever before.” This could open up a wide field for game manufacturers. Especially as Amazon is constantly expanding its product range around Alexa. In the meantime, the loudspeaker is available with a screen – so videos, pictures or movies can also be displayed.
Customer skepticism in data security
As convenient as the new digital shopping and information facilities may be, many customers fear for the security of their data. According to a survey conducted by the German Digital Economy Association (BVDW), almost 80 percent of respondents have concerns about the use of voice assistants – mainly due to data abuse or the risk of eavesdropping. „The fact that such a new kind of communication seems strange to one or the other is completely normal,” says BVDW Vice President Achim Himmelreich. “It is really alarming, however, that one in three people is afraid of data abuse and surveillance. From the industry’s point of view, there is also a need for action and clarification here because although there are naturally some concerns in the early stages, conversations with artificial intelligence will be a natural part of everyday life in the not too distant future.”