Beating the algorithm: what the rise of voice e-commerce means for retail

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Just like online shopping before it, voice-controlled shopping is set to be the next disruptive force in retail. Almost half of the households will own a Google Home, Amazon Alexa or similar voice controlled device by 2022, according to research by consultancy OC&C, up from 10% today. ComScore predicts that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

According to Google’s director of global business development Mike Haswell, “voice can be as disruptive to e-commerce as mobile was to desktop.”

The rise of voice e-commerce could spell more bad news for traditional UK retailers. As we highlighted in a recent post, the UK retail sector has had a gloomy start to 2018, with an overall growth rate of just 0.1%, behind that of the same period in 2017. Just this week, clothing chain New Look announced it would be closing up to 60 stores, putting over 900 jobs at risk.

As voice controlled devices become more accessible and trusted by consumers, retailers are likely to find it even more difficult to coax people out of the house and into their stores.

However, the rise of voice e-commerce can provide opportunities for businesses that get ahead now.

Voice command devices harness the power of machine learning to predict which products a customer will find most relevant. For example, a consumer may ask their device to simply order a pizza – food, drink and FMCG retailers can take steps to ensure that their products get chosen above those of their competitors.

Some retailers are optimising their sites for voice through utilising NLP (Natural Language Processing).  Drinks giant Diageo has gone one step further and created a ‘skill’ to be used on Amazon’s Alexa – enabling the device to instruct users to make cocktails (using Diageo’s ingredients). Ultimately, brands which build trust and understand their customer are likely to be chosen.

For retail investors, digitising and readying an asset for voice e-commerce could be key to creating value in a notoriously difficult sector.

When it comes to optimising your brand above that of your competitors, data is key. With a vast quantity of consumer data available online, digital diligence can help retail brands and investors evaluate their current market position, provide insights into the issues affecting customers’ sentiment, and stay ahead of any potential risks.

If voice controlled devices are indeed here to stay, then businesses that can effectively utilise data to better understand their customers, build trust and consistently get chosen above their competitors are likely to see high returns.

onefourzero can provide benchmarking reports against specific competitors or the sector, helping to illuminate your digital market position and develop effective strategies. To find out more, contact