You never grow old enough to not give into your mom’s sentiments. It was the auspicious Akashya Tritihya and her instruction was clear ‘if not gold, at least buy a pack of salt’. A fair task that I intended to dutifully comply. But time moves faster, and traffic slower, in Mumbai. It was 9pm, still at work when I realised I would not be able to make it a nearest retail store to fulfill such big duty bestowed upon me.
And then Amazon happened, it allowed me to order just a pack of table salt. Order size Rs. 15, placed it proudly with Amazon’s patented technology of 1 click purchase and resumed spending another hour at work.
The salt was promptly delivered to door step the following day. Don’t judge me, I have my moments!
If you thought such time poor aspects of life is changing retail as we know it, wait until how Alexa, the voice assistant by Amazon is disrupting retail as we know it. (Remember dash button?)
Amazon has over 70 store brands and when you ask Alexa to order a pack of AA batteries, there is only one recommendation –AmazonBasics, its own store brand. Try it if you have an Echo device and welcome a pack of batteries magically appearing on your doorstep.
While Alexa’s brains plus Amazon’s retail muscle is a lethal combo for getting high on shopping, the impact voice assistants have are game changing in retail sector at large, here are my top four.
Its changing our behaviour: Voice assistant changes our shopping behaviour at a fundamental level by helping us discover products faster. We can type about 40 to 60 words, but can speak 100 to 150 words per minute, which means the experience of shopping using a voice like Alexa is faster than endlessly swiping to find the right product on a shopping website or app.
Would you rather speak to your app or type this? ‘Purple women’s sleeveless top with polka dots, 100 percent cotton, for party wear’.
Creating new habits: Habit is a powerful force, unknowingly we all form habits about everything we do. Voice assistants may be in their early days right now, but once we are habituated, there’s no going back. This is similar to how we are now used to using the ubiquitous smartphones for completing tasks and transactions or consume content on-demand, as opposed to wait for a show to be aired on TV.
Retail sector is optimised on people’s shopping habits, while it is anyone’s guess how exactly Alexa will impact a local retail outlet next door, the large organised stores and e-commerce sites will be at the frontline of disruption. Something they can use it to their advantage.
Voice of a brand or vice versa: When a brand builds an Alexa Skill, it is opening its gates to the new wave of early adopters and influencers who’ll be the doyens of voice commerce. And what if I told you building a Alexa Skill is not the only way to embrace voice?
Alexa Voice Services or AVS in short, lets you integrate Alexa directly into your connected brand’s app, website, or product itself. In the next six to eight months, you’ll start to increasingly see white goods and appliances which say ‘Alexa enabled’. This means more convenience to customer and an unfair competitive advantage to brands embracing it.
Increases delight in CX: When a customer walks out of the store without purchasing, it means she simply fired everyone from the CEO to a merchandiser. Retail sector probably faces the maximum challenges in enhancing customer experience. Voice can help.
The classic problem of keeping the customer engaged from the first moment they enter the store until an attendant is available can be solved by placing voice assistants and customising it to provide tactical answers to questions about products and services a customer can avail. If you can imagine a step further, a camera-less voice assistants can even help in private situations like a trail room when a customer wants to know if there is the next size available!
Customers are unforgiving, and retail sector whether online or physical, faces upward challenges in keeping up with changing customer behaviour caused by technology. But voice assistants like Alexa has created a great opportunity for the brands to embrace it first and welcome customers whenever they are ready.
The article has been penned down by Sreeraman Thiagarajan, Co-Founder of Agrahyah Technologies