Commerce has a new entrant! While E-commerce is now ubiquitous, there is another trend that is now picking up rapidly. Voice commerce, although, is somewhat in its nascent stages, is already starting to show powerful influence on consumer behaviours.
How is everyone getting ready to handle this new wave of shopping technology? Shopping malls – one of the major forces in the shopping ecosystem – may have to think of ways to deal with voice commerce.But let’s begin at the basics. What kind of response can we expect for voice commerce in a country like India with its unique demographic patterns? While voice assistant has been impressing the world with its almost human responses and appointment-booking skills, India has had a struggle with its hundreds of dialects and regional languages.
Another issue is that Voice for now is not the best for browsing for more high-end items mainly since consumers cannot interact easily for product details or images and reviews. Voice is best suited for ordering regular staples or consumer-packaged goods and products which consumers buy regularly without much thought. For instance, voice can help with batteries or toilet paper, but if you are looking at buying a stunning one-piece, off-shoulder dress or an evening gown, Voice may not be your best friend.
As of now, the advent of such new avenues of shopping are not likely to impact the brick and mortar retail market especially in shopping malls that significantly. This is also especially true in countries like India because shopping is much more than just buying things. It is a ‘family or friends day out’ that also involves eating out, spending time together and getting some recreation. This is where the idea of shopping in malls works the best because you get to experience shopping, food and entertainment under one single roof – something that voice or E-commerce can never ever give. Consumers love to have a more holistic retail experience and shopping malls give them exactly that.
Shopping malls have the positives of adding leisure and entertainment as a good enough reason for people to visit. Malls can combine fine dining, brand pop-ups, showrooms and even sporting activities to entice consumers and many malls are in fact already doing that. In short, malls are no longer just a place purely for shopping, but a one-stop experience provider for shopping, lifestyle and social. The in-store shopping experience remains dominant and although digital shopping offers a sense of convenience, malls can offer an experiential element to retail which is hard to replicate in the digital world.
Malls are also relying on technology to map customers’ data and to design marketing initiatives accordingly. Malls can analyse customer data and gather feedback from brands which many are already doing. There are appswhich are enabling malls to connect with customers and provide them with all the information that they desire at one place. This is a much more personalised shopping experience which digital shopping cannot offer. Also, malls are ensuring that physical stores retrofit their spaces with technological advancements which can go a long way in making the in-store customer experience more efficient as opposed to all the size and style guessing games customers encounter online.
Moreover, malls offer the ‘human touch’ and personal experience that Indian shoppers crave. They are not just looking to buy productsbut want to establish a connect and rapport with companies they buy from. This unique brand experience is not easy in an online interaction through a computer screen or smartphone.
All in all, yes, shopping malls have to be cautious about the coming in of voice commerce and be ready to face challenges. But they have already faced E-commerce and are still going strong. Malls, atleast in India, seem to be well-equipped to deal with voice commerce as well for now!
The article has been penned down by Vikas Shetty, Mall Head-Growels 101 Mall, Mumbai.