Check it Out: Just Say Buy …
No, this isn't how retailers get shoppers to smile for a photo. It's a nod to what could be the next big thing in the e-commerce industry: voice-enabled websites.
Clear your throat, put down your mouse, take your fingers off the touchscreen; retail is primed to be the next industry to use the spoken word as the interface between consumers and technology. Driving this innovation in large part is the prevalence of smartphones today and, in turn, the growth of mobile commerce. Rather than having users' mobile shopping experiences consist of trying to navigate a series of links and pages on a condensed smartphone screen before eventually giving up in frustration, retailers envision a future where users will simply be able to say what it is they want into their phone. Sounds a whole lot easier, right?
This isn't the first time retailers have dabbled with voice recognition systems, however. They've long used such programs for customer service, but now they're beginning to examine the viability of the technology on the front-end of the buying process. Take eBay for example. Its Android app has voice-enabled search capability, allowing users to simply say what they're looking for rather than typing it in on a cumbersome mobile keypad. Granted they can't yet purchase that item by speaking into their phone, but that day appears to be coming.
Companies like Vlingo, which can voice-enable any mobile app, and Nuance, a provider of voice and language solutions, are leading the way when it comes to voice technology. Symago, an IT company that specializes in interactive voice response (IVR) systems, has developed technology that lets consumers call into a voice-enabled website that integrates voice XML (vXML) with an IVR system. This vXML standard allows the human voice to access websites built with this technology. On vXML-incorporated sites, consumers can perform typical web-browsing functions such as perusing content and navigating through links and pages — entirely over the phone.