Voice Commerce and the Retail Revolution
The year is 1962, in (probably) rainy Seattle, during the World’s Fair. Attendees marvel at the newly built, and now iconic, Space Needle, while learning about Boeing Aerospace Company — headquartered in Seattle — and the technology fueling the Space Race with the former Soviet Union. Then, after turning a corner, the Shoebox catches a passersby’s eye.
This is no ordinary shoebox, however, but in fact the world’s first smart speaker. Designed by IBM, the Shoebox could perform mathematical equations and recognize 16 spoken words.
Today, smart speakers are the fastest-growing consumer technology since the smartphone, and they're helping revolutionize retail and the way consumers shop.
Though the vast majority of smart speaker usage is still audio listening and inquiries, smart-speaker commerce is increasing. In 2018, according to eMarketer, 28 percent of smart speaker owners used voice activation to research products, add items to carts, and make a purchase. This year, that number is up 31.6 percent to 31 million shoppers. By 2021, this figure is expected to climb to 38 million, as four in 10 U.S. smart speaker users tap the devices for shopping.
The question is no longer will voice commerce emerge, but rather, will it succeed? Especially as it challenges more established competition, such as mobile or brick-and-mortar.
One tactic retail marketers are using to carve out a market for voice is leveraging a multichannel approach to entice shoppers.
For example, take the Nike campaign launched last Feb. 7 during the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics game on TNT. Nike promoted its new Adapt BB, a basketball shoe with power-lacing technology, with an exclusive drop before the official release date on Feb. 17.
In collaboration with Google Assistant, and R/GA, Nike built the hype for the drop days before, prompting consumers via TV ads to ask questions about the shoes via their Google Assistant. Responses to their questions were then recorded by NBA stars Jason Tatum and Kyle Kuzma. These two would then take the court on Feb. 7, debuting the new Nike Adapt shoes while playing against one another.
During halftime, the shoes dropped. Viewers were told to “Ask Nike” for the opportunity to obtain a pair of sneakers. The marketing strategy was a slam dunk, with Nike selling out the pre-inventory in six minutes after more than 15,000 viewers “asked Nike.” In total, the multichannel voice campaign created over 51 million impressions and 335,000 swipes and clicks.
This is just one way shopper marketers are converting customers to voice. Others include voice-recommended products or coupons, reorder command words that will increase buyer confidence and convenience, or allowing customers to delete their recorded voice history, which will enhance customer privacy and build trust.
Fifty plus years after the Shoebox, and long after the emergence of new technology such as the smart speaker, voice commerce is still in its infancy. However, as smart speakers become more prevalent, especially as younger, tech-savvy millennials grow the product and learn to trust and understand the technology, voice commerce is poised to revolutionize the future of retail.
Bryan Forbes is vice president, strategic planning at IN Connected Marketing, a retail marketing and advertising agency.
Bryan Forbes is Vice President, Strategic Planning at IN Connected Marketing, a retail marketing and advertising agency.
As an agency strategic planning lead with two Effie wins and nearly twenty years of experience in brand, digital, and shopper strategy he’s built and managed strategy teams that understand the need for better integration to make sense of and unravel digital and traditional channels. If you’ve used a Dell computer, enjoyed a Budweiser product, shopped for groceries at Safeway, noshed on Frito-Lay chips or wondered “What’s in Your Wallet”, he’s been able to connect with you. Bryan lives just outside Chicago in La Grange, IL with his wife and his 6-year old budding soccer star.