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Battle For Position In Voice-Shopping War Heats Up

  • Written by  Bart Mroz, SUMO Heavy

0aaBart Mroz SUMOHeavySmart speakers are the new best-selling consumer gadget, faster than AR, VR or wearables. Sales grew over 300% in 2017 alone.

The voice shopping market is materializing rapidly as major players jockey for position during the holiday season, forging alliances and introducing new voice-activated smart speaker devices. Although voice shopping is still in its early stages, millions of users are buying smart speaker devices, with sales at the end of last year reaching a record high.

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Sales of smart speakers over last year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas reached new levels. In fact, Amazon’s Echo Dot was the best-selling item across its entire product catalog over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with close to 11 million purchased during the holiday season.

A recent study from Juniper Research found that smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the Sonos One will be installed in over 70 million U.S. households by 2022, reaching 55% of all homes. As the number of homes installing smart speakers grows, so are the number of consumers inclined to engage in voice shopping. Another survey found that 29% of people who own devices like the Echo and Google Home say they shop via voice, and 41% plan to in the future.

Having these major players in the race makes it only a matter of time before voice shopping becomes commonplace. This is good news for consumers, who will be able to order products and have them delivered to their homes without lifting a finger.

Voice-Shopping War

Amazon, with a two-year head start, owns a dominant 70% share of the smart-speaker market, with Google in second place with a 23% share. Although Amazon and Google have enjoyed an uncrowded smart speaker market, a rush of new voice-activated devices are scheduled to pour into the market, including new smart speaker devices from Apple, Microsoft, Sono, Baidu, Samsung and Alibaba. 

With such a large market opportunity in sight, Amazon and Google have ramped up their battle to attract retailers and shoppers to their respective voice-shopping platforms. In the latest round of alliances, Walmart, Target, Costco and Home Depot have teamed up with Google for voice-assisted shopping. Google also partnered with Estée Lauder to offer voice-enabled, personalized, nighttime skincare regimens for customers using Google Home.

U.S. consumers will have the ability to shop for products using the voice-activated Google Assistant platforms on phones and Google Home devices. Shoppers also will be able link their accounts to Google Express and quickly order by voice commands via Google Home.

Amazon, meanwhile, has forged an alliance with Kohl’s in which Amazon will open boutiques within Kohl’s stores staffed by Amazon associates who will sell Amazon smart-home devices and services. Customers will be able to schedule an in-home consultation as well as have access to Amazon Home Services — Amazon’s version of Angie’s List — through which they can connect to pre-screened local services professionals such as house cleaners and plumbers.

Amazon and Google are also competing to embed their voice shopping platforms into other devices. Amazon, for example, has incorporated its Alexa voice assistant into speakers, phones and thermostats, and has signed deals with Ford, Sears, and Bragi for Alexa integrations. Google reportedly is negotiating with Sony and LG to integrate Google Home into their products.

Apple is entering the fray as a latecomer with its HomePod, a voice-activated speaker based on the Siri personal assistant used in its iPhones. Apple is also touting the audio quality of its speaker that uses the A8 chip for intelligent sound modulation.

Retailers Prepare

With heavyweights like Amazon, Google, Walmart, Microsoft and Apple battling to establish their positions, the stage is set for voice-powered retail-on-demand to become a commonplace reality. To capitalize on the voice-shopping opportunity, retailers should begin putting strategies in place to add voice-shopping capabilities to their e-Commerce programs.

Making products available on Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft and other major voice-shopping platforms is a first step. With increasing numbers of users searching for products using voice assistants, retailers should also make their sites and products voice searchable. With mobile set to surpass desktop searches this holiday season, retailers should take pains to optimize for mobile commerce, including voice searching.

Customers are already demanding a personalized and simplified shopping experience, which retailers are working to deliver online and in stores. With the right strategy in place, voice shopping will fit naturally within a retailer’s overall omnichannel approaches.

We are only on the cusp of the voice shopping revolution. Advances in voice recognition, AI, The Internet of Things (IoT) and live streaming technologies will continue to improve the retail-on-demand experience and drive it deeper into the home.


 

Bart Mroz is the co-founder and CEO of SUMO Heavy, a digital commerce consulting and strategy firm. He is a serial entrepreneur with over a decade of business management and technology experience. Mroz was a founding partner of multiple consulting companies and a thought leader who has been published in top e-Commerce publications including Internet Retailer and AdExchanger. Prior to founding SUMO Heavy, Mroz was a partner at round3 media, a creative e-commerce agency, as well as owner and managing director of SimplyHelp, an IT firm based in Philadelphia.

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