In Command: Voice and Mobile Assisted Shopping

In Command: Voice and Mobile Assisted Shopping

In Command: Voice and Mobile Assisted Shopping 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

Touchless experiences are becoming more ingrained in our daily lives. A major driver of this, of course, is COVID related safety precautions. More planning than just a list now goes into the shopping trip as we try to avoid touching public devices and consider the proximity of fellow shoppers in an attempt to reduce health risks.

But even pre-COVID voice command and mobile assistant technologies were beginning to show up in our everyday physical interactions. Though, these instances were primarily in-home via smart speakers or for convenience on the go. Before the pandemic, it was estimated that voice shopping would grow to $40 billion in 2022. Now those capabilities are being implemented with a new sense of urgency and purpose, and as a means to make our lives outside of the home a little safer.

”81 percent of Gen Z and Millennials report using voice control, compared to 68 percent of Generation X and 51 percent of Baby Boomers”

– Syntiant survey

“Bar Keep, how ‘bout a whiskey?”

Ok, it doesn’t work exactly like that but just last year The Mars Agency and BevMo! began testing an in-store, voice-controlled assistant called SmartAisle. As described in a recent HBR article, this particular SmartAisle experience was designed around helping a shopper decide which whiskey to buy. An Amazon Echo, integrated within lighted product shelves, guides the customer through the whiskey decision-making process, providing answers and information on product types along the way. As the customer moves through the conversation with the smart speaker, the program triggers lights located under certain bottles to dim as SmartAisle whittles down potential recommendations for the customer.

When this test began in 2019 the primary benefit may have been engagement and marketing at the shelf level. Now, a program like this checks a few boxes including, likely reducing the number of products handled by several different customers and reducing instances where a customer might touch their phone in order to gain the type of decision-making information now provided by SmartAisle.

First We Have to Get in the Store

Similar to SmartAisle, Ombori’s Store Assistant provides voice-guided and activated shopping assistance in-store. But it’s their Virtual Queue system that could become more prevalent at grocery and retail.

It’s nearly impossible to adhere to social distancing guidelines in a packed store so controlling customer flow has become crucial for stores to be able to open their doors. Long lines outside and down the street can also be a problem. Ombori’s Virtual Queue program activates smartphones, digital signage, and digital entrance gates to maintain recommended customer counts so that shoppers can feel more comfortable entering and spending time in the store.

As the customer approaches the store, in-store count and queue counts are displayed via digital signage. Individuals can then scan a barcode on the signage to join the queue then wait safely nearby or in the car for a notification that it’s their turn to enter the store. The notification provides a digital ticket that is then scanned at the interior entrance gate as the shopper proceeds, maintaining accurate customer count and preventing individuals from entering before store capacity is ready for the additional shopper.

As often happens with technology like this, there are privacy concerns. Customers will need to voice to brands what they need from these evolving shopping experiences and what they’re willing to sacrifice. But it’s not difficult to imagine voice and mobile-assisted shopping elements becoming more common.

For more on touchless experiences in food and retail check out the issue from our Preparing For Next series: Going Touchless

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