Voice Assistants Set to Revolutionize Commerce  

A new study predicts that voice assistants will become a dominant mode of consumer interaction over the next three years, with shoppers who use the technology willing to spend 500% more than they currently do via this mode of interaction.

The report from Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute highlights how consumers are using voice assistants and the opportunities this creates for businesses to connect with their customers. The global consultancy surveyed more than 5,000 consumers in the US, UK, France and Germany to gather input.

Consumers are developing a strong preference for interacting with companies via voice assistants. The research found that today around a quarter (24%) of respondents would rather use a voice assistant than a website. However, in the next three years, this figure will rise to 40%. Close to a third – 31% – said they will prefer a voice assistant interaction to visiting a shop or a bank branch, compared to 20% today.

Voice assistant users are currently spending 3% of their total consumer expenditure via voice assistants, but this is expected to increase to 18% in the next three years, reducing share of physical stores (45%) and websites (37%). While streaming music and seeking information remain the most popular usages for voice assistants today, over a third of respondents (35%) have also used them to buy products such as groceries, homecare and clothes. Currently, 28% of users have already used a voice assistant to make a payment or send money, but 44% of users have expressed interest in using voice assistants for banking transactions as more smart speakers enable functions such as credit card payments via voice.

Consumers who use voice assistants are very positive about their experience, with 71% being satisfied with their voice assistant. In particular, 52% of consumers cite convenience, the ability to do things hands-free (48%), and automation of routine shopping tasks (41%) as the biggest reasons why they prefer using voice assistants over mobile apps and websites. The ability for the voice assistant to understand their human user is also critical; 81% of users want the voice assistant to understand their diction and accent. The report also revealed that voice assistants are most popular among 33-45-year-olds, while close to 1 in 5 (17%) have an annual pre-tax household income of more than $100K.

Capgemini said brands that provide good voice assistant experiences will generate more business and positive word-of-mouth communication. The report found that 37% of voice assistant users would share a positive experience with friends and family, and even 28% of current non-users would want to transact more frequently with a brand following a positive experience. This equates to serious potential financial gain, as consumers are willing to spend 5% more with a brand following a good experience with a voice assistant.

Target to Test New Loyalty Program

Target is rolling out a pilot rewards program to connect with shoppers who do not to carry its credit or debit cards, according to a report in the Star Tribune, a newspaper in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.

The Target Red program will offer discounts on future purchases and free next-day grocery delivery. It will debut next month in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The report said as growth of its branded debit and credit cards has plateaued, Target is exploring other ways to generate more loyalty at a time when online shopping has exposed consumers to many more places where they can shop.

“We know not everyone wants another credit card,” said Joshua Thomas, a Target spokesman. “So, we want to find a way to grow our relationship and affinity with those guests.”

So Far, So Good for Amazon Go

Reuters reported that the Amazon Go concept store in Seattle is luring many repeat customers two months after its launch.

Amazon Go looks like a small grocery store, but it has no cashiers. Shoppers scan a smartphone app to enter the store. Cameras and sensors track what they take off from the shelves and what they put back. When finished shopping, they just leave the store. Their account is automatically charged for the groceries.

Popular items in the store include chicken sandwiches, fresh fruit and meal kits, according to Amazon Vice President Gianna Puerini.

“The ones who work very close, like in the building up above, will come down even just to grab a drink because it’s so fast and easy,” he said in an interview at the ShopTalk e-commerce conference in Las Vegas.

Walmart Expands Fleet of In-Store Robots

Walmart is deploying its team of in-store robots to 50 stores in four states, according to a report in Business Insider. The six-foot tall machines, developed by Bossa Nova Robotics, scan for out-of-stock items, incorrect prices and missing labels.

Company officials said the robots give employees more time to focus on customer service instead of going up and down aisles looking mistakes and out of stocks.  

“This has largely been about how we improve our performance and improve our service to our customers,” Walmart's vice president of innovation John Crecelius told Business Insider.

RFID Breakthrough to Eliminate Out of Stocks

A new solution that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and blockchain software to help retailers better manage on-shelf inventory and eliminate out-of-stocks has beem announced by Powershelf, a provider of retail technology solutions. The cost will be one cent per RFID chip.

Out-of-stocks are an ongoing challenge for retailers. Eight percent of products are estimated to be out-of-stock at any given time, which means shoppers are often not getting the products they need. This costs time and frustrates shoppers, while degrading the shopping experience and costing hundreds of billions of dollars in sales for retailers and brands.

The new one penny, Gen 2 RFID solution will be coupled with proprietary supply chain software developed by Powershelf to significantly improve asset tracking and eliminate out-of-stocks. This innovation builds on a large test conducted with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) across 200 different brands that found Powershelf technology significantly reduces out-of-stock incidents. The solution will form an integral part of the ecosystem of software and devices—including solutions from Qualcomm, Microsoft, SAP, and GE—offered by Powershelf.

“We have tested Powershelf in stores for over a year and we are excited to bring this next-generation technology into more stores and larger retail customers,” said John Linehan, President of King’s Hawaiian. “We believe Powershelf’s blockchain, machine learning and Gen 2 RFID technology could virtually eliminate out-of-stocks in grocery stores.”

Leading brands and retailers such as Johnson & Johnson, Bumble Bee Foods, Gatorade, Fresh Pet, Giant Eagle and Whole Foods use Powershelf solutions.