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The advantages of voice recognition for retail and e-commerce

02.jpgIn an era of economic uncertainty, opportunities for cost-savings and efficiency-gains are the holy grail for any business. Consumers increasingly expect convenience in all walks of life and are quick to take their custom elsewhere if they encounter anything but seamless transactions. Yet with tighter regulations like GDPR coming into play, businesses are having to re-evaluate their approaches to record-keeping, data security, and transparency, which can impact service if not managed well.

Retail and e-commerce businesses face a complex set of demands to navigate, which is why getting ahead of the game when it comes to voice recognition technology would be particularly advantageous for them. It would help to improve customer service, make efficiency savings across the business, and deliver a more personalised, frictionless shopping experience to consumers.

Consumer-led change

It’s common knowledge that consumers are more likely (or simply quicker) to embrace new technology than most businesses. It’s often the case that consumers are the early adopters, while businesses trail in their wake.

In the case of voice recognition technology, we can already see that this same pattern is likely to repeat itself. In the last couple of years there’s been a sharp increase in the uptake of voice-activated tools in the home. Products by Amazon and Google are becoming increasingly popular, with Apple recently entering the market. People are comfortable playing music or ordering takeaway pizzas using only their voice and are already getting used to being able to do this without having to use a device, type anything, or actually go anywhere.

Asking about the weather, repeat ordering household basics, searching on YouTube or Netflix – that might be the extent of it for now, but as people get more and more used to this ‘thinking out loud’ approach to getting things done, they’ll begin to see the alternatives as a hassle. In fact, anything that slows them down, like physically having to type in search terms, remember passwords, or even get their phone out of their pocket, will start to feel prohibitive.

That’s why there’s only one way we can see this panning out, with greater proliferation of voice-recognition tech in the next few years. And as that happens, retailers will have to invest in voice to stay competitive.

Frictionless search, shopping and customer service

From browsing products and making purchases to communicating with customer service teams, there are advantages to be found in voice tech at every step of the consumer journey. As we’ve already discussed, the rise of home-based voice assistants is already making people more confident when it comes to voice-activated search. As they get more and more used to searching in this way, they’ll come to expect it from brands and businesses. But, not only is voice search more convenient for consumers, it also gives retailers themselves an opportunity to sell more, and to know more about who’s buying.

Checkout-free shopping, for example, is already on the horizon. Using voice as a verification method for online payments will bring it much closer, with the added benefit of security. A person’s voiceprint is almost impossible to hack, so using voice biometrics to verify a customer’s identity is more secure than any other method. That helps consumers for obvious reasons, making them less susceptible to fraud, but also helps retailers in terms of regulation compliance.

Similarly, while the value of human communication should never be underestimated, there are also good reasons to use voice technology solutions in customer service teams and contact centres. They bolster effectiveness by helping to automate a big chunk of processes, which saves money and makes the process more frictionless for consumers. Personal identification becomes much quicker (no passwords, no security questions), which means calls don’t take as long, call-waiting times are shorter, and customer queries and complaints can be dealt with much more accurately. Not only is it easier for consumers to get through in the first place, it’s also quicker once they are on the line, which ultimately makes for better customer service and more productive staff.

Combined, this all helps businesses to know their customers that bit better, through data collected by increasingly sophisticated voice recognition tools, and then to create highly personalised shopping experiences for individual customers.

The ultimate in personalisation

Using highly accurate, natural language-driven algorithms, automated voice recognition tools enable retailers to make informed assumptions about the gender, age, location and even mood of the speaker. All of which is highly valuable data, meaning they can begin knowing the consumer right from the off, even without any prior purchase history or access to digital footprint data, and that shopping journeys can be instantly tailored to individual consumers, even if they’re brand new customers. Delivering more relevant, enhanced user experiences in this way ultimately means retail businesses can drive better conversion and retention rates, which can only help their bottom line.

The opportunity presented to retail and e-commerce by voice technology is unique. A genuine chance of improved reputation and revenue. It’s the businesses that jump on board now, as the tech fine-tunes itself with ongoing advancements, that will put themselves at the forefront, ready to feel the benefits as they start to roll in.