STORES Convention Daily - 2018 Big Show Day 1 - 20
Dot houses virtual
Continued from page 14
shopping in a big way.
"In terms of voicebots, the third-party
ecosystem is a fascinating space," Starbuck says. "There is a lot of experimentation happening out there."
Branded voicebots are just starting
to come into the market: Starbuck says
Campbell's has been experimenting with
an informational voicebot. "They are recognizing that the voice device tends to live
in the kitchen," he says, "and saw more of
an opportunity to be an education resource
in a very hands-free environment."
Linc is currently using voice with
some of its clients, "helping the customer
answer familiar questions about tracking
their order, reordering something like
protein powders or cosmetics," Starbuck
says. "It's very early days, but there is
hesitation because a lot of retailers don't
understand that it is possible to create and
deploy these without sharing data."
Customers that use Linc for Alexa
don't have to share customer service
data with Amazon and don't have to sell
products through Amazon's marketplace,
Starbuck says. "When we look at how
Amazon runs their business units, they're
intended to run though silos. Alexa as a
platform is growing in a lot of ways that
have nothing to do with Amazon."
An opportunity for branding
Partnering may make sense, but some
believe that voice will become another part
of omnichannel. It will no doubt make
sense for retailers to own that, whether the
bot is for customer service or shopping.
"Over time, retailers will need to engage customers with a voice context and
they'll want to have their own persona,
their own Alexa," Todd says. "The voice
will be an extension of their brand. In
today's world, an Alexa can take orders
for Tide, but they're speaking on behalf
of Tide. In the future, Procter & Gamble
and others will have their own experience.
"Today you are seeing voice used for
customer service and order fulfillment and
making that engagement frictionless. The
next step for conversational computing is channel," Reznik says. "What the bot
to use voice to create the experience for needs to be smart enough to do is to realize when a question needs to be handled
Brands are starting to have that con- by a different channel. We help the brands
versation. "I've been talking to several to configure smartly, when does it make
of our customers who are thinking about sense to transfer to a human agent? Not
ways to use voice as a personality to just a human agent, but the agent with the
extend their brand," Todd says. "It will right skillset to deal with my request."
The bot may restill do fulfillment
turn after that task is
and commerce, but
taken care of. "At
the central core will
any point in time,
be the brand experiimportant tool in
when you have
"If DSW wantcustomer service - if
come into play, it
ed to sell their shoes
it delivers personalized
doesn't mean it's an
through Alexa, the
conversation to the
says. "We're talking
about the world of
DSW is through
Amazon's lips," he says. "Why let some- hybrid experience. The human may help
body else translate for you? Why do I want and fade out. The conversation really conthis other person to interpret my brand? I tinues between the bot and the end user."
want to speak for myself."
Voice can be an important tool in
customer service - if it delivers personalized responses. "If I ask, 'Where's my
order,' don't say, 'I usually deliver in five
or six business days.' That's not helpful,"
"It has to be personalized, contextual
and meaningful. If the bot needs information from me in order to reply, just quickly
ask. Let's keep it conversational and quick
Customer service voicebots can also
interact with a human agent.
"When you work with a bot, it's not a
whole separate experience and a separate
As with virtually every aspect of retail
strategy, voice must be driven by what
works best for the customer.
"You design the conversation to make
it easier for the end user," Reznik says. "If
the first impression is disappointing, those
customers are unlikely to return and try
Consumers are willing to give up
some personal information - regardless
of channel - if the resulting personalization is relevant and makes them feel like
a valued customer.
"The more customers experience the
benefits from giving their personal data as
they engage with a brand, the more they
will be comfortable with the technology
that is enabling these interactions," says
Greg Ng, vice president of digital engagement at design and development tech
"The challenge is that consumers
still want to feel that they have a sense
of control. Through voice-enabled technology, retailers are gathering a lot of
passive data, but that doesn't necessarily
mean that information is how customers
want to be identified. It's only by really
understanding who the customer is that
retailers can ensure they're improving
customer experience and, therefore, encouraging further consumer adoption of
Amazon's Prime Day got its voice
products into customers' hands before the
holiday shopping season. The next challenge was whether customers would be
familiar and comfortable enough to allow
Alexa to help shop when the time came.
"Retailers must start investing as
soon as possible," Gorin says. "It's the
future. Voice commerce is where retail is
going, one way or another. There's already
been a mass adoption curve and it's only
becoming more advanced, cheaper and
easier. We're at the beginning of a massive
wave. I would envision 30-40 percent of
transactions going through some form of
chat or voice-activated interaction in three
to five years."
Clearly, Todd says, retailers are getting that same indication. "For the first
time," he says, "I am hearing retailers ask,
'What's our voice strategy?'"
The response to that question may not
be human at all.
"pushing hard for their customer base to
adopt these devices," says Linc Global's
Luke Starbuck. Prime Day also included
exclusive deals for those shopping via
Amazon's Alexa and other incentives
for those who had not yet made a voiceassisted purchase.
Todd sees distinctions in the strategies of Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
"Amazon is a merchant and shopping
is core to their strategy," he says. "For
Google, this is more like a science project.
Google wants to own the home and must
rely on partners to take orders."
He envisions a day when someone
will ask Google Home to purchase some-
thing through Alexa, for example.
"You're starting to see this idea
come out: 'Why can't I have more than
one personal assistant?'" Todd says.
"Personal assistants need to move into
the direction of working seamlessly
Microsoft and Amazon took those
first steps in August, offering a somewhat
clunky interaction between Microsoft's
Cortana and Amazon's Alexa. Microsoft
is in the midst of launching its own device
with speaker maker Harman Kardon.
Harmon Kardon also has introduced devices powered by Amazon's Alexa and
No matter the device or the assistant, there remains one big hurdle
to overcome: security.
"There has been some negative
PR, which is why Amazon and Google
are especially careful with their data,"
says Igor Gorin, CEO of Astound
Commerce, a global digital commerce
"The dangerous side is that these
platforms are hackable and are basically a door into your home in terms of
listening to everything you say. We've
yet to see a lot of massive blowups.
I hope that they will continue to be
Service and merchandise
Alexa, Buy This.
o be certain, 2017 was a banner
year for Amazon's Echo Dot.
Even before the holiday season,
the personal home assistant was the
top seller on the company's July 11
Prime Day. Echo serves as a home
for virtual assistant Alexa, which can
be instructed to play music or buy a
guitar, for instance.
"It's another example of Amazon's brilliance, creating a frictionless shopping experience," says Chris
Todd, CEO of Theatro. "If you can
make it easy for me to shop, that's
Prime Day was all about Amazon