Retailers and Voice Technologies

By Paul Wynter January 1, 2020

Technology is entering our lives more and more and it’s to the point where none of us can survive without a smartphone anymore. In fact, smartphones are almost considered to be old-fashioned. One of the newest hits are voice-controlled and voice-accessed speakers which act as virtual assistants. Popular options include Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. Retailers are turning to voice technologies as well and it means that the industry is following suit. But how should they be used?

The focus is off-centre:

We all know that the whole point of being in business is to make sales and earn money. That’s the whole point of being in business, after all. When voice-activated speakers and virtual assistants started to become used to shop in a lot of households, it made sense that retailers immediately started planning for how to use them to increase sales. This led to, ideally ,people authorizing speakers and other household assistants to order and purchase products that they asked the assistants to find. This has worked only a handful of times, however, and there are many, many modern shoppers who still prefer to shop in the store or online so that they can see what they’re buying.

It would seem, then, that voice technologies and retailers don’t mesh. From a literal shopping and sale standpoint, that’s correct. But, there’s more to business than that.

How voice technologies should be used in retail

While making sales is the point of business, there’s no point in relying on these kinds of technologies if customers don’t need them. As far as technology and actual customer satisfaction, voice technologies are best put to use in customer service. This is best explained through examples.

• Voice technologies used to make a sale: A customer turns on their smart speaker or virtue assistant on their phone and puts in a command to find a 3-tiered bookshelf. The virtual assistant has to find the bookshelf, describe it for the customer and then the customer can make a purchase. While voice recognition has progressed a lot to allow for better reading, misunderstandings are still very common and when it comes to online shopping, customers don’t want to get “self-help books” instead of “bookshelf”. In this example, the customer would be frustrated and just go in store to find something instead.

• Voice technologies for customer service: While voice recognition can have its misunderstandings, it can also have serious levels of success when it comes to help customers out with questions. If someone is looking for information on a bookshelf, for example, it could be helpful. Using voice technologies, a customer can have questions answered such as the dimensions of the bookshelf, the materials of the bookshelf, its weight. They can also access information such as the return policy, shipping charges and other fees. By simply talking to their devices using easier understood questions and queries, technology can keep pace.

Benefits of relying on voice technologies for customer service in retail:

When used specifically for customer services in retail, there are a lot of benefits to consider that’ll help you make customer happy and give you a boost ahead of the competition.

• Faster AI response to questions: Voice activation can be focused and fine-tuned specifically to answer questions. That’s how it is best used for customer service when it comes to the modern shopper who wants to look for information and FAQ by voice instead of searching for it and reading it on a screen. The response is also faster because there is no wait time for searching, and this is helpful to push a customer to buy something as a result.

• Save money on traditional methods for customer service: With voice activation being used for customer service, you can also enjoy savings when it comes to traditional customer service options. For example, in a store, using voice activated software to find something in an aisle means that the employee that would normally do that can be at the checkout or stocking shelves. You won’t need to employ someone as a greeter, because voice activation can do that for you. As well, voice activation also saves someone from manning phone lines or IM chats (assuming you aren’t using AI). Voice assistants will be able to give them all of the information they need.

• Can you used in-store at at-home: Another feature of voice assistance is that it is helpful both in the store as well as at home, as briefly mentioned. Whether it’s a voice-activated and personalized store directly upon entering the store (including finding similar items in another part of the store if needed), to providing answers to questions as well las specific dimensions and other necessary information right at home, voice assistants aren’t just helpful one spot. They’re helpful in all of the spots where traditional technologies just don’t have the same kind of reach.

Grows with you

In the future, if technology develops to the point where voice activation can be more helpful in making a physical sale complete with approval and verification of information, you can add that as part of your own approach. Right now, however, you’ll be able to rely on voice activation to modernize your customer service, access to information and other details both in the store as well las at home.

Using voice technologies the way that they are best intended means thinking outside of the narrow point of view of making a sale. When you apply the advancements of virtue assistants to customer service and support, it’s amazing to see how many ways they can be applied. It will certainly make a big difference to your shoppers and since most shoppers still prefer the idea of seeing what they’re buying before they buy it, it’s not as though they (or you) will be missing out on anything.

Put your time and effort into making voice assistance useful in practical terms for your customers. While it may feel as though you are focusing on the right detail, the research shows you that you certainly are not. You’ll be able to get ahead of the competition and enjoy the business that it brings you. Then, when technology allows, you can push it further to focus on sales if or when the time arrives. Customer service is still a critical part of business, so put voice assistance to work on your behalf to deal with it.

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