TECHNOLOGY

Study: Voice assistants on pace to dominate consumer interactions

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As customers grow more comfortable with voice assistants, they are also ready to increase their spending via conversational commerce.

Voice assistants will become a dominant mode of consumer interaction over the next three years, and shoppers that use voice technology are willing to spend 500% more than they currently do via this mode of interaction, according to “Conversational Commerce: Why Consumers are Embracing Voice Assistants in Their Lives,” a report from Capgemini.

According to the data, around a quarter (24%) of respondents would rather use a voice assistant than a web site. Over the next three years however, this figure will rise to 40%. Close to a third (31%) said at that time, 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. This is expected to increase to 18% in the next three years, reducing share of physical stores (45%) and web sites (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, home care and clothes.

Brands who provide good voice assistant experiences are also positioned to generate more business, as 37% of voice assistant users would share a positive experience with friends and family. 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, the report said.

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, as 81% of users want the voice assistant to understand their diction and accent. Voice assistants are also most popular among 33-45 year olds, and close to one-in-five (17%) users have an annual pre-tax household income of more than $100,000, according to the report.

“Voice assistants will completely revolutionize how brands and consumers interact with each other,” said Mark Taylor, chief experience officer, digital customer experience practice, at Capgemini. “Brands that are able to capitalize on the huge consumer appetite around voice assistants will not only build closer relationships with their customers, but create significant growth opportunities for themselves.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Hannaford’s new digital rewards program favors store-brands—not discounts

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Hannaford’s new loyalty program puts a different spin on how members earn rewards.

The My Hannaford Rewards program shifts away from traditional loyalty program models that require customers to subscribe if they want to earn price discounts. Instead, Hannaford members earn rewards for store-brand items — but leaves prices untouched.

Here’s how it works: Customers can join the program by downloading the app from iTunes or the Android App Store, and enrolling in My Hannaford Rewards directly through their smartphone. They can also sign up on the grocer’s website or at any Hannaford store.

Members earn a 2% reward on every store-brand item they purchase under the grocer’s Hannaford, Taste of Inspirations, Nature’s Place, Home 360, Cha-Ching, Etos, Companion, CareOne and Healthy Accents private label lines. About 5,200 fresh and center-store items, from fresh meat, seafood and deli items to thousands of packaged products, qualify for rewards, according to the retailer.

Shoppers also receive personalized coupon offers for the national- and regional-brand products they buy.

Users earn rewards by scanning their app or entering their phone number at the point-of-sale during checkout. Rewards, which can be redeemed quarterly, are deducted from the customer’s bill during their shopping trip.

My Hannaford Rewards has been launched in all 181 Hannaford stores across the Northeast, however it began as a limited pilot launched in 11 stores and among associates. In both tests, enrollment and program usage far surpassed expectations, according to Hannaford.

“My Hannaford Rewards is a new way to thank customers, with a 2% reward on private-brand items and coupon offers that are meaningful to them as individuals,” said Hannaford President Michael Vail.

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Amazon’s cashier-less convenience store is finally a ‘Go’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

After more than a year of fits and starts, Amazon opened the doors of its cashier-less Amazon Go store to the public on Jan. 22.

The 1,800 sq.-ft. store, located in an Amazon office building in downtown Seattle, touts advanced shopping technology that supports what Amazon calls a “just walk out shopping experience” — one that doesn’t require cashiers or any type of formal checkout. The format, (to see a video of the store, click here), combines computer vision, sensor fusion, and machine-learning algorithms, along with a dedicated app.

Amazon Go opened its doors in a test mode in December 2016, open exclusively to Amazon employees. The company’s website teased that it would open to the public in early 2017, but glitches with the technology pushed back its public debut.

The format features fresh ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options, grocery essentials —from staples like bread and milk to artisan cheeses and locally made chocolates — as well as Amazon Meal Kits.

Here’s how it works: Shoppers launch the Amazon Go app as they enter the store, and take the products they want off of store shelves. The “walk out” technology automatically detects when products are taken off (or returned) to the shelves, and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When customers are done shopping, they just leave the store. Shortly after, they receive a digital receipt and their Amazon account is also charged for the order, according to the web site.

The online giant has not yet announced any expansion plans for Amazon Go. It also said it has no plans to add the technology to its Whole Foods Market stores, according to Reuters.

Amazon Go is part of Amazon’s ongoing push into brick-and-mortar retail, which includes Amazon Books stores, Amazon Fresh Pickup locations for online groceries, and its 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods.

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