For years, brands and agencies have hyped voice technology as a marketing game-changer. Still, even as the number of consumers using audio on smart speakers rises, voice has remained a minor player for uses like shopping. But the tech is poised to enter the mainstream with COVID-19 making consumers touch-averse, prompting marketers to find ways to make ordering as simple and contact-
free as possible. “Up until this crisis, voice technology was the technology looking for a business purpose,” says Shannon Warner, VP of retail and consumer goods at Capgemini Invent, the innovation arm of digital consulting firm Capgemini. “Now, it’s tech that solves and therefore there’s mass adoption overnight.”
A Capgemini survey found that 59 percent of global consumers—including 70 percent in the U.S.—would rather use voice interfaces in public places to avoid touching. Previously, voice was most associated with at-home uses, like asking Alexa to play a favorite song.
“Smart speaker sales are growing rapidly, but just a small fraction of consumers are actually using them for shopping,” says John Harmon, senior analyst at Coresight Research, a retail-focused data firm. He points to a survey by Prosper Insights & Analytics finding 32 percent of U.S. respondents used a smart home assistant, but only a small percentage of them used it to purchase items. But with interest rising in using voice tech outside of the home, marketers must figure out ways to best connect with consumers. Experts say most voice tech in retail is still in an experimental stage. Yet the tech could easily be implemented across health care, financial technology, retail and hospitality.