Voice in 2021
Retail Innovation
What We’ll See Next

Voice technology is already making its mark on retail during the pandemic, and we expect this trend to continue to gain traction as shopping behaviors permanently shift:

Voice Permeates the In-Store Experience

While Amazon and Smart Aisle pilot stores have a head start on voice in-store, we expect this to take hold at most retailers. It may start with a shelf-side smart speaker or a more robust kiosk for larger stores, but soon enough, voice could be available around every turn with custom wake words assigned by aisle category or store section. In addition to in-aisle point-of-sale moments, we expect to see much larger integration of voice into checkout and employee interaction experiences. Voice is a natural fit to help guide consumers and get them checked out without the need for extraneous associate contact or the touching of shared digital surfaces. 

Employees Find Efficiencies Through Voice Assistance

As employees navigate how to safely interact with customers and minimize time spent solving in-store issues and questions, employee-facing voice applications can provide a solution. Walmart’s “Ask Sam” has shown that employees can benefit from an assistant that can easily look up inventory, communicate with other team members, and request information. Applied to the grocery context, we anticipate voice assistants being used to help employees manage online orders and pick-and-pack tasks. The cost savings realized by retailers through streamlining these activities and empowering employees will make voice an easy investment. 

Finding Your Way With Voice

With consumers wearing headphones more often and seeking quicker, more efficient trips to stores, hearables equipped with voice assistants are innovative channels to consider. These devices will eventually be able to connect to store’s mobile apps or beacon technology, creating an immersive shopping trip where consumers can hear about offers or locate products across stores in real-time. Envision moving through stores with your smart earbuds and having your voice assistant of choice send you product availability and location straight to your ears, directing you to certain aisles as needed. Pick-and-pack employees, such as Instacart employees, can also benefit from this technology and leverage features like voice-enabled shopping lists to streamline their tasks.

Car Ordering and Payments

The rise of voice assistant usage in cars creates the potential to condense and enhance the typical shopping trip. From a functionality standpoint, we are not far from shoppers being able to order items ahead of time, complete payment, and alert stores that they’ve arrived, all from the driver’s seat. As these applications gain intelligence and make use of geo-location data, retailers can start thinking of contextual promotions and location-based offers as well.

More Voice Trends to Watch in 2021
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