We’ve written before about the paradox of voice grocery shopping. Consumers have been slower than many retailers and analysts have expected to adopt a technology that could offer unprecedented levels of ease and convenience in accomplishing time-consuming and headache-inducing errands. The reasons for this reluctance to adopt a promising technology are many: unfamiliarity with the technology, high delivery fees, an emotional attachment to the supermarket experience, a lack of trust in retailers to select fresh perishables of high quality, and the feeling that better prices can be obtained by shopping around. Yet in spite of the stalled adoption of voice grocery shopping, brands and retailers continue to invest heavily in new technologies in an effort to stay ahead of the game. Many feel that shoppers won’t be able to resist the allure of effortless voice grocery shopping as the trend slowly penetrates the mainstream. Let’s take a long look at the state of this fledgling grocery shopping interface.
Innovation might be the tipping point that voice grocery shopping needs. American mega-retailer Walmart announced in April of this year that they were partnering with Google to launch a variety of new voice retail services. Their new platform, Walmart Voice Order will work on many Google-powered platforms, including Google Home, displays, smartwatches and smartphones. Their technology will track their brand preferences and order histories to allow for maximum ease of purchase, reminding shoppers when they’re low on supplies, keeping them informed of current price-points, and allowing them to add items to a cart and check out at the time of their choice.
This last improvement is linked to a 2018 report that was highly critical of voice shopping and Alexa. The report noted that people preferred to add items to a shopping list over the course of a few days, rather than checking out with each item when they first talked to their digital assistants. List-making is one of the most popular features of voice technology and a fundamental part of the grocery shopping experience. Eliminating it from the voice shopping experience was a huge mistake, and correcting it could have an immediate impact.
As Amazon works to get Alexa on track, they’ve launched the Alexa Voice Shopping service, which allows customers to get daily rundowns of the bargains available as well as purchasing staples through a simple command. In order to push voice grocery shopping forward, the retail giant has been offering Alexa-exclusive deals, a trend which is expected to accelerate with this year’s Prime Day. Alexa still processes each voice order individually, but they have introduced a new feature which allows roommates or family members to collaborate on a shopping list before purchases are made.
While new technologies and tweaks are likely to increase the popularity of voice shopping, the biggest challenge remains upending the established habits of the public. As consumer technology analyst at Creative Strategies, Carolina Milanesi notes, “I think the biggest hurdle is that it still feels faster if I just sit at the computer and do it versus going through all these steps. Muscle memory is the hardest thing to change in consumers.” In spite of the challenges, Milanesi feels that voice shopping in grocery is bound to catch on. She notes that when ordering household staples, buyers are already familiar with the products they’ll be purchasing, and will, therefore, be easier to nudge into the emerging channel. “Consumers want convenience in whichever form it comes," reports Milanesi. "It’s not quite convenient yet because it is complex and it might not understand the consumer due to background noises or accents."
As a result, you can find articles with titles like “Hey Alexa, Why Is Voice Shopping So Lousy,” a recent headline for Wired magazine. The search mechanisms are still somewhat clumsy and confusing (Wired notes that the query “Where to buy diapers?” yielded a result referencing the town of Buy in Russia) and redirect to web browsers far too often. But even the most skeptical analysts recognize the immense potential of voice shopping in the grocery industry. As Sucharita Kodali, Forrester’s retail expert states, “Voice commerce is completely overrated. It doesn’t make sense for most purchases except for a quick replenishment purchase of something you recently purchased from Amazon and your payment and shipping information is stored.” Voice shopping may not be great for buying your autumn wardrobe, but its strengths are perfectly suited to laundry detergent, pet food, toilet paper, milk and cereal, all of the things which drive inconvenient late-night trips to the supermarket. The voice platform also perfectly aligns with Amazon Basics, a line of items where lengthy product comparisons aren’t needed, and low prices and convenience will be the main drivers of transactions.
Research shows that only 6% of shoppers used voice-enabled technology to buy products in the past six months, while 50% expressed interest in experimenting with it. The most common reasons cited for reluctance were miscommunication and errors. But as the kinks are ironed out, and more digital assistants come equipped with screens, allowing consumers to access the visual information they need to feel comfortable with a product, voice shopping is sure to gain momentum. This is especially true in the grocery industry, where the hurdles are lower and leading companies are committed to making voice shopping work. Amazon is heavily invested, and seems poised to convert consumers to the game-changing convenience that voice-based product replenishment can offer. Meanwhile, Walmart is about to unveil voice shopping for grocery pickup at 2,100 locations, and voice grocery shopping for delivery at a further 800 stores. If you’re worried about falling behind, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Adimo and unlock our voice-based add to basket technology today!