Can You Hear Another Consequence of COVID-19?

Thu, Sep 24, 2020

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Much has changed during the course of the pandemic, including the growth of remote shopping experiences and options. Will those disappear when we find our way out of the COVID-19 times? Will they be the new normal?

Can You Hear Another Consequence of COVID-19?

I was asked today if (at the enterprise level) voice assistance had a “burning platform” use case, a must-react-now value proposition that might make or break a brand.

Hmmm.

As we know, there are a number of documented, high-value use cases for AI-enabled voice, ranging from call center support and customer service to the integration of voice services into smart manufacturing processes.

And, there are a number of emerging use cases, ranging from voice search for newly-identified micro-moment shoppers to the voice-enabled, from-the-kitchen ordering of groceries and consumables (including, in these COVID-19 times, toilet paper and wipes.) All potentially of high value.

But to the question: a “burning platform?” For a majority of enterprises, perhaps not.

Instead, it’s probably a smoldering platform. Over in the corner, increasing in heat, with wisps of smoke emerging every now and then. Subject to tests and trials.

However:

I wonder if COVID-19 might toss more than a bit of fuel on the smoldering enterprise status of voice.

Especially in commerce and health care.

Given the climate of concern and the very appropriate societal restrictions now in place, one could quickly conclude that the only safe way to shop (or obtain trusted knowledge) is to do it remotely.

Order online. Pick-up at the curb. Or deliver to the door.

Connect with a trusted information source. Ask questions. Get good answers.

Amazon announced today that is has opened 100,000 new full-time and part-time warehouse and delivery positions to meet virus-enhanced demand, and is investing some $350 million in pay raises to support the work of current staff.

I expect that some meaningful portion of this additional demand will be driven through Alexa. Via Prime. And that other retailers with voice-enabled ordering (tied to unified commerce capabilities) will also gain share.

Of course, when the all-clear sounds, it’s possible that all that new Amazon-Walmart-Kroger-Target-Wegman’s-Albert Heijn business will just wander on back to the prior retailers.

To the prior providers of services.

To the prior enterprises that had the most convenient, easiest, and most remote way to do business…at the bottom of their list.

Or maybe not.

It’s a new normal. Can you hear it coming?