When Conversation turns into Commerce

Mon, Aug 19, 2019

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The question of AI-voice in commerce is not whether, but when. And we're sharing an accurate prediction as to when conversation turns into commerce. AI-voice is heating up, and its heat is being felt in commerce.

When Conversation turns into Commerce

The question of AI-voice in commerce is not whether, but when.

This is a conversation that’s increasing in volume and urgency between retail and CPG industry leaders.

Now? Tomorrow? How long can retailers and CPG’s safely ignore this transformative technology?

We agreed on this: as of right now, mid-February 2019, AI-voice is not a burning platform for retail and CPG. A business is not in immediate risk if it can’t be heard.

However, we also agreed that AI-voice is heating up, and its heat is being felt in commerce. As someone said, it’s smoldering. With puffs of smoke here and there. Which means the time to explore and plan and pilot is right about … now.

There was a prediction last year of voice assistants driving $40B in US retail revenue by 2022. From my perspective, that’s a click-bait WAG. Toss it away.

A serious assessment of the value timetable should follow the trend lines on three “A’s” – availability, adoption, and accelerants – all the way to an intersection.

At that point, you’re going to find fire.

Let’s look at the three.

Availability: Is AI-voice out there, and accessible to the broad public?

YES. Voicebot.ai’s Bret Kinsella argued conclusively earlier this month that AI-voice has now reached a point of pervasive presence. AI-voice assistance is now normal. And that’s before the visionary stuff from CES 2019 comes to market. The data speaks loudly:

Look forward, say two years. 2021. You’re in a world with 5.1 billion voice assistants. The voice assistant is central to your smartphone, your car, the settings on that new eco-smart clothes washer and dryer. You’re living in a densely populated, saltwater-city environment, and you’re increasingly comfortable with the quality of fresh vegetables and fruits delivered by your online grocer. And when it’s time to reorder the basics, it’s so easy to say yes.

Heat. Smoke. Fire. Voice.

Adoption: It may be out there, but is anyone using it? And, using it for shopping?

YES, and YES. And it’s growing and growing. But limited by today’s command-and-response functionality. And measured with the understanding that shopping stretches the length of the decision journey. Again, the data speaks loudly.

And commerce? Well, it’s now impacting the early and late stages of the shopping journey – critical to winning and maintaining shopper loyalty.

Look forward three years to 2022. (It generally takes a major retail or CPG enterprise three years to bring a technology idea to full production and scale, which means if you’re not at the white board now, you’ll miss this.) Now you’re in a world of 6.4 billion voice assistants. And the voice capability innovation shown in 2018 by Google with Duplex is now a normative usage for Gen Z – soon to be the largest demographic group. The entirety of appointment setting, from business 1:1’s to concert tickets, is now handled by your voice-directed and highly conversational avatar.

Fire. Spreading Flame. Voice.

Accelerants: Are there any industry market transitions that will further fuel the fire of AI-voice in commerce?

YES. Goodness yes. Keep your eye on seven market-shaping transitions. Each one will accelerate AI-voice for commerce in its own way. When they intersect and overlap, watch out. In order of importance:

Again, the question is not whether, but when. And the answer is this: it’s already started. And it’s going to grow – in some places faster than others. If you’re in FMCG, and haven’t started planning, you’re already behind. If you’re in upper price points or in complex products, you’ve got some time.

The bottom line is this: the AI-voice flame for commerce has been lit by pervasive availability and ever-growing adoption. A bonfire awaits. Fueled, soon, by industry-shaping market transitions. AI-voice in commerce. Listen, and you’ll hear it coming.