Voice-Activated Shopping? An Analyst Weighs In

In What's New, Industry News by Accessories Staff

Voice-activated commerce. Photo: Shutterstock

Retailers are reaching into their bag of tricks and pulling out all the stops to try to compete with Amazon. The latest? Walmart teaming up with Google’s commerce platform Google Express to offer voice-enabled shopping. Will this work? Zhewei Zhang, Assistant Professor of Information Systems and researches digital innovation at Warwick Business School, weighs in:

“I am not surprised at Walmart teaming up with Google for voice shopping as other major brick-and-mortar retailers like Target and Costco have already done so with Google. The question is if this move will actually help Walmart compete with Amazon.

“For me, I don’t see Walmart as a rival to Amazon. Amazon is not just a retailer selling things online but also a platform provider which tries to connect people to the online world. Alexa represents a much bigger ambition than just another way of doing online shopping.

“This partnership probably will help Google more than Walmart as Google Home, Alexa, Siri, and Cortana are competing to be our personal AI assistant. I will not be surprised if one day Amazon sells its retail business like IBM did with its PC business.

“Voice shopping may not look very useful right now. Indeed, purchase experience through Alexa is quite mixed as many people find it hard to use and do not see the point. However, I do believe it is the future of online shopping.

“Currently, most online shopping still has to be done through either a PC or smartphone, which is a computer-centered experience. However, the emergence of smart devices, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality are creating a ubiquitous computing environment, bringing a human-centered experience.

“Voice shopping itself may not necessarily be the very best way of future online shopping, but it certainly shows how people may interact with their environment in a natural and human-centered way and get things done.”

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