Conversational Commerce Speaks a Disruptive Tone

by Raymond Pucci 0

While conversational commerce, or voice ordering, has become popular with many consumers, product brands, their marketers are not so sure. As the following article reports, smart-speaking home devices like Alexa can create some disruption in shoppers’ buying behavior.

Voice ordering via platforms like Amazon’s Alexa is changing the way that customers encounter a brand’s products. Voice ordering is becoming a significant disruptor for digital marketing.

Branding is a vital part of any company’s marketing strategy. Until recently, visual presence has been one of the largest, if not the largest, factors in a company’s brand — but Amazon Alexa and other voice assistants are drastically changing the ways consumers encounter products.

Graeme Pitkethly, chief financial officer of Unilever (owner of such brands as Dove, Lipton, and Axe) recently told the Wall Street Journal, “Of all the disruptions that are taking place in all the things technology is bringing into our space, voice is among the most disruptive.”

Companies spend big money on buying up shelf space in the stores of leading retailers, to ensure their products are at the forefront of a consumer’s shopping experience. Yet increasingly, customers are no longer putting themselves in front of physical products before purchasing them.

This kind of brand exposure has already been dwindling with the advent of online shopping. Rather than scanning rows of meticulously designed product containers and labels in a brick and mortar store, most user interaction with products is relegated to the span of a few hundred pixels. Even that is beginning to disappear, as more users are turning to voice ordering through the Amazon Alexa platform and its competitors, removing the visual aspect almost entirely from the shopping experience.

Conversational commerce may well become a major sales channel for retailers to go after. After all, the voice activated devices from Amazon, Apple, and Google are providing consumers with another buying and payment choice from the comfort of their home. But similar to internet search engines that use algorithms to direct browsers to certain websites, voice enabled devices have a mind of their own. Many digital marketers and advertisers are becoming unhappy with perceived lost sales. It’s still early to draw conclusions, but right now, Alexa and Siri could be disrupting the relationship between retailers and their customers.

Overview by Raymond Pucci, Associate Director, Research Service at Mercator Advisory Group

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