Retailer Argos has unveiled a new voice shopping service, which will let consumers reserve products in local stores via Google’s Home smart speaker.
Shoppers will still need to browse through Argos’ catalogue or website to find products, then they will be able to use Voice Shop to ask Google Home about product availability.
The service enables shoppers to order products for collection in more than 850 stores, and Voice Shop will also work via Google Assistant on smartphones.
The first UK retailer to offer such a service via the Google Assistant platform, chief executive John Rogers said: “Voice technology has the potential to revolutionise how we shop in the future. Digital home assistants have soared in popularity over the past year and people are increasingly looking to their smart devices to help with the smooth running of their lives.
“Argos is a digitally-led business at the forefront of technology and it’s really exciting that we are harnessing the simplicity of voice ordering with the convenience and popularity of Click & Collect to make our customers’ lives easier. We predict that the Voice Shop service will be a big hit and we will develop and refine the offer further as we get feedback from our customers.”
It seems Argos is taking another step towards competing against its biggest rival, Amazon, which enables its customers to order products via its Echo speakers.
Despite more retailers showing an interest in voice commerce, some industry experts warn that consumers may not be ready to fully utilise this kind of technology just yet.
Naji El-Arifi, global head of Innovation at Salmon, believes it’s important find out how consumers really feel about voice shopping.
“Voice shopping is quickly becoming the buzz phrase in eCommerce at the moment, and Argos’ decision to sell through Google Home is evidence of a growing pattern of brands and retailers cottoning on to consumer desire to spend money through different mediums.
“Our own recent research showed 55% of shoppers said they like purchasing through voice-activated devices and is almost certainly why Virgin Trains made the leap to voice shopping earlier this year by selling tickets on Alexa. For Argos, this represents another channel through which they hope to stave off strong competition from Amazon as its Amazon Echo device moves into more homes.”
However, El-Arifi warns: “This won’t mean instant success; 78% of consumers still have concerns over voice shopping such as devices listening in to conversations and 83% ordering items without their permission. However, it does represent a sea-change in how eCommerce companies should be approaching innovation and communication, and these numbers will surely subside as shopping via Google Home and Amazon Echo becomes easier and smarter.
“As voice and gesture devices become more mainstream, and even brain-computer interfacing edges ever closer to reality, retailers and brands need to act early to make a play in the market; voice experiences takes time to develop, require plenty of AI training and trial-and-error before they can be fully functioning. They should also look to own every interface and touchpoint with the customer. After all, if you own the interface, you own the customer.”