You all should know about e-commerce by now, but what the hell is ‘v-commerce’? Dale Beaumont (pictured below), founder and CEO of BRiN – the world’s first artificially intelligent business adviser – provides the lowdown on this new AI-driven trend.
The e-commerce revolution of 20 years ago brought us the freedom of buying goods and ordering services online. What started as a novelty quickly became a way of life and is now something few of us can imagine getting by without.
We order everything from pizza to party supplies on the web, all with a few taps, swipes and clicks.
E-commerce has changed the world, shifting products faster than ever and creating incredible business opportunities for anyone with a device and an internet connection.
We are now about to enter the next phase of digital commerce thanks to artificial intelligence and voice recognition technology.
The click of a button is about to become a distant memory. Instead of placing orders using a screen, consumers will simply speak out loud.
Artificially intelligent voice assistants will soon help us book flights, find hotel rooms and even order flowers for Aunt Mary’s birthday. By referring to our purchasing history, they will be able to make recommendations and place orders on our behalf.
This evolution towards v-commerce is already well underway. In the US, Amazon’s voice-activated Echo device has pride of place in over eight million homes. Consumers can use ‘Alexa’ to turn on the lights and check local traffic. They can also say “Hey Alexa, order some laundry powder”. This smart machine will place an order based on previous purchase history and the product will show up in the mail the very next day.
Voice-activated technology is proving to be a goldmine for Amazon, with the company forecast to hit a whopping $10 billion in total revenue from device sales and shopping by the year 2020. Investment bank RBC predicts the online shopping giant will have 500 million active customers by this time.
Not to be left out of their slice of the v-commerce pie, Google and retailer Walmart recently joined forces to offer a similar service. This will make thousands of products available just by saying “Ok Google…”. Shoppers who link their Walmart account to Google Home will benefit from personalised recommendations based on previous purchases.
Australians may not be able to shop at Walmart, but we can get our hands on Google Home. No doubt major local retailers are already in discussions to make shopping easier than ever.
The undeniable popularity of voice
The rapid ascension of voice-activated technology means our voice assistants are able to help us with an ever-increasing list of tasks. As a global population, we are getting used to the convenience of a personal assistant in our pockets.
According to a recent Business Insider report, changes in consumer behaviour and habits are leading to greater adoption of voice assistants. As BI’s Voice-Assistant Landscape Report states, “Chief among these are increased overall awareness and a higher level of comfort demonstrated by younger consumers”.
Improvements in AI, natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning are combining with more powerful smartphones and faster cloud computing to make voice an increasingly attractive proposition.
For businesses of all sizes, this represents one thing: opportunity.
Joining the v-commerce bandwagon
An ominous warning came from eBay CEO Devin Wenig at this year’s ShopTalk conference in Las Vegas: “If you don’t have an AI strategy, you are going to die in the world that’s coming.”
Amazon’s incredible success is taking its toll. As shown in KPCB’s 2017 Internet Trends report, the shopping giant and its quick delivery are affecting once popular retailers like American Apparel and RadioShack, causing them to close stores around the US.
V-commerce is a matter of sink or swim. Now is the time to get on board with artificial intelligence and voice capability.
As a first step, it’s important to make sure a website is discoverable by assistants like Siri, Cortana and Google. Review the content strategy and include search terms people are likely to say rather than type (e.g. “Find the nearest salon” and “Where can I buy outdoor furniture?”).
Make sure the business is listed and verified on Google with an address and phone number. Ask Siri or Google to find a similar business and see what comes up – it may be that more attention needs to be paid to online discoverability.
Leveraging the v-commerce explosion doesn’t mean investing millions the way Amazon has. In fact, Amazon and high-level IT developers have made it easy by doing the hard yards. They have paved the way for talking fridges and air conditioners. Voice assistants have the technology to offer unprompted reminders and sale notifications, and special offers that can be personalised for individuals.
What’s left is to figure out how integrating with voice technology will prepare business for a future where we forgo typing to talk.