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From CES 2018: Assistance Is The New Battleground For Growth

The battle between Amazon and Google to be top dog in the virtual assistant market was the overarching theme at this year’s CES in Las Vegas (9-12 Jan, 2018).

Google lags behind in market share (23.8%) and was clearly determined to build momentum at CES to catch up to its main rival, Amazon, which currently has 70.6% of the market (eMarketer). The company took the word “everywhere” quite literally; it was impossible to overlook their major presence at the show with the “Hey Google” tagline on billboards, cabs and even branded monorails all over Las Vegas.

us voice enabled speaker user share by player

google at ces 2018
Impressions – Google at CES 2018 (Source: 9to5Google)


This year at CES it was no longer all about AR/VR. Voice is the new battle- and playground.

According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the global intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) market is expected to grow from $2.48 Billion in 2017 to $17.72 Billion by 2023, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38.82% between 2017 and 2023.

And, the prize is there for companies that get it right.

Clearly, Google and Amazon know this and used CES 2018 to vie for the attention of consumers and developers.

The companies announced a myriad of new partnerships with manufacturers, bringing Amazon and Google closer to consumers and into their smart homes. In 2018, several whitegoods and automakers will integrate Alexa and Google Assistant capabilities into their products. And in 2017, Walmart and Target partnered up with Google respectively to enable voice-based shopping.

In his opening remarks of a panel discussion at CES that discussed how brands can win today’s consumers with more relevant, assistive and instant experiences, Google President of the Americas, Allan Thygesem explained the trend by saying:

Assistance is really the new battleground for growth. As expectations of the empowered consumer continue to rise, the most assistive brands will win.”

The best time to win customers (over) is at the moment they ask for help.

The Most Helpful Brands Will Win

Voice will change the way customers are shopping and both Google and Amazon are at the forefront driving retail innovation towards a truly conversational experience. Research by JWT and Mindshare revealed that Voice eases the cognitive load, makes people feel efficient and is more intuitive than text or swipe. It’s only a matter of time until users will want to accomplish more than basic, utilitarian tasks such as switching lights on and off, ordering Pizza, playing Jeopardy or listening to their feel-good playlist.

But, realistically, the technology has some way to go before it will be able to deliver the meaningful, convenient customer experience that will catapult voice shopping into the mainstream. For example, Alexa currently allows shoppers only to reorder items in their purchase history or buy Amazon Choice products.

To enable quality voice shopping experiences, voice assistants need to do more than that. They need to anticipate needs and guide shoppers through their research and evaluation phases.

This requires asking the right qualifying questions to offer personalized, trustworthy, unbiased suggestions based on what is known about the customer.

Brands who sell more complex goods like shoes, washing machines, laptops, bikes or strollers – purchases that often involve a lot of browsing – may feel this shift towards voice shopping will have a minimal impact on their business.

But, as the technology evolves (which it will) and consumer adoption rises (which it will), it would be wrong for brands to ignore this trend. Consumers will come to demand doing all in one go by using their voice.

The most helpful brands will win!

Voice Shopping – Do It Right

Imagine buying an Apple Watch.

It’s a fairly easy transaction on a visual interface, such as a laptop or smartphone. Apple only offers a few product variations, so product listings can be browsed through without much effort – assuming you know exactly which version, color, and model you’re after.

Picture completing the same transaction through a voice-based interface. Having to listen to Alexa describe each product and its features would be a terrible customer experience. Now, imagine that you are confronted with a more complex product and a greater selection. Using voice would make this a nightmare scenario.

Voice makes the need for helpful digital advice and effective guidance more apparent.

Here you can see the first-ever demo showcasing how SMARTASSISTANT Digital Advice supports consumer- and needs-oriented voice shopping with Alexa (at Digital Advice Live! 2017 in London):

The SMARTASSISTANT Digital Advice suite provides a conversational interface that can be integrated with voice assistants.


Being able to ask the right qualifying questions is pivotal for voice assistants

Customers will want to interact with you anywhere, anytime and via multiple channels. But as a brand, you have to be aware that voice will add a more delicate and intimate quality to customer interactions and engagement. Therefore it’s even more important to get the experience right.

Brands that have integrated Digital Advice on their websites, mobile or in chatbot interfaces today are in a good position to seamlessly support frictionless and fast voice shopping once this new way to shop becomes popular in a not too distant future.

For example, the SMARTASSISTANT Digital Advice Suite provides solutions to assist shoppers throughout different stages of their journey while generating valuable data that can provide your brand with the necessary insights about consumer needs, preference, and intent. This information can be used to anticipate needs, train and improve AI-powered, conversational voice-activated assistants.

By knowing which questions to ask to help customers choose the right products, you have the key that enables you to make innovative leaps towards providing conversational shopping experiences.

If you want to deliver the frictionless, fast, meaningful and personal experiences customers will demand in the future, now is the time to get serious about voice shopping, Digital Advice, and conversational commerce.

Voice shopping will be a reality. Are you ready for it?

If you want to see how SMARTASSISTANT can help your company get ahead in this field by integrating Digital Advice into your omnichannel strategy, join us at our upcoming conference (Digital Advice Live! 2018, June 28th), contact us to see a demo or link up via LinkedIn.

I’d love to hear what you’re planning.


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Markus Linder is entrepreneur and co-founder of SMARTASSISTANT, now zoovu.