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“Alexa, what will be your impact on e-commerce?”

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Technology: First we held it, then we wore it. And now? We don’t even have to touch it. Voice-activated technology is here, and it’s influencing every facet of our lives.

Gone are the days of wishing that life came with a virtual assistant. Siri, Google Home, and Cortana are here. And, outshining its voice-activated competitors, Amazon’s Echo, powered by Alexa-technology, has made that dream a reality for many North American homes.

Whether you’re setting an alarm, dimming the lights, or playing the appropriate music for Saturday morning, Alexa converts your voice into action. Life is getting more convenient, while reducing the time we need to spend on screens.

That said, Alexa represents more than simplicity. It’s a new consumer channel. Once again, commerce faces disruption – this time from voice assistants. Already marking $2 billion in sales today, voice shopping is expected to increase to $40 billion by 2022.

This channel, and its growing traction, poses threats and opportunities for brands. Specifically, when we look at the Amazon conglomerate, Alexa is a tool that businesses must simultaneously utilize and compete against.

“Alexa, can you order this week’s groceries?”

Recent research revealed that voice commerce consumers are younger, more affluent, and likely to have children. These consumers are purchasing stand-alone, lower value, and commoditized items (think groceries, entertainment and electronics). 

If your product or service aligns with this current voice commerce use case, can you be found by Alexa? Do you have a voice commerce strategy for this channel? 

What about if your products and services aren’t commoditized, or come with a higher price tag? Is there a place for your business to penetrate the market using voice assistants?

Truth be told, a lot of organizations are already playing catch-up when it comes to a voice technology channel strategy. However, large market opportunity is still present. Not only will consumer demographics broaden, but as voice technology also gains more trust, the volume of purchases and their average price will increase. This means that nearly all businesses should be utilizing the channel to generate more sales.

“Alexa, are your skills my new advertising strategy?”

An app to your smartphone is a skill to Alexa. With over 15,000 skills to choose from – skills that have been created by Amazon, businesses, and the public – Alexa has an answer for just about any question.

With the rise of voice commerce, your brand needs to be where consumers are searching for solutions. Great content marketing strategies will be leveraging this channel and developing Alexa skills in order to engage target markets.

Take a look at Tide. “Alexa, how do I get red wine out of the carpet?” The brand implemented a “stain remover” skill, which includes voice instructions on how to remove over 200 types of stains. According to reviews, the skill itself is quite helpful. Backlash comes from Tide commercials that play with the skill. It’s about striking the balance between being available to consumers, without aggressively pushing the brand. 

“Alexa, how do you know my preferred brands?”

And here is the conflict between hopping on the Amazon bandwagon, using their technology – while also competing against the empire.

Remember Amazon’s $13.7 billion Whole Foods Market acquisition last year? Not seen as obvious partners at first, the news came with speculation that Amazon saw value in the grocery chain’s physical presence. While perhaps partially true, think about how voice commerce today is predominantly grocery transactions. We’re watching history repeat itself as Amazon has uncovered a market need, and developed a new and more convenient channel for consumers to get what they want.

Amazon has a firm hold over consumers’ buying decisions, with 85% of consumers selecting the products Amazon suggests. As Amazon grows, of course, their priority will be to push their own brands, products, and services.

Should Amazon’s own agenda deter you from using their products and technology? No. Like always, Amazon is onto something, and there is business to be won. But, as your organization evolves its strategy to incorporate voice, remember that Alexa isn’t the only option. As other voice assistants compete for market share, consider that there may be just as much – or more – opportunity to use other voice assistants in the future.

Evan Klein
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March 22, 2018
Evan Klein

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