Shop In The Machine: 3 Ways Retailers Can Maximize Virtual Assistants

By Bryan Pearson

(Jack Dempsey/AP Images for LG Electronics)

This is how Alexa buys coffee.

She waits for you to describe what you want, she culls through hundreds of thousands of items in a few moments, and then she asks, “OK, Starbucks Kuerig K-Cup variety pack. It’s $35.98. Should I order it?”

And just like that, Alexa may be turning retail on its increasingly virtual head.

She is not alone. The use of virtual assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri have been growing at a rapid pace — the market is expected to reach $12 billion by 2024, largely thanks to the addition of new functions, such as shopping.

Amazon, notably, has added Alexa to its shopping app so users can chat with the virtual assistant through an iPhone or iPad. And in late March, it added Alexa to its Prime Now two-hour delivery service. Apple, in the interim, is working in its own answer to Alexa, a Siri speaker for the home.

Virtual Transformation In Retail

The implications for retail extend beyond technological acuity. In the process of fetching boxes of coffee pods and candy, virtual assistants are transforming the standards of how consumers expect their day-to-day queries to be answered, said Eli Campo, CEO of Nanorep, a company that specializes in bots for e-commerce companies.

The fact that Amazon, the world’s eighth-largest retailer, owns Alexa underscores the sense of urgency to act, he said.

“To keep pace, retailers of all sizes need to be thinking about how they can implement their own virtual assistant technology,” Campo said. “This doesn’t just mean putting a bot on your website, but strategically identifying how this technology can improve customer relations.”

We Have A Bot For That

Easy to say, but how does a retailer determine the best technology for improving the experience among its customer base? Campo offers three tips:

  • Be a rover. Virtual assistants should not be limited to a channel or two. Like Alexa’s migration to the iPhone, bots should be transitional and omnipresent to provide instant answers everywhere the customer is, Campo said. “To compete, it’s not enough for retailers to just invest in a virtual assistant on their website. They’ll need to ensure they are allowing customers to engage across every possible touch point — from mobile to email to Facebook,” he said.

This boundless presence would enable retailers to meet the benchmark of convenience and ensure they are at the ready wherever and whenever their customers need them — with virtual effortlessness.

  • Talk like a sales associate. In order to hold a shopper’s interest, a retailer needs to engage them, and this usually requires contextual conversations. This is one pitfall of Alexa and other personal assistants — they rely on single-transaction communications. Users can ask just one question at a time, and receive the answer only to that particular question.

Campo argues that virtual assistants can evolve beyond such elementary talk, “enabling consumers to engage in a conversation, speaking the same way they would to an actual person.” By mastering this level of communication through a virtual sales associate, Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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