Retailers must embrace voice-activated era, warns expert

The launch of Google Home – the new, hands-free smart speaker from the search engine giant – will mean retailers will need to adapt their businesses in order to sell products in a screen-less and voice-activated environment.

That’s the view of e-commerce consultancy Salmon. Commenting on today’s UK launch of Google Home, Hugh Fletcher, Salmon’s global head of consultancy and innovation, said: “The launch of Google Home in the UK marks the continued proliferation of digital assistants, as consumers become more accustomed to using voice interfaces with the internet, as opposed to screens. It slots into our lives with little disruption, and ultimately begs the question of whether we’ll need a physical interface in the near future – this is what retailers now need to be asking themselves.”

Hugh Fletcher

Added Mr Fletcher (pictured): “Google Home and other digital assistants, such as Amazon Echo, bring up the battle for ownership of the customer in the next big interface – the home. Getting into the home early and being the hub for connectivity, as well as a key interface, will provide the company with the ‘first mover’ advantage. By creating the epicentre of the home ecosystem, Google with Home and Amazon with Echo have made an exceptional strategic long-term play, which allows them to develop the relationship with the customer.”

Google Home is available from Argos, Currys PC World, John Lewis and Maplin for a price of £129. The hands-free smart speaker is powered by Google Assistant and can be activated by using the voice command “OK Google”.

Users are able to ask questions, play music, and control smartphone devices using the small speaker. Google Home also uses Google’s search technology to find answers from the internet before they are read out to the questioner.

Said Mr Fletcher: “As consumers begin to move away from their screens, retailers need to think about how they are going to adapt and sell their products through a screen-less and voice-activated experience. This will not only impact a retailer’s business model, but also the talent that they need to employ, as visual design skills will no longer suffice. We could very well see the need for a ‘super designer’ too, whereby they will need to encompass biology, psychology and engineering to create the new experience.”