Google home, Amazon Echo and other virtual personal assistants will transform ecommerce marketing
2016 saw the rise of connected home voice assistants, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, but 2017 is the year they mature. Last week, Google announced that its Google Home product would be able to place orders of essential items for consumers in the US.
A user can place orders just by asking Google Home to do it, with the only interface being natural speech. This is the ultimate UX experience. Now it's as easy to get Google to pick up some shopping for you as it is to ask your better half if there is any milk left.
Google home will send your order to participating retailers, who can then fulfil it. Google has announced it is partnering with major retailers such as Costco, Whole Foods Market, Walgreens, PetSmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and many others. Interestingly Google has not let Google Home's Google assistant software place orders through Amazon, showing the two web giants are very much competing with each other for the personal, home-based voice assistant market.
In an effort to get customers on board with the new technology, Google announced the service will be totally free, with no need to pay for membership fees or delivery charges until April this year.
This is likely to be part of Google's strategy to catch up with Amazon, who've stolen a march on their competitors by launching their Amazon Echo product globally before other major tech companies were able to do so.
Implications for marketers
This new capability has major ramifications for marketers both in terms of the short term and further into the future. For large FMCG retailers, it's clearly important to work with Google to have your store's products listed so your customers can place orders for your products using the intuitive and frictionless natural speech interface that Google home affords. The service is likely to expand further to cover more and more providers, as Google will compete with Amazon to be able to offer as wide a range of products as Amazon is able to offer through its 'Prime' product. This will shape the future of ecommerce marketing. As personal assistants increasingly take orders via a voice interface, it will change the nature of SEO and internet advertising. To think about how it will change, let's envisage a possible conversation you might be having in your kitchen with your Amazon Echo or Google Home in 2021, when the AI capabilities of the software and increased more than tenfold.
You: "Alexa/Google, when is Paul's Birthday?"
Virtual assistant: "Paul's Birthday is on the 14th, two weeks tomorrow"
You: "Thanks, have you got any ideas what he would like?"
Virtual assistant: "From listening to your conversations with Paul, I think Paul would like a tapas cookery book, or some new running shoes"
You: "Good idea, I bet he'd love a tapas cookery book. He did really like the patatas bravas I made last week. Order a tapas cookery book please, are there any you would recommend?"
Virtual assistant: "The top-rated tapas cookery books at the moment are; Tapas Evolution, by world renowned chef Gregg Mulholland, Beautifully Tapas, by Instagram star Stella McGreaves, and How't t'Tapas, by Yorkshire TV personality Jimmie Oakham. "
You: "Haha, How't t'Tapas sounds good, Paul'll find that funny. Okay order that for me please"
Virtual assistant: "Your order of 'How't t'Tapas has been placed. You should receive it by robo-courier in the next four hours".
The question for marketers will then become - how to you get your product featured in those slots? Is it by paying Google, rather like AdWords? Is it by a new kind of SEO which seeks to write content with the perfect set of keywords to make the AI know it is what the customer wants? Is it by building quality back links, which show the AI that your product held in high regard by trusted sites? Is it by working to get loads of great customer reviews, which the AI holds in high regard when judging which products to present to the user?
Obviously, the answer for now is simply 'we don't know' as the technology is not at that stage yet. But it's rapidly getting there, as this recent announcement from Google shows. So, us marketers had better start thinking how to adjust our strategies for when it does.