E-Handbook:

Customers buy more and more into voice shopping

BACKGROUND IMAGE: Neyro/Fotolia

Can you hear me now? Voice vital to sales and service

Just a couple years ago, trusting a smart speaker such as a Google Home, Amazon Alexa or their competitors to do anything more than play streaming audio entertainment might have seemed like something out of The Jetsons. To the untrained eye, these little tech gewgaws were the purview of the nerdiest of your nerd friends -- the one who has to get the latest toy first and show it off. Voice shopping was not yet on the radar screen.

Flash forward to today. While not everyone has a smart speaker in their home, a recent survey by Adobe predicted that nearly half of U.S. households will have one by the end of 2018.

That swift growth in market penetration inspires companies to look for business upside in engaging customers through the voice channel. Having a presence in customers' living rooms offers rich opportunities to create voice sales and lower barriers to repeat orders. But it also enhances customer service by voice-enabling chatbot virtual agents and initiating customer contact with human agents.

The technology isn't perfect, of course. There's still some progress to be made with two assistive technologies in particular -- natural language processing and voice recognition. AI, also, isn't perfectly reliable 100% of the time yet constantly refines itself to be more accurate and intuitive.

This handbook examines the state of voice commerce and how consumers are taking to it. We also look at early adopting companies and one city government and how they use this new tech to enable voice shopping and improve customer experiences.

Two years ago, voice shopping didn't seem possible, but two years from now, it might very well be a part of most everyone's daily routine.

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