February 2020

Products like Amazon Echo and Google Home are taking over consumers’ homes as they now connect to more third party devices. “We are also witnessing more engagement with

mainstream devices in the home,” explains Rod Slater, Head of Smart Tech and IoT at Exertis. “These consumer electronics devices are the late entries to the smart tech party, but without doubt, they are some of the most important. It’s an exciting time – we are seeing smart doorbells integrate with smart TVs in a way that makes sense for the consumer and this is just the beginning. “An increasing consumer demand for automation that enables more convenient living, reduced consumption of energy and better security is now at the forefront,” Mr Slater continues. “And we’re excited to see entertainment and domestic appliances begin to take centre stage through 2020. “Retailers will be able to create a far more engaging demonstration of in-home smart tech propositions linking TVs and appliances with smart speakers. Let’s be honest, it’s a lot more engaging turning on a light bulb or plug with a smart speaker.”

Let the music play While figures for 2019 are up on 2018, usage is still an interesting topic. It may be no surprise that playing music still accounts for the biggest use of voice controlled speakers, while those making a purchase is much lower – such as shopping or ordering a takeaway. Futuresource Consulting’s recent Audio Tech Lifestyles consumer survey revealed that, at 70 per cent, listening to music is by far the most popular use

for smart speakers. It is such a fundamental function that 52 per cent of owners said they couldn’t live without the feature! Meanwhile, in physical retail stores, products simply sat on a shelf are not going to convince consumers to part with their money, especially those that see voice control as a step too far, says Mr Todaro. “With voice control products, the customer

journey needs to extend beyond simply saying ‘Hey Google, what’s the weather like tomorrow?’ as it’s well known that this is possible. Think beyond this and have an in-store showroom for real world scenarios… Like ‘Hey Google, I’m home’, at which point the Nest smart thermostat dials up, the lights switch on, the security recording stops and some relaxing music plays.” Mr Slater agrees, saying that the biggest challenges

for most retailers is the breadth of products they range online and the fragmented, unconnected, in- store POS they have setup.

“These displays do not tell a story, they do not engage the consumer in a journey, they are not experiential, and they do not create a setting the consumer can relate to.”

Hearing the consumer’s voice Mr Todaro adds: “Retailers have to practice what they preach by understanding how to integrate voice into the physical store experience and retail strategy, as this is what consumers will expect.” For example, there is a voice-based app prototype

for Amazon Alexa which has demonstrated how voice technology can be used to help in-store shoppers find products and answer their product- related questions. This innovation could


retailers reduce demands on staff and create unique shopper profiles that capture consumers’ preferences to help personalise future visits to the store. This application can be great in certain scenarios. For example, if you’re trying to fathom out which ink cartridge your printer requires from the plethora on display, asking a smart device might be a simple and convenient option. Or for more routine fashion purchases like the kids’ school uniforms. But would people use it? Recent research conducted by Gekko Field Marketing showed that 77 per cent of people would much rather use a checkout/till with a real person on it than an automated system, and 43 per cent stated they would rather speak to a person than an automated system. “So are people as ready for voice assistants in-

store as they are in the home,” questions Mr Todaro, “and for more than just playing music, or are we light years away from that? “The market is there and the tech industry is clearly pushing voice technology, so retailers need to get on board. The development of assistant- enabled devices is not going to abate with more of our everyday devices, appliances and utilities commanded by voice and seamlessly integrated. The need to get on the AI train this decade is not optional as consumers see this as the new ‘normal’.”


Kohler’s Moxie smart speaker shower head

The 24-inch IoT Microwave Drawer from Sharp Electronics

Wemo’s Wi-Fi Smart Plug offers Amazon Alexa support

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