There are four people and two pets that live at my house.
My pets are real. But only three of the four people are.
There’s my wife, my 10-month-old son, me…and another. Sometimes my wife says it’s my mistress. Or at least my digital mistress.
The fourth person in the house is Alexa.
I haven’t recorded the stats yet. I should. But I’d hazard to guess the name most used in our house on a day-to-day basis is probably Alexa’s.
If it’s not me calling her name, I can often hear my wife call it. And when he can talk, I guarantee it won’t be long until my son is calling her name too.
This is the new world we live in
If you don’t know what I’m on about yet, I’m talking about our home ‘voice assistant’ from Amazon, Alexa.
Alexa is built into a half dozen devices in our house. In any room in the house you can ask Alexa to do something and ‘she’ll’ hear you.
‘Alexa, turn on study,’ the lights in my study come on to a predetermined colour and brightness.
‘Alexa, play the best Christmas songs of all time in the living room,’ a playlist from Spotify with the best Christmas songs of all time plays through the Sonos soundbar in the living room.
‘Alexa, add milk to the shopping list.’ That one is self-explanatory…
These are all very basic Alexa commands. She’s capable of more. You can ask her loads of different questions and she’ll do her best to find the answers for you. ‘Alexa, what time is the next Formula 1 grand prix on?’ Simple questions like that.
Of course Alexa is Amazon’s answer to voice search and voice assistances. Google has their own through Google home. Apple has their own voice assistant via Siri. Samsung has theirs with Bixby.
This is the new world we live in. No longer is it a prerequisite to hook into a computer and search with a keyboard for information. You can just ask one of your smart devices.
What’s interesting about all this is the rapid growth in voice assistants and voice search.
By 2022 it’s estimated Amazon’s dominance in the voice-enabled smart speaker market will grow to 55%. That’s up from 13% in early 2018.
Furthermore, these estimates project that voice shopping will balloon to over US$40 billion. This is the new frontier of e-commerce and market opportunity.
Take for instance the pre-Black Friday sales that Amazon had going. You might not have noticed them, Amazon is still finding its feet in the Aussie market. But here in the UK in the lead up to the Black Friday shopping week, Amazon had some special deals on.
They were heavily discounting their own smart, voice-enabled devices. But there was a catch…
We’re only in the very early stages of what’s possible
You could only take advantage of these deals by ordering them through your existing smart speaker devices. Right now the experience is a little weird and a little clunky. And Alexa doesn’t always understand what I’m saying — that’s not great if you’re trying to buy things.
But it’s a preview of how technology is developing inside the home.
What we experience now with voice search, voice assistants, and voice purchasing is the very early stages of what’s possible.
Think about it like this…
When the iPhone hit the market it was a pretty advanced feature phone. But it wasn’t until the app store launched with all kind of apps that its potential began to truly open up.
And the ‘app boom’ helped to create wealth unlike any other period in history.
But early on it was a little clunky, difficult, and strange to use. The very idea of buying something through an app on your phone was hard to get your head around. Why buy something through an app when you can just pop to the store to get it?
Now the first place you go to look for something is online. And through sites like Etsy, Not on the High Street, ASOS, and Amazon, you can easily and with a slick experience get what you need without leaving the couch.
This is the direction I see voice heading as well. Give it a couple more years and there’ll be an increasing saturation of voice-enabled devices in the market. Voice shopping will become as commonplace as buying through an app.
‘Alexa, show me some new t-shirt styles,’ Alexa will display some t-shirt styles based on previous purchases and make suggestions as to what you might like. This will display on one of your voice-enabled smart speaker screens…like Echo Show or Google Home.
You’ll see a t-shirt on the screen. But you don’t like it, ‘show next t-shirt.’
You see another one. But you don’t like that one either, ‘show next t-shirt.’
You see one you like, ‘Oh, I like that one. Alexa, buy that t-shirt in a large.’
‘Are you sure you want to buy this t-shirt now for twenty-five dollars?’
‘Purchase complete, estimated delivery is tomorrow at 1pm.’
Smart devices as new e-commerce channels
Now, if this is how e-commerce is going to develop, that creates opportunities for businesses to look to smart devices as new e-commerce channels. What it means is that companies must be progressive in their approach to voice shopping.
Those that see the economic potential of this fast-growing opportunity will profit the most. It opens a new avenue for small-cap e-commerce companies like Kogan.com Ltd [ASX:KGN], RedBubble Ltd [ASX:RBL], and Temple & Webster Group [ASX:TPW].
And if the big boys in town are switched on, companies like JB-HiFi Ltd [ASX:JBH], Super Retail Group Ltd [ASX:SUL], and Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd [ASX:HVN] could also be lifted to new heights as they find themselves working into every Aussie home.
Companies are always looking for new ways to market their products and sell their goods to consumers. The way I see it their next big opportunity, and yours, is through voice.
Editor, Money Morning