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Tipping point for UK voice commerce

Retailers need to prepare for an explosion of voice-generated sales, as UK consumers become more comfortable using voice devices in their homes.

At a retailer breakfast briefing hosted by Capgemini and IMRG in London on Tuesday, the companies discussed how voice commerce is at a tipping point for use by UK retailers and consumers.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, said retailers slashed the price of voice-activated devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo before Christmas, which means many UK consumers now have this technology in their homes.

While not many UK consumers are using the technology to purchase today, Capgemini expects 17% to be using the devices to buy products by 2020. Mulcahy pointed to the US which adopted the technology before the UK back in 2014, and consumers now find their devices an indispensable part of their lives.

“There needs to be a process where we learn how to use them,” he said. “They have to become useful before they become shopping devices. Perhaps driven by slightly more affluent customers who have connected lights in their home and use voice technology to switch them on – and there’s a certain demographic who have the money to buy connected lights.”

Gareth Rees, director of planning at digital consultancy, Epiphany, said there are similarities between the growth of mobile and the growth of voice commerce, as well as consumer perceptions of the technologies.

“When mobile launched, consumers said: ‘I’m never going to buy on mobile’, and now it’s: ‘I’m not going to buy on voice’.”

He added: “Consumers now are researching but they’re not buying yet – it’s exactly the same as mobile.”

This echoed what Google said at the NRF 2018 conference in NYC last week, where the technology giant said it is only in the very early stages of voice technology. 

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