Shopping by voice

I’ve been doing a demo recently of UCIC’s Lexa app (our integration with Alexa Voice Service). I say “Order some batteries”. The response is:

“Based on Leor’s order history, I’ve found Amazon Basics batteries AA — 48 pack. It’s $23.75 total. Should I order it?”

If I say “OK” or “yes”, the order is placed. I can also then say “cancel order” to cancel the last order.

This seems like a benign element of voice interaction but it is the life blood and main argument behind the billions of dollars being poured into ambient voice interaction. It only takes a small increase in the number of household purchases to be captured to present a large ROI to Amazon or other companies in the space.

But is it practical?

From personal use, I can’t yet say. My AVS / Echo account is tied to a US-based Amazon Prime account and the result is that most items don’t ship to Canada or the shipping cost is prohibitive (which is why I was surprised when the ordering actually started to work and I received a pack of batteries a week after my voice order).

At a conceptual level, it is very practice. It is so much more convenient to re-order coffee, a burnt-out light bulb, or dish soap by voice than to go to an app, search for the product, and re-order.

Amazon’s first foray into home voice was through the Amazon Fresh Dash device. The problem was that you needed to find the device wherever you last placed it to add to a shopping list, rather than just waking up the Echo.

The Amazon Dash is a device for capturing frequent household purchases through voice or bar code.

Other products on the market, like the Hiku, work similarly — but they also allow for shopping on PeaPod and Walmart.

Hiku offers the ability to order through voice for Walmart and Peapod.

We’re now seeing the next evolution of voice shopping happen with the tie-in of services like travel and taxis (Lyft and Uber) through voice. Eventually, instead of us commanding these, the devices will predict our consumption and prompt us for permission to order.

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