Will Google Assistant Become Retail’s Next Big Thing?

Technology company Google recently announced new angles to its Google Assistant. With a voice command, Google Assistant can offer help with a number of tasks, such as making phone calls, playing music and looking up information, similar to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Echo.

New apps for Google’s voice assistant will give app developers the opportunity to push the voice assistant in directions it had not approached before, such as shopping for clothes or ordering food off of a menu, according to a blog posted by Brad Abrams, product manager for Google Assistant.

For those using the app for commerce, the apps could transmit payments and also track and modify an order.

Executives for physical and e-commerce boutiques said that commerce coming from voice-based assistants has not been a conversation topic or something for which they are actively planning, according to informal interviews with a handful of retail chiefs. The rapid pace of business trends over the past decade has proved that today’s little-known technology can become tomorrow’s new moneymaker.

Tom Caporaso of Clarus Commerce, based in Rocky Hill, CT., said that voice-based assistants have a good chance of becoming the next big thing.

“Voice-based assistants are now integrated into many facets of our lives, including our cell phones, cars and devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo,” Caporaso said. “So people are quite familiar with the value and convenience that the technology brings. Amazon, especially, has seen early rewards from Echo users, who are spending 10 percent more and making 6 percent more purchases than they were before owning the device. Amazon sold an estimated 9 million devices alone during the 2016 holiday season, which just proves that there is a market and a significant interest surrounding voice-based technology.”

Caporaso is chief executive officer of Clarus Commerce, which owns and operates and ShopSmarter and works in the field of e-commerce, subscription commerce and premium loyalty solutions.

Still, commerce from voice-based assistants may not be right around the corner, Caporaso said. Since consumers currently cannot view a product with a voice-based assistant, commerce from the app might be limited to reorders of items they know and have purchased before.

In the past decade or so, many new technologies have been introduced—and not all of them succeeded. Along with forecasting new fashion trends, retailers now must predict which technologies are going to take hold. Brooke Taylor Corcia, founder and chief executive officer of The Dreslyn, a downtown Los Angeles–based e-commerce business, said that retailers should ask a few questions about a new technology before getting involved with it.

“Is there a need for it in the market as a solution? Or is it just an interesting feature that can lose interest over time? What are the costs to introduce the feature versus the benefit gained? It seems the things that stick add value. [They] are easy to implement or affordable to purchase and are simple to use,” she said.