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Voice assistants

Voice assistants have been booming since the launch of Amazon Echo in November 2014 folowed by Google Home. The question then is : how brands can and must grasp this new interface ?



Since the launch of Amazon Echo in November 2014, voice assistants have been literally booming. Google Assistant is now available on over 500 million devices, on both smartphones and smart speakers. Meanwhile, Amazon Echo has sold over 30 million units in the US, UK and Germany. Good news for France, it has been available since 13th June on the French mainland in three of its six versions.

Being so popular, it is expected that 50% of internet searches will be done by voice by 2020. Actors in technology say that voice is the user interface of the future.

Confirming this trend, Carrefour has announced that in 2019 its customers will be able to buy their groceries via the Google Assistant and Google Shopping interfaces. Orders can be picked up in store or delivered directly to homes.


With this partnership, Carrefour is opening up “access” to its customer data, as Google will obviously be aware of the voice instructions given. For its part, Carrefour will know the text / formulations of the voice commands but cannot know any more. Indeed, the brand will have no information on vocal emotions when giving orders, unlike Google who could very well analyse these emotions, as proposed by Amy Webb of The Future Society at SXSW 2018. Today, via algorithms, by analysing the voice of a person it is possible to find out their emotions, their age or even their mental state.

Beyond this issue of data, how can brands who are currently visible via their packaging and promotions, continue to be visible in a voice-based ecosystem without visual media?


Once again, brands will have to battle to rethink their SEO by moving from keyword referencing to request referencing!

It will also become very difficult to understand how customers will verbally formalise their orders. Will they specify brands or just product type? For example, will consumers ask Alexa “Order me Kleenex” or rather “Order me paper tissues”?


And what about the personality of these voice assistants, will they still be very robotic? Brands are obliged to be encapsulated by one of the 4 voices of Google available on their assistant (there will soon be 8), or one the two choices of Alexa voices. Indeed, is it conceivable or appropriate that a brand like Mercedes should agree to have the same voice as a brand such as Bonduelle, via these assistants?

Currently there is no alternative to these voice assistants (Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, Bixby, etc.).  However, brands and stores must now think about how to construct their own vocal ecosystems before it is too late.

The aim of the technological giants behind these assistants is to encapsulate customer needs and acquire knowledge of their consumption habits, in order, of course, to better serve them.

In this era of GDPR, are brands, stores and consumers not already victims of their servitude to Silicon Valley?

As an expert in emerging technologies, Nicolas travels to innovation shows around the world to spot and analyse the new trends.
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