How Voice Technology is Changing the Omnichannel Experience

Lisa-Marie Els


How AI can take your retail experience to the next level

To get your customers buying more and buying more often, you need to adopt an omnichannel approach to marketing and sales. Essentially, the more channels your customers have to engage with your brand, the better customers they become.  

However, creating a strong omnichannel experience, one which gives your customers a seamless buying journey over a multitude of channels and devices, can be difficult. That’s when AI comes in handy. Voice assistants and chatbots are fast becoming instrumental in the marketing strategy: they tailor brand experiences to customer preferences, resulting in higher sales and more loyal customers. It should come as no surprise to learn that AI is predicted to completely transform the world of retail.  

Combining bricks and clicks: why an omnichannel approach is crucial to success 

Consumer behavior studies highlight the importance of adopting an omnichannel approach. After analyzing the shopping patterns of just over 46,000 customers, the Harvard Business Review found most consumers (73%) used multiple channels during their buying journey and spent an average of 4% more in-store and 10% more online than single-channel users.  

Spending also increased in relation to the number of channels available. On average, customers who used four channels or more spent 9% more in-store compared with those who used just one channel. More channels also resulted in greater loyalty: six months after completing a purchase, omnichannel customers recorded 23% more repeat business than single-channel customers, proving that omnichannel marketing yields results. 

How AI technology will set businesses apart 

From studies like this, it’s clear that today’s shoppers want choice. They want to visit physical stores, view online catalogs, compare prices via an app, and read reviews on social media.  

Customers also want an integrated, seamless shopping experience, no matter the channels used. Whether it be by website, mobile, internet, store visit, or phone, customers expect to pick up on their buying journey where they left off previously.  

 AI technology can help marketers provide this shopping experience. AI-enabled chatbots can track the conversations, searches and preferences of a customer, making each part of the omnichannel experience more interactive and personal. Chatbots can also guide customers to complete a purchase, by recommending similar or complementary products, or by answering questions about products instantly.  

Starbucks setting standards 

Starbucks is an example of one company embracing the business potential of AI in the omnichannel experience. Starbucks launched “My Starbucks Barista”, an AI-powered mobile chatbot through which customers can order and pay for drinks by voice command. Amazingly, the chatbot even allows customers to modify their orders, just as if they were speaking to a real-life human.  

Starbucks has also integrated with Amazon Alexa, allowing customers ask Alexa to reorder their favorite drinks. Customers can then skip queues at the store and simply collect their order at the counter. This convenience, and the technology’s ability to “remember” favorite orders is what sets the company apart and drives sales.  

AI has changed the way Starbucks sells to its customers: the data collected from the mobile app and rewards system informs the point-of-sales systems at every outlet in the country, meaning that, no matter which store the customer visits, the barista has instant access to information about the customer’s order history. An AI-driven engine can recommend new products to customers based on the weather, location and even time of the year. Think Cinnamon Spice latte at Christmas. This is personalized marketing at its best and serves to delight and retain customers.  

A voice assistant is your very own personal shopper 

Over the next decade, AI will transform the way businesses connect with customers. AI assistants are already becoming ubiquitous: as of 2019, more than 100 million Alexa devices have been sold around the world. Last year, Google predicted Google Assistant to be available on one billion devices. Voice assistants will become the primary channel through which people search for information, goods and services, and will help consumers navigate through the often-bewildering number of choices available to them. AI-enabled assistants are essentially fulfilling the role of personal shopper, tailoring suggestions and searches to every customer’s taste, preferences and interests. 

This is the perfect opportunity for brands to make their mark. A Capgemini study found that customers are increasingly preferring to use voice assistants across the customer journey. The study also showed that 70% of consumers will replace their visits to the dealer, store, or bank with their voice assistants, while an increasing percentage trust their voice assistants for product advice and recommendations. It’s clear that businesses would do well to incorporate voice assistants and chatbots into their marketing strategy. 

Adopt AI to drive business goals 

The way customers interact with businesses is changing, and businesses need to evolve to keep up. Incorporating voice assistants or chatbots into your omnichannel experience to support sales and customer service will provide your customers with a seamless brand experience, increasing sales and brand loyalty, and driving business goals. Now’s the time for businesses to adopt this technology early on, setting the standards for customers and competitors.