Shopping by ‘voice’ is becoming reality.
Argos, the catalogue retailer is using the Google Assistant Platform, allowing customers to shop by way of their Google Home smart speaker. It is the first retailer in the UK to offer the service and lets customers reserve products in a local store.
Amazon, which produces its own voice controlled Echo speakers is providing increased competition for retailers such as Argos. Amazon has sold millions of its Echo speakers, although analysts say few people use them to buy products.
Enabling the Argos service, will allow people to ask the Google Home smart speaker to check product availability and reserve items.
Argos chief executive John Rogers told the BBC: –
“This launch is step one and I don’t expect to turn on the app and suddenly double our sales, but I expect people will use it and experiment with it – and if we can make it a seamless process, you can see why people would want to use it.”
The service will also work via Google Assistant on smartphones.
However, shoppers will still need to browse the catalogue or retailer’s website to find the product they want to buy.
“We still distribute millions of catalogues to people’s homes,” said Mr Rogers.
“We all know that the catalogue on the coffee table, as a means of browsing, is really good – and it’s hard to replicate with today’s technology.”
Argos is owned by supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, which itself faces competition from Amazon as it expands its grocery delivery service.
Mr Rogers said Argos sold thousands of devices powered by Amazon’s Alexa voice technology, but the retailer does not have a voice app on the Alexa platform.
“We do talk to all these players, whether it’s Amazon, Google or Microsoft,” Mr Rogers told the BBC.
“We’re taking the approach of trying and testing – we’re dipping a toe in the water.”