HEY ALEXA, WHY IS VOICE SHOPPING SO LOUSY?

WIRED | 6/17/2019 | Arielle Pardes
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Scroll through Twitter and you'll find all manner of jokes about Alexa's on-demand shopping abilities. In response to internet drama: "Alexa, order me popcorn." In response to sad news: "Alexa, order me a box of tissues." In response to climate change: "Alexa, order us a new planet."

Amazon's chatty bot, like its voice-assistant brethren, was meant to liberate us from our most tedious tasks. That includes buying things—reordering toothpaste, stocking the fridge. But voice commerce remains a largely unfulfilled promise; most of us aren't ordering anything through our smart speakers.

Voice - Commerce

"Voice commerce is completely overrated."

It’s not just the high rate of failure but the way those assistants fail that’s interesting. For some of the questions, assistants redirected the user to the browser—as in, "Sorry, I can’t help with that, but I found something on the web." Other times, the voice assistant simply misunderstood the request. In one case, when asked where to buy diapers, Alexa inexplicably directed the Forrester researchers to the town of Buy in Russia.

Voice - Assistants - Ways - Ask - Alexa

Voice assistants can prove less-than-capable in other ways, too. Ask Alexa to buy laundry detergent and it can add some to your Amazon shopping cart without much trouble. But ask for something more specific—say, fragrance-free detergent pods under $25—and it's likely to get tripped up.

"A bunch of companies built Alexa skills and I just wonder, 'Why?'" says Sucharita Kodali, the retail expert at Forrester. "Voice commerce is completely overrated. It doesn’t make sense for most purchases except for a quick replenishment purchase of something you recently purchased from Amazon and your payment and shipping information is stored."

Amazon - Advantage - Space - Voice - Technology

Amazon has the distinct advantage in this space, since it controls both the voice technology and the marketplace. It also sells its own line of products, called Amazon Basics, that are better suited to voice-orders. "Voice commerce is very much...
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