Audible Voice of the Retail Customer in 2018

Landscape-Shifting Market Transitions in 2018:  Living in a Post-Qwerty World?

Been reading a lot of predictions about what’s ahead for retail and retail technology for 2018.

Some point to the continuation of an ongoing trend line. Some state the obvious.

And some point to a major market transition that will re-shape the industry landscape.


Let’s discuss another one that is very important, even long-term.

This is the year we’ll see the industry impact of audible voice-driven search

Is this a drop-everything-and-rush-to-it transition? No, not yet. But behind closed doors, I see and hear the best and brightest of the industry starting to make plans.

For 2018 tests and pilots. And 2019 reality.

There’s a drumbeat of data-based leading indicators. Google reported in 2016 that audible voice drove some 20 percent of its searches in 2016. Primary 2017 research published at reported that 21.6 percent of those surveyed used audible voice search once a day – and another 26.7 percent did so at least once a week.

Various analysts have forecast that by 2020 – that’s two years from now -- some 30 to 50 percent of US internet searches will be by audible voice (or without screens). And by that same year, some 20 to 30 million smart speakers will be in use in the United States.

Meanwhile, conversational speech recognition accuracy continues to climb. Microsoft announced in August that its speech recognition system had achieved a best-ever 5.1 percent English-language error rate. Earlier in the year, Google claimed 95 percent accuracy – a 20 percent improvement since 2013. Both are roughly on par with the human ear.

What does it all mean?

Welcome to the Post-Qwerty World

First and foremost, we’re on the path to a post-Qwerty, post-touchscreen world. Most of us will talk to our devices, not tap them.

Second, as the artificial intelligence beneath our devices acquires more and more knowledge, our devices will not only answer questions… but begin to deliver conversation; comprised not only of noun-verb commands but full sentences. Filled with inflection and emotion. Which opens the door to an enormously deeper understanding of shopper interactions and experiences.

Third, it will start with search. But search – as it does not with Amazon’s Echo-Alexa-Prime combination – leads to commerce.

And conversational commerce – not just for Amazon and Google and Alibaba, but for your brand – is beginning to unfold right now.

How will they find your brand via audible voice?  How will they shop with you in an audible voice-driven world?

Won’t be long until the landscape’s been re-arranged.   Yet again.

Let me know what you think. Join me on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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Jon Stine

About Jon Stine

Global Director Retail Sales at Intel. Jon Stine leads Intel’s global sales and strategy for the retail, hospitality, and consumer goods industry sectors. His CV includes leadership of North American retail consulting practice for Cisco Systems, and a prior stint at Intel, where he founded the company’s sales and marketing focus on the retail industry. His perspective on technology’s value in the industry has been shaped by advisory and project engagements in the United States, across the European Union, and in India, Australia, and the People’s Republic of China, and from 15 years of executive sales and marketing experience in the U.S. apparel industry, working with the nation’s leading department and specialty stores. At Intel, his current areas of research and engagement include the future of the store in this new digital age; how and where retailers turn data into competitive advantage; the role of technology within the new cross-channel shopper journey, and, the critical business and IT capabilities that industry success will demand going forward.