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Voice in Retail Environments

One of the smartest applications of technology in retail over the past two decades was the price checking barcode scanner. Some individual or group was able to look at customer frustration points and the most common requests to store associates and say… “you know what… we need a way to allow customers to do this on their own.”

The price scanner is intuitive, easy, and there is sometimes excellent signage to find these scanners. What’s the next point of frustration? … finding items. Third… is the item in stock.

These are tasks that machines can do better and where voice interaction can speed the experience. A kiosk with a good USB mic can be used to help guide to the location of an item and indicate whether it’s in stock.

Some guidelines:

  • Push to talk must be very fast with endpoint detection to match the environment
  • It has to have zero latency in pulling up the result
  • Responses should be visual and not spoken out through the device. It’s the same way the user will use the result and reduces the cognitive load of the customer hearing, “aisle four on your right” to a visual cue.
  • Responses should be SIMPLE. In stock — yes, and how many… Not in stock… no, and more options. Or “Tools & Hardware, Aisle 5, right”
  • Visual responses should be large and viewable at a distance

The room for innovation is things like guided lights or other waypoints that follow the customer around or help them if they get lost along the route.

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