Walker Sands’ 2018 Future of Retail Report – The New Age of Voice Commerce

Amazon dominates today’s retail landscape. If you’re like most U.S. consumers, you probably order regularly from the marketplace. The 2018 Future of Retail report reveals that 42 percent of consumers receive 1-2 packages per week, and that number rises as high as 57 percent for those ages 26-35.

And our research reveals that Amazon leads the charge in another area significantly reshaping how customers interact with brands: voice commerce. As more users adopt voice assistants, they expect more from these devices than the ability to quickly play music or ask for the time. This means retailers must adapt to a zero UI model of e-commerce — one that operates with no visual interface — sooner rather than later.

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In our blog series about this year’s Future of Retail report, we continue to examine Amazon’s lasting impact on customer expectations. Here’s what our research reveals about voice commerce and the implications for retailers:

  • Digital assistants will become household staples. Twenty-four percent of U.S. adults (nearly 39 million consumers) own a voice-controlled device. And typically once consumers purchase their first device, they’re eager for more. Of those who own a voice-controlled device, nearly two in five (39 percent) report having at least two devices, and 7 percent report owning four or more devices. Sixty-four percent of consumers who own a voice-controlled device use it at least once a week and nearly one in five (18 percent) use it at least three times a day.
  • Voice-controlled assistants are everywhere (yes, even in the bathroom). The most popular places consumers use their voice-controlled assistants in their homes include the living room (57 percent), kitchen (33 percent) and master bedroom (27 percent). They are open to keeping Images within the study-3these devices in more private places as well, with 14 percent of consumers placing them in their bathrooms. The normalization of voice-controlled devices over the past year means consumers are more comfortable interacting with voice assistants in many different ways throughout their homes.
  • Customers aren’t using devices to their full potential yet. Voice assistants are popular, but most owners use them for basic tasks only. The most popular function? Playing music. Fifty-seven percent of consumers identify that as their go-to task. Our study shows consumers use voice-controlled devices more often as an assistant, rather than a commerce device. Forty-eight percent report using a voice-controlled device to answer a question, 38 percent check the time and 27 percent create a shopping list. In the past year, more people used Amazon Alexa to tell jokes than to connect to their smart home (25 percent vs. 20 percent).
  • Voice commerce is on the rise. As consumers become more comfortable integrating voice into their daily lives, commerce is set to grow in popularity. But barriers to adoption still exist. When asked what might prevent them from shopping via voice, consumers note concerns about security (45 percent), privacy (42 percent) and a lack of visuals like images and videos (35 percent).

Voice-controlled devices are making major impacts on consumer lifestyles in a very short time.Walker-Sands-Cover-530x430 Retailers that understand how customers interact with voice assistants now may be more likely to overcome barriers to adoption down the road. To learn more about voice commerce and what it means for retail, download the full Walker Sands 2018 Future of Retail here. And follow along for the last installment of our three-part blog series.

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Code Conference – Some Thoughts on Big Tech Companies and the Government

Walker Sands had the opportunity this year to join a relatively small group of tech leaders at Recode’s flagship event, Code Conference. Over the course of two days, Recode’s Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka grilled CEOs and founders over a handful of tricky topics. IMG_0969

This year’s show started by looking back. In 2001, Microsoft lost its huge antitrust lawsuit to the U.S. government – marking the symbolic end of the first “tech boom.”

For the tech leaders onstage at Code Conference 2018, it appears we’re at at a similar inflection point. The negative impacts of the 2010s technologies continue to emerge, and leaders who have enriched themselves on their unbridled growth are being held accountable both by the public at large and our government.

Fake news, smartphone addiction, lack of privacy and data free-for-all, cyber security, sexual harassment and #MeToo dominated the lines of questioning and the conversations at Recode’s annual tech leader conference.IMG_0975

From Snap CEO and founder Evan Spiegel to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, every speaker hit a note of contrition. While Snap apologized for its ugly app redesign, Facebook said sorry for losing billions of data points to such shady data brokers as Cambridge Analytica.

Federal action seemed to be a consistent thread in Microsoft’s early 2000s court date and today’s reckoning. Brad Smith who lived the Microsoft slapdown in 2001 said this:

“If you create tech that changes the world, the world is going to want to regulate and govern you. You’re going to have to get used to it.”

But, when federal lawsuits challenge a tech company’s dominance, there come potential opportunities for smaller players to enter the fray and take larger competitors by surprise.

Because Microsoft was preoccupied with divesting its many businesses, Smith continued, Google could rise and dominate the Search category. That opening has allowed Google to innovate without the press of a direct competitor and grow to define an entire category.

For Walker Sands’ part, we’re keeping our eyes peeled for a new class of tech company that brings to market social conscious technologies that adhere to a more strict regulatory environment.

Maybe there’s a company that can create a social network that can’t be used for voter manipulation and fake news, or a transportation company that pays its employees competitively. As Brad Smith said, our government can “oxidize the market.” Companies that support, work with, or invest in a new class of socially conscious company will participate in the third technology boom.

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Walker Sands Takes Away Three Top Awards at 2018 PRSA Skyline Awards

Last week, we were honored to be recognized among Chicago’s top PR agencies at the PRSA Chicago Skyline Awards. PRSA nominated Walker Sands for three campaigns from 2017, which included our work for CloudCraze, Strike Social and Hyperwallet, and we were thrilled to take away the highest achievement at the awards, a Skyline, for all three!

The Skyline Awards is an event we look forward to attending every year as they recognize and celebrate the admirable work of our clients and teams. We are so proud of our team members for all their hard work and dedication to these projects, and we continue to be grateful for the opportunities we have to work with these industry-leading companies. Group 2

Here’s a recap of the campaigns we were recognized for last week:

CloudCraze Content and Demand Gen

Our demand generation program for CloudCraze, a B2B commerce platform, took home the Marketing Business to Business Skyline Award. Built on Salesforce, CloudCraze powers enterprises like AB InBev, Coca-Cola, GE and Erin, Katie, Trevor, ColleenKellogg’s, but they struggled to reach their target audience through traditional sales methods and keep prospects engaged. Walker Sands strategized and implemented a multifaceted plan with a goal of increasing demand for CloudCraze.

The integrated strategy consisted of web, SEO, content marketing and PPC to drive qualified leads. This involved the creation of an ROI calculator, dozens of new pieces of content and a robust strategy for promotion. The program was highly successful, resulting in a 51 percent increase in web traffic, a 100 percent increase in form submissions and $2+ million in new business in H2 2017. View the case study here for more info.

Giving Thought to the Artificial Intelligence Conversation for Strike Social

The Executive Communications Skyline Award went to the Strike Social team for their thought-leadership program. Strike Social uses artificial intelligence to help brands optimize ad placements. Because their innovative use of AI was so new to the market, they needed help educating prospects on the use and technology itself. The Walker Sands team formulated a bold thought leadership-driven program, highlighting the founder’s belief that AI would upend the advertising industry and eliminate the need for human media buyers in the near future. Awards

The program resulted in a 3x increase in media coverage volume when compared to years prior (99 placements, including Digiday, Adweek and the Huffington Post). During the 11-month period, web traffic increased by 105 percent and domain authority increased by five points. Best yet, share of voice increased in rank from six out of 11 competitors to four. Strike’s marketing director shared: “I am very proud of these results, and we have you to thank for helping get us here. Your team has always been proactive, patient and, quite simply, a pleasure to work with.”

The Hyperwallet Marketplace Expansion Index Report

The final award of the night went to the Hyperwallet team, winning the New Digital Platform Skyline Award. Fueled by successes like Uber, millions are joining the marketplace economy as “gig” workers. Enter Hyperwallet, who provides a way to pay those workers anywhere in the world. Hyperwallet needed Walker Sands’ help to showcase their technology and position themselves as a leading authority on payouts and the gig economy. The result was the Marketplace Expansion Index, a comprehensive guide to the best countries for expansion. Payal & Jennifer

The 2018 Marketplace Expansion Index was developed to assist digital marketplace platforms operating in the collaborative, gig, and sharing economies gauge the expansion readiness of 36 countries. The first report of its kind, the index aims to provide a data-driven approach to global expansion by accounting for factors that are unique to this newly evolved business model.

In just one month, Walker Sands secured 30 placements in top technology (betakit) and finance (PYMNTS) publications around the world, totaling more than 1 million impressions. LinkedIn ad impressions exceeded 500 million. Most importantly, the report was downloaded more than 200 times by some of Hyperwallet’s top prospects, including Amazon, eBay and Rakuten.

Overall, it was a great night for Walker Sands. We want to congratulate all our team members, and we are looking forward to the PRSA Chicago Skyline Awards next year!

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Walker Sands’ 2018 Future of Retail Report – The New Era of Online Commerce

Walker-Sands-Cover-530x430Another year, another round of innovations within the retail industry. And this year, the industry’s evolution expands commerce implications beyond the bounds of retail.

Since 2014, we’ve studied some of the most significant developments within the world of retail, commerce and the supply chain. In the past, our reports have shed light on important upcoming retail trends such as the use of drones or the evolution of mobile shopping.

Our 2018 Future of Retail report also takes a look at new and emerging retail technologies. But this year, we focused on connected lifestyles, the expansion of Amazon, the dramatic rise of voice and the need for supply chain optimization.

As consumers embrace connected technology such as digital assistants and hands-free devices, brands and retailers have the opportunity to cater to consumers in new and exciting ways. What’s more, we found that leading retailers are influencing sectors outside of traditional retail – from grocery to pharmaceuticals.

Hungry for more insights? Dig into our key findings below, and check back for two more blog posts that offer a deeper look into some of our most important findings.

  • Younger consumers aren’t afraid to break with tradition. Unlike generations before them, digitally savvy millennials opt for tools and channels that offer information at a moment’s notice. In fact, only one out of four consumers ages 18-25 have cable. This demand for greater value and convenience has also helped drive ownership of connected home devices all the way up to 93 percent.
  • Amazon shapes consumer expectations. Forty-two percent of shoppers receive one or two shipments from Amazon each week. And as the retail giant expands its services with acquisitions like Whole Foods, retailers face pressure to try new strategies for attracting customers – or risk losing wallet share.
  • Digital assistantsFoR Voice5 are far from novelty. Nearly two-thirds of consumers who own a voice-controlled device (64 percent) use it at least once a week, and 50 percent have made a voice-controlled purchase in the past year. As these devices become the norm, a strategy to communicate with customers and enable commerce across channels is a must.
  • When it comes to delivery, speed is the name of the game. Almost 45 percent of consumers have used same-day delivery during the past year. And many consumers are pleased with the speed of Amazon’s delivery services. While 15 percent of consumers say online retailers always meet their expectations for speed of delivery, twice as many say the same about Amazon. Retailers aiming to attract new customers would be wise to satisfy customers’ growing need for speed.
  • Amazon is expanding beyond traditional retail. There’s plenty of excitement surrounding Amazon’s foray into new industries. In fact, more than a third of consumers (35 percent) would use Amazon to fill prescription orders online. Wondering what’s driving this growth? Look no further than the speed and simplicity consumers have become accustomed to. Sixty-one percent of consumers cite the ability to ship quickly as a top reason they turn toward Amazon for prescriptions. Meanwhile, 43 percent enjoy an easier ordering process due to Amazon’s access to customer information.

The commerce experience isn’t as cut and dry as it once was. New technology has set the stage for a connected lifestyle in which consumers can research FoR Alexaand make purchases more easily than ever before. As competitors look to carry over that ease and convenience to other industries, retailers must be prepared to do the same.

To learn more about this new age of commerce and how you can cater to the lifestyles of today’s consumers, download the full Walker Sands 2018 Future of Retail here. And check back for the second installment of our three-part blog series.

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Martech 2018: We Have Nearly 7,000 Solutions and More Challenges Than Ever

In April, Sarah Hale, my fellow martech account director, and I attended the annual Martech Conference in San Jose. While the warm weather was a welcome break from Chicago’s long winter, the conference itself was the real highlight. Not to mention seeing Walker Sands’ name in lights during the keynote. Check out the 2018 State of Martech for additional relevant findings on how marketers view martech these days.
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Here’s a recap of our biggest takeaways from the conference:

There are more martech solutions than ever before
Host Scott Brinker unveiled his latest martech landscape on Day 1, and we discovered that there are now nearly 7,000 martech solutions – 6,829 to be precise. This is 28 percent more than last year, and only 4.5 percent of the companies from the 2017 landscape were removed.
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Blockchain is going to be like the Internet but bigger
Speaker Jeremy Epstein predicts that the impact blockchain will have on business will be as big as the Internet was in the 90s. To really dumb it down, blockchain allows you to know who owns what at a specific moment in time, which enables commerce to happen a lot faster. Check out this podcast to hear him explain how this works to his nine-year-old.
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CDP is the next frontier
If we were playing martech bingo, blockchain, AI and CDPs would definitely have been on our cards. Presentation after presentation mentioned CDPs as the next major technology that savvy organizations should integrate if they haven’t already. Unlike a cookie-based DMP, CDPs are geared toward first-party data and reliant on persistent profiles. The result? A normalized database at a time when data is at a crossroads.

The best product doesn’t always prevail
The businesses that succeed are the ones that find the overlap between great technology and a great go-to-market strategy. There are countless start-ups out there, but the ones that find a way to resonate with customers are the ones that grow – even if they don’t necessarily have the best products, according to venture capitalist Tomasz Tunguz.

These were just a few of the takeaways we gathered at Martech this year. If you’d like to hear more, either of us would love to chat. Send us a note!

Post contributor: Sarah Hale, Account Director at Walker Sands

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