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.


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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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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Walker Sands’ 2017 Future of Retail Report – The Rise of the Connected Consumer

Over the past several years, Walker Sands’ VP Dave Parro and I have taken a closer look at how commerce is changing through our annual Future of Retail report.

While last year’s version was focused on the backend changes happening to support innovations on the retail front, this year’s report takes a closer look at the dramatic shifts happening in consumers themselves, leading to a future of connected consumers, connected commerce and changing connected experiences.

In this three-part blog series, I’ll take you through some of the key findings from the study, starting with the connected consumer.

A lot has happened since the Future of Retail report first launched in January 2014.

Online ordering has become the norm, fast and free shipping is expected and storefronts have started to disappear. Still, what’s driving this evolution in commerce seems to have hit warp speed with the introduction of AI, machine learning and voice-ordering technologies over the past year or so.

Today’s consumer is vastly different from the consumer of just a couple of years ago. What used to be a distant idea of a ‘smart home’ is now seemingly here to stay, and integrations of data to the supply chain have made sure no consumer is without the goods they need in a fast-paced world.

Three big takeaways from this year’s report on the connected consumer include:

  1. More than a quarter of consumers (27 percent) now own some kind of in-home smart device, including smart appliances (16 percent), thermostats (14 percent) and lights (13 percent). And as retailers are paying closer attention to consumer data for personalized experiences, consumers are more focused on their own data, too – 18 percent now own wearable fitness devices and 13 percent own smartwatches.
  2. Today’s connected consumer is used to getting their information on demand. Consumers today are cord cutters, with more consumers now reporting they own a digital tv subscription (64 percent) than a traditional cable subscription (52 percent). Nearly a third (32 percent) own a streaming device like Apple TV or Roku.
  3. The connected consumer is getting used to voice-based technology. Perhaps the biggest innovation in the connected consumer lifestyle has happened in just the past year with mainstream adoption of voice-controlled devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Nearly a fourth of consumers (24 percent) now own in-home voice-controlled device and another 20 percent plan to purchase one in the next year.

The same innovations that are changing retail are also changing the way consumers think and interact in their everyday — completely disrupting the landscape retailers have gotten comfortable with. 30492017770_58450b5f69_b

As new innovations in IoT, machine learning and voice technology arrive on the scene, the way consumers expect to be engaged will also continue to change. Younger consumers are already more open to these kinds of devices, opening new opportunities for retailers and brands in the future of commerce.

To learn more about the connected consumer and how they’re impacting the future of commerce, download the full Walker Sands 2017 Future of Retail Study here. Also stay tuned for additional blog posts and analysis as a part of our three-part series.

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Retail’s BIG Show presents BIG trends for 2017

Usually when I think of retail trends, they involve fabrics, color schemes, and shoes (always shoes!). But this month I had the chance to attend Retail’s BIG Show and take a closer look at the other side of retail – the one that works relentlessly to provide shoppers with the best overall experience possible from product quality to seamless checkouts, and makes it look easy in the process.

unnamedRetail’s BIG Show is an annual conference held by the National Retail Federation to provide education, networking and exhibition opportunities to the biggest names in retail. More than 33,000 industry leaders from around the world attended this year’s show in New York City to learn what’s trending, what’s next in retail technology and what each company needs to do to remain competitive.

Here are a few trends I noticed while at this year’s event:

Retail as an experience

E-commerce and m-commerce rule today’s retail landscape, leaving brick-and-mortar stores struggling to compete for consumer attention. Experts anticipate that physical stores will continue to shrink in 2017 and even disappear if they can’t meet the evolving demands of today’s tech savvy consumers. To pull them away from their screens and into stores, retailers are revamping business models to offer entertaining experiences to shoppers. For example, Nike recently opened the Nike & Jordan Basketball Experience, a 6,550-square-foot basketball focused store in Beijing. Not only can shoppers purchase clothing and sneakers at the location, they can also immerse themselves in a true basketball experience on the store’s half-court Nike+ Basketball Trial Zone or create customized apparel in the store’s NIKEiD studio.

NFRRetail meets robotics

“Big data” is a buzz term that’s been floating around for a few years, but hasn’t fully materialized until recently. The retail industry is one of the first to introduce the implications of big data data with robotic and artificial intelligence solutions dedicated to creating more efficient inventory management, price optimization, pattern recognition and more for merchants. For example, Righthand Robotics, Inc., exhibited and demoed its auto-pick robotic system RightKit at the show. RightKit uses 3D vision to sort and pick up thousands of small grocery, beauty and electronic items for e-commerce order fulfillment without reconfiguration.

Retail prioritizes security

Cybersecurity is a 24/7 job for every company, and retail is no exception. With the popularity of e-commerce and m-commerce comes an increase in cyber-attacks. For example, Eithen Steiger, VP of information security at Domino’s, estimated that the company would experience between 100 and 500 cyber-attacks during his 30-minute presentation at the show alone. Small and medium size businesses are just as visible and vulnerable to cyberattacks as retail giants like Target or The Home Depot. Retailers of all sizes should take a number of steps toward cybersecurity in 2017, including:

  • Find the gaps that expose your business to risk.
  • Identify what information your business stores and uses.
  • Leverage available industry frameworks.
  • Invest in cyber insurance to absorb the financial impacts of crimes.

For more updates on retail trends you can follow the National Retail Federation’s Twitter. For more updates on shoes, click here.

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Team Spotlight: Erin Jordan

I sat down with Erin Jordan, an account director at Walker Sands and lead of the retail and e-commerce technology team.

Erin has been with the company for almost five years! While she’s busy looking for ways to grow her team’s practice areas, Erin took the time to give me a glimpse into what life is like at Walker Sands for her.

Here’s what she had to say!

1. What is your role at Walker Sands? What does your day-to-day look like?

As the account director for the retail technology team, I ensure my team has everything they need to service our clients and get great results. I also help keep the team constantly up-to-date on trends in our space. Other activities I work on include survey research to demonstrate our expertise and expand knowledge within the retail space, working on new business and coaching my team to help them grow in their own careers.


2. How has Walker Sands changed since you first started at the company?

The company was much smaller when I started. We only had 15-20 people. One of the best things about Walker Sands is that while the size has grown, we’ve maintained the scrappiness and ‘no idea is too small’ mentality that comes with having small teams.

We’ve come a long way in our expertise and great work. We now have the infrastructure and experience to handle bigger team projects. Growth of our practice areas is one things that has led to our success, and it has helped evolve our knowledge across different client industries. It’s also interesting to see how much our digital team and ecosystem of services have grown alongside PR.

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