Catalogue retailer Argos has become the first brand in the UK to offer a shopping service via the Google Assistant platform, with customers able to 'voice shop' over 20,000 products using the service.
Consumers will be able to search for products, check availability and order products for same-day pick up from more than 850 Argos stores nationwide, all using Google Assistant.
"Voice technology has the potential to revolutionise how we shop in the future," said John Rogers, CEO of Argos. "Digital home assistants have soared in popularity over the past year and people are increasingly looking to their smart devices to help with the smooth running of their lives.
"Argos is a digitally-led business at the forefront of technology and it's really exciting that we are harnessing the simplicity of voice ordering with the convenience and popularity of Click & Collect to make our customers' lives easier. We predict that the Voice Shop service will be a big hit and we will develop and refine the offer further as we get feedback from our customers."
60 per cent of Argos' sales now start online, yet 80 per cent of orders are fulfilled in-store, with shoppers making use of its Click & Collect and Fast Track services. 95 per cent of the UK population lives within 10 miles of an Argos store, so collection is often more convenient than waiting for a delivery. The Voice Shop service also enables users to find their closest store through voice commands.
The launch comes as Argos faces increasing competition from online retailers like Amazon, which has seen huge success with its own smart speaker, the Amazon Echo. Argos has even sold thousands of devices powered by Amazon's Alexa voice technology, but does not have a voice app on the platform. The retailer, which is owned by grocery giant Sainsbury's is clearly hoping that by connecting with Amazon rival Google, it can compete in this popular new area.
"Voice shopping is quickly becoming the buzz phrase in eCommerce at the moment, and Argos' decision to sell through Google Home is evidence of a growing pattern of brands and retailers cottoning on to consumer desire to spend money through different mediums," said Naji El-Arifi, global head of innovation at eCommerce consultancy Salmon. "Our own research showed 55 per cent of shoppers said they like purchasing through voice-activated devices and is almost certainly why Virgin Trains made the leap to voice shopping earlier this year by selling tickets on Alexa. For Argos, this represents another channel through which they hope to stave off strong competition from Amazon as its Amazon Echo device moves into more homes.
"This won't mean instant success; 78 per cent of consumers still have concerns over voice shopping such as devices listening in to conversations, and ordering items without their permission. However, it does represent a sea-change in how eCommerce companies should be approaching innovation and communication, and these numbers will surely subside as shopping via Google Home and Amazon Echo becomes easier and smarter."