Why Google, Walmart, Amazon and Whole Foods are pioneers in voice data

Each day it becomes more apparent that data is integral to every facet of our lives. Amazon's recent acquisition of Whole Foods and the new partnership between Google and Walmart are further proof.

Choose between Amazon Echo and Google Home

Each day it becomes more apparent to me that data is integral to every facet of our lives.

When Google and Walmart got together recently to allow consumers to purchase goods from the retail giant through their Google Home devices – Google’s answer to rival Amazon’s Echo technology – the potential for a fascinating new data set reflecting our everyday lives became even more clear. I’m talking about voice data, sourced from what one day could be a technology that’s as pervasive as our mobile phones and our televisions.

As revolutionary as it has been to access mobile data breadcrumbs representing our physical locations, voice data reflects everyday interactions consumers have with brands in an even more intimate setting – their homes. This is the type of data consumer-packaged goods giants and product developers of all kinds have clamored for, investing in in-home ethnographic consumer research, focus groups and other traditional methods of understanding how people interact with brands and products in real life.

Marketers have already begun experimenting with voice data derived from Amazon’s voice-activated home IoT platform, Alexa, for instance. Within the past year or so, Amazon has opened up macro-level information generated from consumer interactions with brands on Alexa. Developers and brands can track the number of unique customers accessing the content they develop for Amazon’s Echo or other devices, and even gauge the number of times people mention their brand names when using them.

Here are just a few implications:

Holiday shopping data spree

Now that Walmart and Google Home have paired up, we can expect that these devices will proliferate in the average American household. This will surely come into play this holiday gift season. Not only do I anticipate that Walmart brick-and-mortar stores will be peppered with Google Home displays during the holiday shopping season, Amazon has already begun taking advantage of its partnership with Whole Foods, promoting its Echo devices with in-store Whole Foods displays that cheekily refer to the products as “Farm Fresh.”

A wealth of grocery data

Walmart plans to launch voice-activated shopping next year for grocery items, in a direct swipe at Amazon and Whole Foods. With data on e-shopping for grocery products still relatively new, this opens an arena of possibilities for more consumer data beyond the information associated with today’s standard e-commerce categories.

Of course, these relationships are about far more than getting voice-activated devices on physical store shelves. Let’s talk about the amazing potential uses for the underlying data. Now, as a result of its deal with Google, fellow Amazon-competitor Walmart might use this data to tease out patterns related to how people query Google Home devices for certain product information. The data might reveal insights into when and how people tell their devices to order household cleaning products as opposed to food items or apparel.

Improving supply chain efficiency

In the efficiency race that Amazon has forced all retailers into, Walmart will also be able to tap this emerging data source to improve efficiencies for inventory and product supply. Are a lot of people in a particular region asking their Google Home devices for summer berry recipes? Perhaps the retailer might showcase pie plates or travel smoothie bottles in stores in the area.

The possibilities for other information are already coming to light. Consumers can link their Walmart and Google Home accounts for personalized product recommendations. Keeping in mind both firms should give consumers privacy controls and options before linking data, there could be some intriguing trends and insights produced if Google and Walmart were to integrate this information, even in aggregate form. This could give these commerce partners valuable insights into how people think about and buy products, allowing them to analyze combined data from the digital and physical realms.

Mobile integration

And of course, there are big mobile data integration possibilities. Let’s remember, Walmart Labs has already been on the cutting edge in gathering in-store shopping data and behaviors, via its mobile app and in-store geofencing, for example. This partnership puts Walmart in a promising position, especially going into the holiday shopping season. Last year Ojonimi Bako, director of innovation for Walmart Labs said that 70 percent of Walmart.com traffic during the 2015 holiday came from mobile.

So, in case you were wondering whether the pace of the digital data race is slowing down or becoming monotonous, don’t worry. Voice data will have us all captivated for years to come.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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