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(Author : European Market Magazine)
UK retailer Morrisons is opening its online store to Amazon’s voice command software Alexa.

Morrisons Launches Amazon Alexa Voice Ordering Service

Shoppers will now be able to use their voice to order their weekly shop from by using the service, as well ask Alexa to add or remove items from their basket, suggest items based on previous shops, check the total of their order and check if their delivery is on time. To access the service, customers have to activate the Alexa ‘voice skill’, which is available on devices such as the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Amazon Tap.

Morrison says this technology will be particularly helpful for people who are disabled or on the move. BMW recently announced that Alexa would be in its new cars from next year.

Matt Kelleher, Morrisons Online Director, said, “Customers are increasingly using voice commands in their everyday lives to check the weather, play music, or find out the latest news. It is important we follow this emerging trend and make Morrisons an easier and more accessible place to shop for groceries online. It’s exciting that our customers can now shop without even needing to login to a computer or mobile phone.”

Alexa Looks To The UK
In August, the UK online grocer Ocado implemented a similar feature to let shoppers top up their baskets using Alexa. Amazon has been encouraging online shoppers to avail of Alexa since it made over 100 exclusive deals available for Alexa users during its third-annual Prime Day sales event on 12 July. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart and Tesco have moved into voice-ordering technology by partnering with competitor Google.

However, confidence in shopping via voice command is still lacklustre with more than half of customers showing no interest in such deals, according to a survey at the time of shoppers by the bargain hunters site Morrisons previously worked with Amazon last year when it rolled out the UK’s largest collection of Amazon lockers in its stores, to enable customers to pick up items bought online from its stores.

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French selective perfumery retailer Sephora has launched its app on Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant capable of helping its users in a number of tasks, by searching for information on a smartphone or the web. 

Sephora launches voice assistant app

Sephora’s is one of the first apps available on Google Assistant, after the launch in France of the Actions on Google platform, which allows certain apps to be voice-controlled, without installing them on a smartphone.

“The use of voice assistants and more recently of voice-activated loudspeakers has turned out to be more than just a fad. It’s paving the way to a minor digital revolution, of which Sephora wants to be a pioneer. With these first functionalities, and the collaboration with Google, we plan to test the potential and the customers’ reactions to voice-assisted retailing,” said Anne-Véronique Baylac, in charge of digital at Sephora Europe and Middle East. As evidence of the major role that virtual assistants could play in the future, Sephora underlined how in 2016, in the USA alone, 49 million people used voice assistants, and 10 million voice-controlled speakers were sold.

The first functionalities available on Google Assistant for Sephora are the possibility to book beauty services, to play quiz games and to listen to beauty podcasts, curated weekly by influencers chosen by the retailer. Further functionalities will be introduced in 2018.

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The hotel chain is exploring ways to improve customer service through voice — while working with Amazon to ensure absolute privacy.

How Marriott Plans To Use Amazon Alexa To Improve The In-Room Experience For Guests

Marriott is set to test out Amazon Alexa in a number of its hotel properties, Toni Stoeckl, global brand leader for lifestyle brands at Marriott, revealed in a panel at Advertising Week. The move is a bid to provide increased personalization and improved in room service for guests. As voice-activated connected device usage has jumped 130 percent over the past year, brands have begun to explore how the technology can be used to drive engagement and improve customer service — and the hospitality industry is in many ways leading the charge.

Why? As Stoeckl put it, “as a hotel brand, we’re in the experience business. This means [taking advantage of technology that can] connect our consumers to the local experience in the hotel or the neighborhood — as well as removing some of the friction of transaction in hotels.”

The idea is that, as consumers have become increasingly comfortable with the technology, it’s now easier for a guest to ask, “Alexa, what’s a good restaurant nearby?” than to flip through a lengthy guidebook — or call down to the concierge.

Plus, as we wrote earlier this year, Marriott has been particularly aggressive in experimenting with technologies that meet guests’ needs for personalization, including the use of beacons and tablets in rooms to better connect and build loyalty with travelers who stay with them.

“Having Alexa in the room lets you personalize the room experience,” Stoeckl said. “That could be with music, or with other means. It’s also about just having the ability to ask Alexa for more towels rather than having to call down to the front desk.”

But in doing so, the hotel chain is continuing to work with Amazon on ensuring privacy in the hotel environment, since the in-room devices will, of course, serve different guests each visit.

“Of course, your voice is scrambled and there’s no way to connect it back to [the guest] on the backend,” Stoeckl said. The idea is that if a guest in room 304 asks for towels or room service, hotel staff will be notified and it will be sent upstairs — but none of this information is stored to be identifiable. “Working with Amazon [on privacy] is always a top priority.”

Beyond that, it’s still early days for exploring all of the ways that voice-controlled assistants can improve customer service. But one classic technology maxim still holds true, Stoeckl said: “Don’t do anything for the sake of technology. Do it to give your consumers what they want where they’re already interacting and engaging.”

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(Author : Deena M.Amato-McCoy)
Best Buy is offering its shoppers a new digital shopping option. In a move that leverages its recent partnership with Amazon, the electronics retailer is enabling customers to order its Best Buy’s Deal of the Day products on an Amazon Alexa device.

Consumer electronics giant taps Alexa for voice ordering

The digital commerce option allows customers to buy from a tailored list of recommendations, which are partially based on their needs and taken from Best Buy’s assortment of laptops and TVs, the retailer said in a company blog.

Here’s how it works: customers add the Alexa skill to their voice-enabled device via the Alexa app or Alexa skill store. After logging into their Best Buy account, users say, “Alexa, talk to Best Buy,” and they will connected with the online store.

The program illustrates “one way we’re delivering on our Best Buy 2020 strategy that we laid out in September: to evolve what we sell, and, in this case, how we sell it,” Best Buy stated in the blog. “We’re starting with this skill, and these select products, to learn more and give customers one more way to shop at Best Buy.”

The move comes on the heels of Best Buy Canada’s partnership with Google, a move that enables users to hear sales, learn more about various products, and find their nearby store via the Google Assistant.

Best Buy also began selling both Amazon Alexa and Google Home voice-activated devices in about 700 Best Buy stores nationwide, as well as online. The devices are part of the consumer giant’s smart home departments, which also feature an ever-growing number of smart products, such as Nest thermostats and Philips Hue lighting.

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(Author :  Marianne Wilson)
Walmart is determined not to cede any ground to Amazon.

Walmart in deal with Google to offer voice-activated shopping

In a partnership that takes direct aim at the online giant and its Alexa voice-controlled device, Walmart is teaming up with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items available for voice shopping via Google Assistant, the search giant’s online shopping platform that lives on its smart speaker Google Home and other smart devices. It will be the largest number of items currently offered by a retailer through the platform, according to Walmart. The service is another bulwark in the defenses Walmart is building up against its biggest rival. It will be available in late September.

The deal with Walmart is Google’s largest retail partnership to date. While other retailers, including Target, Kohl’s and Ulta, sell on Google Express, no other company currently offers the depth of products Walmart will be offering. In related news, Google Express said it will now offer free delivery across its retailers as long as the order is above each store’s minimum threshold.

“When it comes to voice shopping, we want to make it as easy as possible for our customers,” said Marc Lore, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. eCommerce. “That’s why it makes sense for us to team up with Google. They’ve made significant investments in natural language processing and artificial intelligence to deliver a powerful voice shopping experience. We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that’s the way it should be. An open and transparent shopping universe is good for customers.”

In another key distinction from the other retailers that sell via Google Express, Walmart will allow shoppers to link up a pre-existing user account with Google Express on the back-end. The discounter will integrating its Easy Reorder feature, which has data on customers’ store and online purchases, into Google Express. Shoppers who want to reorder their favorites can link their Walmart account to Google Express.

“This will enable us to deliver highly personalized shopping recommendations based on customers’ previous purchases, including those made in Walmart stores and on,” Lore said. Lore said that Walmart will roll out increased voice shopping capabilities in 2018.

“Next year, we will also leverage our 4,700 U.S. stores and our fulfillment network to create customer experiences that don’t currently exist within voice shopping anywhere else, including choosing to pick up an order in store (often for a discount) or using voice shopping to purchase fresh groceries across the country,” he said.

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