Voice commerce Interview with Philipp Leuthold, Online Channels Manager at Swiss Post
Digitization has brought about far-reaching changes in commerce over many years. The next great revolution has now arrived in the form of so-called voice shopping. Yet, the retail sector can access so much more than just voice technology. Swiss Post is developing this digital channel, too.
In an expert interview, Philipp Leuthold gives us an insight into what Swiss Post is doing in terms of voice.
Can you briefly tell us about your job at Swiss Post?
I’ve worked in the digital area at Swiss Post for 14 years, first on the website, then on smartphone apps, social media tools and the newsletter system. My focus is now on the task of designing and implementing the Voice digital channel.
Where does Swiss Post stand at the moment in terms of voice? What’s possible now?
Various Swiss Post units have already developed prototypes in-house. There’s an option for track and trace and the location search as well as further solutions for pick@home and ordering account documents from PostFinance. In an endurance test, our real estate department provided a solution for ordering repair and maintenance services in coffee break areas using voice technology. Currently, we haven’t got beyond the prototype stage – that should change now.
Thanks to smartphones, many users are already familiar with voice assistants. What tangible value added do you think customers gain from using this technology in commerce?
Besides practical solutions and simple access via voice services on smart assistants or smartphones, automated customer dialogue can provide customers with quicker, better targeted and more cost-effective assistance in after-sales service. As a user, I can communicate more simply and quickly in my own language – something that I learned as a child. Another benefit is that interaction is possible even if your hands aren’t free.
Which smart assistant platforms are we talking about at the moment?
There are currently two main systems that can be enhanced using third-party applications. These applications are called “Skills” on Alexa and “Actions” at Google. They are opened using invocation names – for example “Alexa, open Swiss Post”. The user then has access to the services provided by the company.
How effective will the technology become as another communication or shopping channel? What do you think?
The use of voice assistants is growing rapidly. According to the Voice First Barometer study, 30 percent of respondents used this technology in 2018, with the figure rising to over 50 percent in 2019. Users are accessing a growing number of services with their own voice and are getting accustomed to interacting in this way. This trend will continue in the coming months and it will increasingly become a matter of course to request, initially, simple information such as the weather and, after a certain time, other services such as money transfers, orders, etc. using your voice.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities in voice commerce?
There’s huge potential in highly repetitive orders, where the same product is ordered at regular intervals. This could be coffee capsules, for example, or company consumables, etc. I can also see potential in recommendations. As mentioned earlier, it’s easier to establish a relationship using your voice. And, of course, anywhere my hands aren’t free and where I can interact more easily using my voice.
Do you think there are risks too?
Every technology brings its own risks and that’s undoubtedly the case with voice, too. Due to the fleeting nature of the spoken word, users can get lost more easily and no longer find their way around. Although users talk to Alexa, Siri, Google Home, etc., the language is actually converted into text in the device, processed and then the resulting text is then converted back into language and spoken. Users need be aware that they are not only communicating with the company they have contacted. Sensitive data has to be adapted accordingly.
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
At the moment, I’m creating the foundations for the voice channel. What will the “Swiss Post” brand sound like? How will we talk to users? What special data protection regulations need to be drawn up? We’ll also look at how the Swiss Post Customer Login, a hugely important element of our service, can be incorporated. This will then be the basis for all other Swiss Post logistics services that the end customer can easily activate via the voice channel.