Ocado Launches Voice-activated Internet Shopping

Online grocery retailer Ocado has announced it will be the first supermarket from the UK to launch a program for the voice-controlled personal assistant, Amazon Alexa. The Ocado program for Amazon’s smart house speaker, Echo, will enable customers to use voice commands to add products to an existing arrangement or basket, to check their orders until they submit them and also to learn what goods are in season and the best way to include them in recipes. They’ll also have the ability to track deliveries after successful managed testing services.

So as to understand individual customers’ product preferences, the Ocado Technology team assembled an Ocado Conversational Service, based on artificial intelligence (AI), which can indicate both related and previously purchased items for customers to improve their baskets.

Behind the Scenes

In a blog article about the new service, the Ocado Technology e-commerce team explains how, when it first began building its Alexa ‘skill’ (a chunk of function constructed to support a particular use for Amazon’s smart speakers), it immediately realized that it would be important to encourage a natural, bi-directional conversational flow. This is what allows the service to ‘know’ orders created in different ways, in addition to commands that allow a client to look at their basket’s contents, as an instance, or verify the complete cost of an order, this is all able to be checked by a customer on their website that looks the part with a professional website design.

According to the blog post, Alexa transforms the audio stream through various software testing courses and training to a control (as an example, ‘add to basket’) along with a search term (like ‘cheese’), based on examples provided by Ocado, which has coached Alexa to recognize the top 15,000 most commonly searched items from the company’s website thanks to it’s custom web design which includes this. These text questions are then passed on to the Ocado skill, which also runs on AWS, in which the request is processed and an appropriate response is established using internal APIs [application programming interfaces].

It is this response that contributes to the two-way conversation, the site article explains. When the request can be fulfilled, i.e. we have the item in stock, the Ocado ability will send an output to Alexa; for instance, ‘I have added Cathedral mature cheddar to Thursday’s Ocado order. Can I help you with anything else?’ However, if the product is out of inventory, unavailable or can’t be found, the Ocado ability won’t only offer the suitable notification, but could also make alternative suggestions; ‘Sorry the Cathedral City mature cheddar you usually buy is out of stock. How about trying the Ocado organic mature cheddar instead? ”

This means that shoppers can slowly collate their shopping basket over a couple of days, as and when they complete things in their kitchens.

Consumer confidence?

Ocado’s clearly hoping that this could mean an end to hastily-conducted audits of our kitchen cabinets before a store, or entering into online systems those reminders formerly scribbled onto shopping lists, sticky notes or kitchen whiteboards. Lawrence Hene, commercial and marketing director at Ocado, claimed that grocery shopping should be fast, simple and convenient. Thus using voice technology, they have made it even easier, by creating their new program that will enable clients to grow their Ocado baskets before lifting a finger.

Commenting on the launch, John Rakowski, director of technology strategy at application monitoring and analytics expert AppDynamics, stated that the statement demonstrates continued momentum in building speech-activated services and a very intriguing development in the struggle for online supermarket shoppers.

While there may be some mainstream consumer scepticism concerning the practical value of voice supporters, we are sure to see additional deployments of this technology by Amazon and other electronic retailers – and a push from an IT consulting company of Melbourne here and there – in the not too distant future. Ten years ago, the initiation of the iPhone and the dawn of apps drew a reasonable level of initial scepticism. Now apps are a part of daily life, and more so, will become crucial in the retail battleground.

Meanwhile at Fujitsu, Rupal Karia, head of commercial to the UK and Ireland suggested that the pressure is on for retailers to provide customers what they need, before they know they need it. In late July, consumer confidence levels in the United Kingdom slumped to the same levels seen immediately following the Brexit referendum, against a backdrop of rising inflation and weakening wage growth.

In accordance with Karia, retailers should use technology and take advantage of IT managed services in Melbourne to distinguish the experience that they can offer clients or face a worrying prospect, namely being the next generation of retailers to be pushed from the high street for good.

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