How useful would a voice enabled speaker be in stores?

Imagine there were home speaker devices in stores while we were shopping. What useful assistance could they provide?


When a customer visits a store, the shop assistant on most occasions gets more attention than a customer browsing online, possibly more than you need in that moment. Maybe you have the same experience as me. As you walk through the door you’re immediately asked if you want any help finding something, but more often than not, you politely decline the offer and say, ‘I’m just looking’. But then at that moment when you inevitably do, the assistant is nowhere to be found.

At that point you might, like me, have built up a list of questions you want to ask. Different color options, other sizes in stock, where the fitting room is, what the return policy is, and more questions that pop into your head just a few minutes after you confidently declined the offer of help. Sometimes, if the assistant is nowhere to be found or it’s likely to be a long wait, you just leave thinking ‘I’ll look online…’

This is where a voice assistant, placed somewhere convenient in the store could be the hero of the moment. Not only could I get the answers to my usual questions but I could start asking more than you ever would with a real person.

You could request the lights are turned brighter, that the heat is turned up ask for the music to be changed.

There would be some challenges with this much power of course. Not everyone would appreciate someone else in the store making it warmer, brighter or skipping past their favorite track. Then there is the practical issue of hearing audio in a place that is likely to be noisy. But with some considerate design and good placement of the device those issues could be overcome. The benefit to you as the customer getting immediate, knowledgeable assistance and the store providing you with the information you need in the moment before purchase, is worth considering for the value it brings to both.

It could even become a natural way for in store assistance as people become more accustomed to speaking to their phone or a home speaker device. They hopefully become more effective at framing their questions to get the best responses once they get used to it. It’s worth saying that nothing could replace the interaction with a real person in store and this shouldn’t be the purpose. I’m sure we would miss the human conversation and advice from someone with experience, no machine could take that place.

Having an intelligent, voice enabled assistant in stores could provide a new source of help when a human isn’t around.


If and when this does become a reality, the most human friendly design would be making sure the focus is on the customer getting quick and easy assistance and not be just another opportunity to advertise or collect data. If we do it right, we might find that with all the extra assistance, that we spend a little bit longer in stores and leave a lot more satisfied.

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