Retail Virtual Personal Assistant: Are We There Yet?
Thursday, September 28, 2017

Categories: Thought Leadership

Retail Virtual Personal Assistant: Are We There Yet?

In-Store Voice Commerce

Gartner places Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) technology in the early phase of the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2016. As the technology develops in products like Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Assistant, and Apple’s Siri, for example, there are opportunities to bring this innovation in-store. Naturally, as the technology matures, we will start to see more of it take hold in retail. As such, what might this look like? If we deploy Google Assistant in a store, how can it help customers and increase revenue in the store?

Where Is Virtual Personal Assistant Tech Used Today?

Courtesy of The Hen-na Hotel
Courtesy of The Hen-na Hotel
Courtesy of The Wynn Hotel

Virtual personal assistant technology is gaining traction in the hospitality industry today. By now, a lot of us know and have seen pictures of the robot-run hotel in Japan, Hen-na Hotel. If the Raptor attendant is not your preference, they also have robotic receptionists that look like a human.

Not only is the concept fun and entertaining, for the hotels, it saves time on simple questions and services, which reduces the workload on staff by taking away the simpler straight forward (mundane) requests and questions. Beyond the attention grabbing robotic receptionists, Marriott International and Wynn Resorts recently announced using Alexa and Siri for in-room requests and queries.

In-Store VPA

Not only can virtual personal assistants be fun, they can save you a lot of time usually wasted on mundane tasks and questions. Pepper has come onto the scene, and some retailers like B8ta in California have been testing it successfully. However, retailers can take simpler steps with some of the virtual personal assistant’s that are ready to go, today.

Imagine a fashion store in a busy mall. We all understand the frustration of shopping on a Saturday when the mall is packed, but you need the new shoes or slacks for the next day. It is frustrating to have to weave around the entire store to find what you seek. You can’t really ask an attendant because they are all busy with other customers, or processing purchases that are already on queue. Maybe you would have ordered online, but being in-store meant getting the items right away (no waiting for the random timing of home delivery). Ah, fortunately there is a small kiosk setup with Google Assistant connected to a tablet.


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Simple VPA Case

From a customer’s perspective, this innovative kiosk near the entrance, lets them ask simple questions, and get answers too. I am looking for men’s slim fit black jeans, for example. The voice activated VPA looks up where in the store these are located, and displays them on the tablet, showing where the customer is standing, and where the items are that they want.

VPA That Drives Sales

What if the virtual personal assistant took it a step further? It asks the customer for the style and size the customer wants to try on, showing this on some sort of  display. When the customer chooses what they want, they can be directed to a changing room, where a runner can find the items and bring it to the customer. The customer is told to go to changing room 3, where the trousers will be brought to them.

Next, if we connect the virtual personal assistant to your order management system, it could also look up the customer’s previous orders, find the size they choose on their past 3 purchases within the last year, and recommend, or bring those sizes. Now that would be some impressive personalization, that a customer would probably discuss with their friends (word of mouth marketing, anyone?). The system might also check the customer’s returns record. If they are a high value shopper with a low returns rate history, then perhaps a bonus-with-upsell opportunity exists. The VPA offers the customer a unique special 10% discount on purchases over $75.  After all, once a customers uses a fitting room, they are 70% more likely to make a purchase. A matching item of clothing could drive the revenue potential even higher.

Are We There Yet?

Innovations that allow for a virtual personal assistant in-store will put your retail business ahead of the curb.Retail has yet to embrace virtual personal assistants in-store. Although, after writing this post, Kohl’s announced their venture with bringing Amazon into their stores, which may include orders using Alexa. Small innovations like these will even provide a way for retailers to drive more revenue. This will happen with small product add-on techniques, and using the unified customer system of record, wisely.

Consider these innovations today. Doing this will put your retail brand ahead of the curve, and gain customer attention and interest. There is a solid PR opportunity here, that can only bring in novelty-seeking new customers. When experimenting, connect these innovations with your order management system (OMS). Doing this will give you a broader view of your customer that will help drive better personalized service, enhance the sale, and improve the overall service experience. This is another aspect of a unified commerce system.

If you are still thinking this through, give us a call. We will be happy to discuss how to interconnect this type of solution with an OrderDynamics advanced OMS.



Charles Dimov - Director Marketing OrderDynamicsCharles Dimov is Director of Marketing at OrderDynamics. Charles has 21+ years experience in Marketing, Sales and Management across various IT and Technology businesses. Previous roles include Chief of Staff, Director Product Marketing, and Director Sales. Charles has held roles in brand name firms like IBM, Ericsson, HP, ADP, and OrderDynamics.





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