Voice activation and mobile technology bolster the blend of digital and physical
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Standing outside Ted Baker’s Regent Street store in London, groups of shoppers pull out their phones and speak the strange phrases printed on the store’s windows out loud. The unusual sight is part of the retailer’s spy-themed ”Mission Impeccable” campaign for autumn 16, inspired by the technologically enhanced worlds of James Bond and Jason Bourne.
Alongside a fully shoppable short film – executive producer, Guy Ritchie – Ted Baker has partnered with Google on the first fashion application of the tech giant’s voice search function on its app, which allows users to speak into their phones to activate a Google search. Once customers have made the search, they click on a display ad to access prizes or discounts. To prevent opportunistic customers from attempting to access the offer when they are not outside a Ted Baker store or when stores are closed, the campaign is geographically restricted and time limited.
“The number of people engaging with voice search is on the up,” explains Craig Smith, Ted Baker’s global brand communication director. “We’ve worked with Google Zoo, Google’s in-house creative agency, several times before, and when we sat down to develop this campaign, it was clear early on that voice search was something we wanted to do. More and more people are utilising it week by week and we knew using it in our windows would add a really nice layer to the campaign, as well as fitting with the espionage theme.”
We had to find the easiest way of grabbing people’s attention and getting them to come in store
Nicolas Roope, creative partner, Poke London
Voice search is also a straightforward method of getting customers to engage with multichannel campaigns, adds Nicolas Roope, creative partner at Poke London, the marketing agency that created the campaign: “We had to find the easiest way of grabbing people’s attention and getting them to come in store. Voice search is easy, because most people will have the Google app and people have their phone on them all the time. When you see people standing outside the store pulling out their phones and saying the phrases, they’re playing along. It’s a light-hearted way to make an impression, to warm people up to the brand and get them to retell the story – all the things you want if you’re Ted Baker or any other brand.”
Ted Baker’s interactive windows may still be a relatively unusual sight on today’s high street, but voice activation is the “next natural step” for retailers, argues Malcolm Pinkerton, vice president of ecommerce and digital insights at Kantar Retail.
Three things you may not know about voice search
- Mobile voice searches have tripled in the past two years
- The Google app understands speech in 55 languages and can also recognise jargon, slang and street names.
- The more frequently customers use voice search, the easier it becomes for their phone to understand their pronunciation and voice.
“Retailers are looking for ways to reinvent the store and store experience, and voice activation makes perfect sense. It will become an increasingly popular touch point on the shopper’s journey as brands look to mobile to help bring their content to life. It’s a good example of gamification and it does resonant with consumers,” he explains.
Paul Martin, incoming UK head of retail at business consultancy KPMG, agrees that voice activation in store will become more common as retailers attempt to bridge the gap between their online channels and their bricks-and-mortar stores.
He says: “As much as all the data five or so years ago said the store is dead, that data has been proved very wrong. In the UK, 84% of all transactions still happen in physical stores and the big problem how to use stores as a bridge between the digital and physical. Voice search technology is another attempt to bring the two worlds together. It is comparatively standard when you think of applications like Siri and Cortana [Apple and Microsoft’s respective digital assistants].”
Martin believes that to invest in their omnichannel offer, retailers will have to cut costs, but that might not be enough: “Retailers will have to look all of their assets and consider how to use them more effectively. A store is a core asset and retailers have to think how they will get more out of them and find additional ways to bring both the digital and physical worlds together. We’re going to see more and more experimentations with voice activation and artificial intelligence.”
He adds: “We’ve already had [womenswear and accessories brand] Rebecca Minkoff’s digitally connected store [in New York – customers can use a touch screen to order drinks and ask for fitting rooms to be prepared], changing rooms where customers can receive clothes through a chute and shop windows that act as a beacon to draw customers in by sending them text messages as they walk by.”
As retailers continue to find ways to reinvent the store and engage consumers, expect to see more fashion brands following Ted Baker’s lead and experimenting with voice search technology.