Brief

Google Home voice shopping to add local product inventory info

Consumers may soon query Google Home devices to determine whether desired items are available nearby, receiving responses complete with details like sizes, price, store hours and travel directions.

LAS VEGAS — A month after upgrading its Google Home interactive speaker to enable users to shop via voice at dozens of Google Express retailer partners nationwide, Google continues to expand its Assistant artificial intelligence platform, announcing at the Shoptalk 2017 conference that consumers may soon query Google Home to determine local product availability, receiving responses complete with details like sizes and price as well as store hours and travel directions.

During a Shoptalk keynote Tuesday, Jonathan Alferness, Google’s vice president of product management, shopping and travel, said the new Google Assistant feature is powered by local inventory data transmitted by retailers that purchase ads on Google, noting that 81% of consumers check online first to see which store has product in stock before they make a shopping trip.

In the month since introducing the ability to shop for essentials via Google Home, Alferness said “[Google has] seen people order and reorder just about everything,” adding that consumers have placed orders from 35 different merchant brands in all. “[An AI platform like Google Assistant] should understand which items are commonly purchased together, which are in stock nearby, and it should make suggestions when items are out of stock. It should understand personal shopper preferences related to pricing and convenience, and it should understand products and who sells them.”

Alferness noted that Google has been working on the core Google Assistant technologies for close to two decades, rolling out a series of innovations in areas like machine learning, speech recognition and visual recognition. Already, seven out of every 10 smartphone users speak to the devices to ask questions, he added.

“We believe the future is AI-first. Computers will adapt to humans, so that we can speak and interact with computers in a way that is natural to us,” Alferness said. “Our whole effort is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The new local product availability feature will be available within the next few months, and "retailers will have several ways to participate," Alferness said.

Google Home competes directly with Amazon’s Echo smart speaker, powered by the e-commerce giant’s own Alexa AI system. Alexa-powered devices and mobile applications could deliver some $10 billion in revenues by 2020 and be a "mega-hit," according to a recent note published by investment bank RBC Capital Markets. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners said in January that 8.2 million U.S. Amazon customers had Alexa-enabled Echo devices, according to data emailed to Retail Dive.

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