Amazon?s ?Speak Your Order? Device Offers a Glimpse Into the Future of Retailing

It is pretty amazing how far e-commerce has advanced into the last 10 or so years. Ten years ago online purchasing was pretty much still in its infancy. Not only did online buying represent less than three percent of all retail sales, the methods used by customers to place orders and the methods used by online retailers to fill orders, now seem downright ancient. Back then, customers would shop around on websites, often for an extended period, until they found what they wanted. Also back then when an order was placed it was common for the online seller to say it would take five or more days for the customer to receive the order. And back then one-stop shopping for a wide-range of products was rare. Online sellers just did not have the means for supplying tens-of-thousands of different products.

But over the last ten years, almost everything about online retailing has changed. Today, websites use sophisticated personalization software to make suggestions as to what shoppers are searching for online. They even use advertising methods, dubbed re-marketing, to track customers as they visit different websites and continue to make suggestions through highly targeted advertising. Today, online sellers, including Amazon and Walmart, guarantee delivery within two days. And today, because of an increased focus on the importance of distribution and warehousing, many web retailers sell an astonishing number of products.

So it is not surprising that innovations taking place in online shopping continue at a staggering rate. For instance, consider Amazon’s latest development. Back in November 2014, Amazon introduced a device called Echo that is capable of responding to voice commands. Initially, its functions were directed to playing music, providing answers to questions such as:“What is the weather like today?” and a few other things. But as discussed in this Time story, Amazon has now equipped their Echo product with the ability for customers to order products by simply speaking the words. This clearly is the next step in online shopping. It is easy to see the day when someone walks around their kitchen, looks into cabinets and the refrigerator, and just talks the products that are needed, and within a few hours a friendly delivery person hands over the order.  While such technology will take some time to trickle down to small online sellers, there is no doubt this is the future of online ordering, if not all retail ordering.

(Friendly warning: The video included with this post, which explains the features of Echo, appears to have been produced before the voice ordering capability was added.  However, for anyone, who has watched too many sci-fi movies depicting lives being taken over by some unknown force, this video may seem a bit creepy!)