By Vixen Labs / September 30, 2021 / VCI

In the past decade, retail has migrated from a physical business to an omni-channel presence, creating a connection gap between brand and consumer. Can voice bridge that gap and add an extra human touch to the way we do e-commerce?

Talking Shop Episode 2 Guests
Talking Shop
Talking Shop
Can Voice Bridge the Gap in Retail?

Listen to Talking Shop Episode 2

Listen to Episode 2 of Talking Shop: Making Voice Work for Marketers right here. Talking Shop is a brand new podcast series from Vixen Labs, taking you through the core findings and insights from the Voice Consumer Index 2021.

Episode 2 explores the role of voice technology in retail. We know there is a gap created by digitalisation. Can voice bridge this gap and facilitate a more personal conversation between consumer and brand? We’re joined by Massimo Volpe, founder of Global Retail Alliance, and Manolo Almagro, Managing Partner at Q Division, to answer this question and provide actionable insights on integrating voice in your retail strategy straightaway.

read the transcript

James Poulter  00:00

Well, welcome back to Talking Shop, the podcast from Vixen Labs focusing at the moment on our current series around the findings from the Voice Consumer Index 2021, which we’ve just conducted last month in partnership with the Open Voice Network. And in today’s episode, we are going to be focusing on the implications for voice in retail. Obviously, retail has undergone some pretty significant shifts in the past 18 months under the light of the coronavirus pandemic. But it hasn’t just started there. What I think we’ve seen is an acceleration in the past 18 months of trends that have been coming at us for certainly the past five years, probably much more so in the past decade. And to get into this data, we’re going to be not only talking about some of our key findings from the report, but also some specific top tasks that we asked our participants in the UK, the US and Germany when it comes to retail — what do they want? What do they want to see more of from voice? 

James Poulter  00:54

And to get into this, we’ve got two fantastic guests, fellows and ambassadors of the Open Voice Network. First of all, I want to introduce Massimo Volpe. He is the Global Retail Alliance founder. And, Massimo, where are you speaking to us today from?

 Massimo Volpe  01:09

 From London, actually.

James Poulter  01:10

He’s in London. It’s the place to be, sorry for others that are not there. And Massimo, thanks so much for joining us looking forward to hearing your opinion on this. And we also have another ambassador from the OVN. It’s Manolo Almagro, and Manolo joins us from the Q Division, which is probably the coolest sounding practitioner’s name I’ve ever heard. Very excited to have you join us. Thanks for being here. Where are you joining us from? You’re in Texas, I believe?

Manolo Almagro  01:36

I’m in Austin, Texas. So it’s not really Texas. It’s Austin. Everything else is different.

James Poulter  01:42

It’s that special part of Texas that pretends not to be Texas. Okay, good.

Manolo Almagro  01:46

That’s right. 

James Poulter  01:48

Thanks so much for both of you being here. Well, so as I say, In this episode, we’re going to be digging into retail, retail covering obviously many different facets, both e-commerce, which has obviously had a massive transformation in the past 18 months, as I mentioned in the intro, but obviously, also bricks and mortar as the world reopens back to a new normal, but with a much more health focus, a conscious environment, we really need to get under the skin of what voice can do for retail. And that’s why we’ve got another Manolo and Massimo here to have this conversation. 

James Poulter  02:20

So first of all, Massimo, I’m going to come to you in your role, as you know, founder of the Global Retail Alliance, and also working as a co-founder at Retail Hub. Just tell us a little bit about where you see voice sitting right now in terms of importance for the retail sector, where should we be looking for retail to really be impacted when it comes to voice? 

Massimo Volpe  02:38

Well, James, I’ve been in this industry for a long time, I’ve been for about 10 to 15 years, and in different geographies. I’ve always been in Europe, in Asia, then in the US, and now back in Europe. And then my role has been mainly from an interesting perspective, because I’ve been working from all of the major retail associations, for example, the National Retail Federation in the US and a bunch of other organisations around the world. And we always saw, like for us, it has been interesting to collect the evolution of retail from an aggregate perspective. And we have seen that, in the last 15 years, we’ve migrated from a very physical business to an omni-channel business.

Massimo Volpe  03:22

Now we are facing an interesting area, where the e-commerce is becoming even more popular and more strategic for any retail chain. And obviously, when we talk about creating an omni-channel relationship with the customers, with their clients, I mean, the voice is part of that. It has a strategic role in this activity because it can enable a better relationship, a warmer relationship than just typing on the keyboard or on your phone and trying to create the type of connection that…when you meet people in person and you speak with someone, I mean, it’s it’s very, it’s very different from when you read stuff.

James Poulter  04:11

So maybe I would take from that you — one of the things we’ve seen, particularly with e-commerce is that there is that slight disconnection from the person in front of you helping you make a sale, close a piece of business, invoice you — see it potentially being a possible bridge for that kind of gap. Is that where you see this going?

Massimo Volpe  04:27

Yeah, absolutely. If you see an email recently, recently, we see now the emerging opportunity for all of the stream commerce, everything that’s going on, live, online, that goes together with all the social networks, I mean, all the stuff that we’re seeing, and  why we have that coming very, very powerfully, because that enables opportunities to create a direct relationship, but it’s not just at a one-sense, but at as a five-sense level, and so that’s why voice is so so important.

James Poulter  05:04

It’s adding another sense, right? It’s adding another way of connection. And I think that’s something that we’ve not not necessarily seen before.

Massimo Volpe  05:10

Yeah, it gives the opportunity to something that’s very virtual, very digital to get one step closer to an experience that, in the past, was covered only by physical relationship, physical commerce.

James Poulter  05:22

Absolutely. It’s kind of bringing those two different paradigms closer together through a much more human connection. I think that’s fair to say. Mani, when it comes to the US perspective on this, obviously, we often look to the US in terms of trends of where these things are evolving from, you know, kind of new paradigms coming out of Silicon Valley, coming out of Austin, Texas, we’ve got South by Southwest just reopening their PanelPicker, I’m sure you’re just itching for everyone to descend upon your city, and to discuss these things. But when it comes to your role, particularly working within the National Retail Federation, and obviously advising clients through Q Division, yeah. Where are you posting voice in the mix when it comes to retail?

Manolo Almagro  05:58

Well, I’ll build on what Massimo was saying. I mean, I think it’s been around for quite a while. I think, in fact, I was hoping that the past 18 months would have accelerated some things. And maybe it has, I think some of the research that you had shown earlier may show some impact. But I think the challenge with voice is always going to be — is it faster than and more efficient than how I’m shopping today? You know, when you say retail, I look at retail as a very broad, anytime someone is buying something kind of thing. 



And then I would go back to: the technology itself has to be better. I think it’s getting better. But I think the challenge is always, if you don’t say something with the right syntax or something, then it just blows up the experience altogether. So that has to be fixed too. 

Manolo Almagro  07:40

So I think voice as a whole and retail really wants to have a place. And I think based on everything I’ve seen everybody wants to use it. It’s just that technology has to catch up. And I think we’re going to see certain areas speed up, after the last 18 months and everything else has been accelerated, we’ll see things like in-app, in mobile app uses of voice take off before a lot of other places inside of the retail space.

James Poulter  08:05

So it’s not just about the ‘how’, but it’s also about the ‘what’ people are going to do with it. Right? So as we’re seeing kind of the desire for people to want to have this conversation with things. Certainly our research here, which we’re going to dig into in a minute, certainly suggests that, but at the same time, it’s got to be done in a way that’s driving that empathy, Massimo to your point, right? You want to use this as a means of connecting people in that more human way, which we’ve lost quite a lot of when it comes to the e-commerce side of things. 

James Poulter  08:28

You know, it’s become just another brand logo, another website, you know, another you know, kind of picking clothes or picking food or whatever it might be is kind of the whole way of doing that has kind of essentially levelled out to a single experience. Right? You know, there’s not a massive difference between going to the Nike website and scrolling through and picking a pair of shoes versus scrolling through Ocado or Walmart’s website and trying to buy some tomatoes. Right? So how do you bring personality back to that experience? I think, you know, voice has an opportunity. Manolo, from what you’re saying, you have to do that in a sensitive way. Right? Customers and consumers aren’t gonna latch on to it just for the novelty factor.

Manolo Almagro  09:01

Right? It has to be humanised. I think there’s an area of humanisation that has to happen. And everyone knows it’s an AI voice that’s talking back to them, but if you make it sound more human, I think that that also helps with end adoption and how they feel about it.

James Poulter  09:16

Absolutely. So let’s take a little look into some of the data that we came out of from the research here. So in the the data that we’ve picked up on, one of the big things we asked within each of our sector focuses within the Voice Consumer Index was to ask people what they are most likely to do in terms of kind of priority activities. What things are they wanting to do, and in retail, we asked them a number of different suggestions. So now I’ll kind of just run through the top three here and maybe just get your reactions on this — does this surprise you? 

James Poulter  09:45

So one of the top things that people were looking for, and this is probably no surprise given the e-commerce shift, and if it’s judged by the amount of Amazon boxes that are arriving at my house on every day, I think it’s probably, yeah, focus group of one but certainly a confirming thing here, is: ‘track the location of my package’, ‘check the shipping status of my order’, and then the third, which I think is more interesting, we will get into in a minute, is ‘research a product for price availability or functionality’. That’s what people in the US, the UK, and Germany picked in the top three boxes across all three of those questions. So anything that leaps out to you, either Massimo or Mani want to take this first, in terms of this desire to track packages, no big surprise?

Massimo Volpe  10:26

Yeah, I have to tell you, I’m not really much surprised, let’s say from the standpoint of studying the evolution of the delivery, that is a big part of that. Now in our day to day life…think about two years ago, when everybody was surprised by, a few years ago, everybody was surprised by the Amazon Prime and the fact that they were able to ship you everything in. They started that with the two days, then one day, then two hours. And if you see nowadays, you have a bunch of new kids that are able to deliver stuff in 10 minutes. So it’s all about how to reduce the time of delivery. 

Massimo Volpe  11:05

And if you want to get quicker, if you want to make it ‘everything’, I mean ‘everything right here right now’, why should you not invest in creating a quicker connection in order to track all of these parts of the process? So I see why you want to use voice instead, no typing in makes also their part much quicker. So again, it aligns very well with the rest of the process.

James Poulter  11:29

Now the thing I was going to ask you guys about this, because I would love to get your opinion on the the Amazon effect here, right? So as you mentioned, Massimo, Prime has changed the expectation level for people living in major cities across the world on what it means to get something delivered to their home quickly, you know? I’ve recently moved out of Central London. So I’ve no longer within a 45-minute delivery window of Prime now. And…but I’m you know, I’m living out in kind of the rural part of Surrey here in the south of the UK, and I can still get 24-hour delivery on most items, right? So my expectation level has massively risen. 

James Poulter  12:02

And so whenever I come into contact with a brand that can’t achieve that, you’re always comparing, right, to that Prime experience. Now, I can also check the status of my package and location, obviously, natively through Alexa for my Amazon packages. So Mani, what do you think that this means for for direct consumer retailers and those that aren’t necessarily in this space? Yeah, we’ve got here, all three of these major consumer groups asking for location tracking as part of a voice experience? Where would you now put that in terms of priority order for some of the customers and clients that you’re working with?

Manolo Almagro  12:33

I think I’m also not surprised by the priorities and the research findings. I do think that the easier you make it to do the tasks when you’re using voice is also going to be what also accelerates its adoption and why people will continue to use it or want more of it. You mentioned the expectation setting. I mean, I live in Austin, so they do a lot of tests for Amazon here. So you know, they had the one-hour delivery, which wrecked me perfectly for any other retailer. I mean, you can get something within an hour, nothing, nothing will…everything pales, and… 

James Poulter  13:06

Yeah you’re ruined at that point. 

Manolo Almagro  13:08

Yes, exactly. But I do think that the way consumers behave will be something that comes from things I didn’t expect they could do. I think that’s part of this, what we’re going to see evolving with the, with the voice as part of the way to tell you what the status of your packages, I think people are always wondering where the package is, when it’s going to get here, just making it easy to ask that question. Of course, it’s going to be why they would use it over anything else, to Massimo’s point, you have to type in a number or type in or log in to something before you get the status, that’s kind of a pain in the butt. 

Manolo Almagro  13:43




And the moment we start making other areas besides, you know, tracking a package and understanding the comparisons and things like that, I think you’re gonna see another one pop up in here as a priority, which is how to buy over voice, which we all know isn’t necessarily getting a lot of traction, because it’s hard to do right now. 

James Poulter  14:08

Yeah, it’s definitely harder to do. And yeah, we see that in when we ask people about this — the purchase of products for pickup or delivery. You know, that was in the sub 50% in a couple of the markets, just over 50% in the UK. I think that that’s mostly reflected by people not expecting that that’s something that they could do. So I think there is an expectation gap we have there.

James Poulter  14:26

I want to press you slightly though on this point around kind of the…what does this mean for DTC retailers in comparison to someone like Amazon, if you’ve set that bar that high? If you’re a brand owner right now of a DTC store of any kind in retail, whether that’s food, retail, you know, kind of consumer goods of subscription, fashion, etc. What does this mean for you as should this be on the roadmap in going into 2022?

Manolo Almagro  14:51

Oh, absolutely. And I think it it has been, and again, going into 2020 everything else is kind of been readjusted for how important it is. I think when you look at these expectations that have arisen and evolved over the past year, it’s changed everything and is not going to…like, you can’t set out a really great opportunity or a really great experience and then pull it back, which, you know, I think if you ask some of the grocery people that are doing curbside and things like that, they have to do it, but it’s not a big moneymaker for them. So I think it’s also going to have to be part of this business analysis of what kind of features we’re going to let evolve or enable with voice and how it impacts the business. But you can’t, you can’t not do it. Because especially for DTC, I mean, in general, e-commerce has become super competitive. 

Manolo Almagro  15:39

Like there’s so many people, so many retailers out there that now have to compete…if you look at what happened during Prime Day, right? During Prime Day, it was it was great for everybody. In fact, a lot of retailers, Walmart, Target all jumped in on it, and they had their own sales. So they piggybacked on Amazon’s event. But what happened also was, it set up a very competitive situation where everybody’s now shopping across the different sites to see what who’s got the best pricing. So to go back to what you’re saying, DTCs need to meet this demand. I mean, it’s just a no brainer, it’s table stakes, if you can’t do it, you’re going to run into challenges. Because now that e-commerce is a primary way of people shopping, you have to deliver what everybody else is delivering, like you said earlier, James, you just don’t go back, you gravitate to the brands and retailers that give you the experience that you want.

James Poulter  16:31

Particularly, as you mentioned for…you compared that to people at Walmart, for example, particularly for the big-box retailers, those that have you know, kind of are often in commodity goods, table stakes, you know, kind of low price point very easy. You know, now when you’ve got people like Amazon, enabling the purchase of that product very simply, as well via voice, let alone tracking where the location of the package is, it’s becoming table stakes, as you say. Now, the thing I want to look into a bit more, and I suppose the implication here is the third box that we had ticks across the board, and it’s not many percentage points across these different markets, is actually ‘research a product for price availability and functionality’. 

James Poulter  17:06

And one of the things we know from the broader research is that the thing that people are most likely to do after activating music or checking the weather with, say, a smart speaker, is that they ask open questions. And we see here that this is something that people within the retail sector really want — to be able to research a product. Now, Massimo, with the people within the Federation, those that you are kind of engaged with on a day to day basis, how well prepared do you think most brands are at the moment to answer this request for product information when it comes to voice? Is this on people’s roadmap, yeah? 

Massimo Volpe  17:37

I have the perception that they’re not very well prepared. First of all, because we already had the kind of similar way where we went to, in the past few years, we had the price comparing websites that were coming up, they were popping up like in the market, especially in the e-commerce world, and nobody was prepared. And now they are trying to manage that and leverage on that opportunity, but they became a first threat. And then it became so strategic, so central, that they had to embrace it. And now they’re working around that. 

Massimo Volpe  18:11

But I remember some time ago that they were just accusing all of these websites, say, you’re ruining my business. So I think that the same thing is happening with voice, I don’t think that they’re prepared, they’re gonna…I see them still very passive about this. And eventually, thanks to studies like this one, they will understand the importance of becoming, or being ready and becoming actually proactive in a space that’s helpful to us.

James Poulter  18:43

I think, from my own perspective, having the kind of gone through a couple of digital evolutions in my career, you know, first with, with mobile and social, you know, before it, you know, thinking about how it’s took such a while for people to kind of get on board with these things. I kind of feel like we’re in that some of the state at the moment with voice. Yeah, we’ve got the data here now, thankfully, to kind of make this point very clear to people. But you know, it still needs to be getting further along on those kind of retail roadmaps, and particularly when it comes to product research, which is like the most basic of tasks that most people kind of do. There’s, you know, they’re gonna ask those questions…if the brand isn’t there, you’re not going to get any share of answer on that money. What’s your take on this? Is this is this on the radar enough of your clients and customers?

Manolo Almagro  19:24

It’s on the radar, I think the challenge is finding the right fit and use case, I think, the side of voice that works really well is helping people find things or like the research of product, which is why it’s number one on your priority list here. I do see that it’s a tricky situation when it comes to the bad customer experience. Because, at the moment, people see or experience a bad voice experience while they’re using it, whether it’s part of an e-commerce player, or if they’re on the mobile app in their car, to find something, you don’t get that many chances, especially now. The way customers or consumers are trained and they behave is they have high expectations, low patience, low attention spans. I mean, we’ve…I think, again, I go back to your term about the Amazon effect. They’ve spoiled everybody for other types of retail experiences.

Manolo Almagro  19:26

If you can’t meet that bar, they’re going to just pull out and go somewhere else, because they can, especially now. I think a lot of the clients are very interested in looking at it. We look at things like in-app mobile ordering. Through voice, we’re looking at things about checking again, if there’s something in stock, very simple questions that you would normally even use a chat for. So if you made it voice enabled, it may be faster and natural, because people like to talk to me, they are good at talking about things. But I do see that the challenge is always going to be the response time, the speed of the reaction, and the fact that you can’t make the customer learn a new way to speak. They have to be able to speak the way they speak. And that’s always a challenge when it comes to voice.

James Poulter  21:02

Absolutely. How much do you think there might be an influencing effect here? Yeah, we just say that, for example, IO — a few weeks ago, yeah, Google releasing their interestingly named  LaMDA functions. And you know, things like Alexa conversations over the past 12 months coming from, from Amazon, this desire to be able to get straight into the conversation, to jump through the whole chatbot-style experience of this, then that, then this, then that…that feels like the direction of travel. It feels like retail, above all, when you’re, you’re navigating such a massive set of parameters to get through a catalogue of information or find a product or get help. How much do you think these types of technologies might help us in the next year, 12 to 18 months?

Manolo Almagro  21:43

Yeah, I think, I think it’s essential, it’s going to be essential. And again, the retailers have already started to plan from last year, they just move certain things up faster. I think they found new ways. They’re like, you know what, we need to react better. This is a better way for us to operate from a business perspective, there’s a lot of things out of automation that you can do with voice that help the business as well. I do think it’s going to be essential, a component of shop, it’s just like everything else, the moment we set up an expectation that you can get something in two hours, that’s just going to become the bar. So the moment we get to a point where you can just engage voice, the way you would speak like you and I are speaking, there’s no context. And I’m not saying your name every five minutes to get you to talk back to me…kind of a thing, the moment we make it as human as possible, I think that’s  where retail is going to engage that. 

Manolo Almagro  22:33

But I also do think that there’s this psychology of people walking around talking inside of a store. So it’s great. If you’re outside the store, you’re doing research. But if you’re inside of retail space, it’s a little bit different than you…you might look a little crazy talking to yourself. I mean, you’ve seen it, people will talk in the AirPods and you’re like…are you talking to me… it’s that kind of experience inside a store is probably something we still have to work through. So that use case of using voice inside of a store, I think is is further down.

James Poulter  23:01

Unless it’s perhaps directed specifically to an obvious device, right, which we’ve seen in some cases, kiosks, or, you know, things that previously were touch interfaces, maybe becoming voice enabled. But I think you’re definitely right, the sociology kind of point that people not wanting to speak out loud, that kind of, you know, kind of embarrassment effect is definitely there, we see that actually, in the broader research that came out at the VCI this year. You know, one of the big barriers that people are kind of pointing to is I don’t like feeling self-conscious of using voice out loud in a public space, but using it out loud in what we would call a public-private space, people are much more willing to do so, for example, in your home, speaking out loud to your phone with other people around, that’s fine, but during that same activity, you know, in the street or in a store less so. So there’s actually some user behaviour things that we need to kind of overcome here as well. 

James Poulter  23:46

So I can see that taking effect. Now, what I want to do is just point us, as we kind of begin to wrap up here, into a little bit of future gazing. One of the other things we asked in the top task was what the people most likely to use voice for in the future. Now we’ve already mentioned shipping status and product research, those are really up there in the top boxes in terms of both what people do today and what they want to do more of in the future. But we also see coming up in the similar percentage numbers here —  48% in the US, 50% in the UK and Germany, people are finding answers for common questions. So the kind of…how do I do this; what do I do…the kind of customer service type questions there. And I just wonder, Massimo, what’s your perspective on this, on kind of where voice might play a role in customer service, particularly as retail is getting far more complex, far more personalised, lots of promises being made about your shipping and returns? And yeah, those types of policies? Yeah, things are getting much more complicated if you are an omni-channel retailer, where do you see voice potentially helping in that more customer service end of the spectrum as we kind of look forward here?

Massimo Volpe  24:47

Well, I see, I see it very crucial. I mean, it’s, for me, there are no there is no doubt that they’re gonna become like central in the customer services in there. You see the role that is playing, for example, the chatbot, and how that is still built in with filters. So we try to accommodate  this activity with something that make us very smooth, very similar to dealing with a real person. But still, you see that there is a barrier and that on, on the experience on that, that barrier can go much lower when you use a voice. So you can really create, again, a different, different relationship. And as Manolo  said before, I mean, voice, you get the opportunity even to set up the tone. And tone can make a difference. Think about an angry customer — they need just to be reassured, they need to feel better and to feel understood. I mean, with voice, you can play the role in a much better way. And the result of that… your brand can get a good result on that, good feedback on that. Because sometimes you just need the person that can be compassionate, about your needs, and maybe they don’t fix it, but that just the fact that they understood you, it just gives you a different feeling of the experience that you got. 

James Poulter  26:02

I mean, I’m completely with you. I mean, I had someone call me today from a car company that was trying to kind of follow up with me to book a test drive or something. And the first thing he said was, hey, just to let you know, this call is recorded for training and monitoring purposes, right, which we’ve heard hundreds of times before we need to move on. What training and what monitoring are you doing with this would be my main question is like, maybe they should be trained and taking all that training data and turning it into the script for their customer service voice experience, perhaps.

James Poulter  26:28

Mani, what about yourself? In the US…kind of…customer service is something that I’ve always felt the American kind of public pride themselves on. In Britain, we’re not particularly well known for it. Certainly, if we go to some of our other European colleagues, more of a challenge. I always love coming to the States and being looked after by a server and someone who’s got ‘service’ in the name. Yeah. Do you think? Do you think that US brands think about this already as part of their retail mix, kind of voice as part of the CS? 

Manolo Almagro  26:55

Yeah, I think voice is also…to circle back to what we started talking about…the voice of the brand actually will become a personality in itself. There’s a couple things for voice I see…the combination of using synthetic media and voice together will be…you’d enable the use of some sort of spokesperson that could be an avatar, could be Samuel L. Jackson, but a deepfake version. So it responds to you as it is, would be him in his voice. But I see this convergence of all of these things that we’re seeing already happening — deepfakes, voice analysis, natural language processing, all of that — culminating into really rich retail experiences that are super immersive, right? 

Manolo Almagro  27:34

Part of what we’ve grown to expect in this new digital accelerated age is: everything should be faster and more efficient, for me as a shopper, because that’s what I expect that digital, digital has always also been very transactional. And so it goes back to the e-commerce side. Think of it this way: when’s the last time you went to a mall? Probably a year or so. But there’s certain aspects of the social part of going to a place and experience something and I think voice is going to bring that back, I think it’s going to be combined with visuals that are initiated when you say voice commands, I feel like there’s going to be a new renaissance of future experiences built around using voice in AI and other types of media as a full sensory type of shopping world. That’s what I see. And waste is going to be the natural way we do it. Because we’re social. And we’re humans, and we talk, we talk to each other. 

James Poulter  28:30

Absolutely. It’s also the thing that we see bridging right between these different experiences. Yeah, I’m a big believer in this kind of future consumer journey of being, you know, driving along the highway on my way, perhaps to a retail destination, seeing prompts about what I can do there, being able to engage with that in my car, being able to pick that up on my phone. And then when I’m actually in the store, being able to kind of reach that continuous experience.

James Poulter  28:51

Yeah, that ecosystem, I think we have all the component parts there to make something like that happen, we just now need the implementation to kind of to catch up. So I’m excited to see where that might go. So, thank you so much to both of you, for joining us to kind of dig into this data. Maybe just…I’ll ask you…kind of…to wrap up here, maybe what’s just one prediction, from each of you about where you see kind of voice going in the next kind of 24 months, particularly in the context of coming out of the lockdown out of our kind of pandemic experience? When it comes to retail, what’s kind of one trend that you’re looking at and saying I think it’s going to go that way when it comes to voice and conversational tech?

Massimo Volpe  29:29

Well, James, let me let me start first with, I don’t know if it’s a prediction or it’s more like a curiosity that I’m really keen to see what’s the future on the…it’s voice in the car systems. So the further you can have a conversation with voice while you’re driving. I think that it will give us —  I don’t know if in the next 24 months or if it will take longer— give you a brand…a totally new perspective about doing stuff while you’re doing something else. Imagine when we’re stuck in traffic, the idea that I can shop, I can do shopping while I’m there, and the voice can help me to figure out which is the…what is the closest store and everything, I mean, it gives me really like…



And I’m very curious to see how quick this will be integrated by any company. 

James Poulter  30:24

Yeah, and I think we’re seeing that already. You know, here, I think if you look into the data, so I encourage people TO go check it out. The slides are in the executive summary document, which is, link which will be in the show notes. And you can see very clearly that there is this increasing trend for people to be using voice in the car is leading at the moment in the US, I think it’s coming to Europe as the price of, you know, kind of built-in head units with voice comes in. I think that driving to a retail experience or commuting to a retail experience, yeah, that can really become part of the overall mix. I think we’re gonna see more and more of that. So, okay, great. That’s a good one for us to watch, retailers, if you’re listening, be thinking about your in-car experience. Mani, what about you? What…where do you see kind of voice and retail intersect in the next 12 to 18 months?

Manolo Almagro  31:10

I think that, to your point earlier, customer service is probably where we’ll see a lot of quick hits and sizeable experiences. I think part of the new way of using AI is to listen to some, as Massimo was saying, you can listen to the tension in someone’s voice and then adjust the voice response back to the person so that de-escalates…whatever’s happening. If it’s a bad situation, I do see a lot of that in the works. I also see a lot of usage in automation of things where you’re just taking orders, I mean, I mentioned Drive Thru before because it exploded during COVID. 

Manolo Almagro  31:46

And it continues to be almost 70-80% of where these quick service restaurants are getting their business from. So it’s just gonna continue. But if you can think about…if you can automate that experience, and you know, we’re also having a challenge, re-staffing everything here in the US, you know, the rate of the wages are getting increased, and it’s just hard to get more people back to work because they don’t want to. So automation in areas, and especially when it comes to retail will be key and they are critical. And that’s where a lot of places are working. I think that it’s always going to be the challenge, though, is the sentiment and the acceptance of you’re using my voice for certain things, and what are you gonna do with it? And so the privacy factor will loom large. And we’ll see how that goes.

James Poulter  32:31

Yeah, it’s an important one to point out, and I think, as it becomes more apparent, you mentioned the case studies earlier on, yeah, privacy still remains the top thing for non-voice users as a barrier. But we do see that people are overcoming that, right? Yeah, we’re at 60-plus per cent in each of the markets. We surveyed our people that are using voice, but when in the 40-odd per cent of each market, they say they’re not one of the first things they mentioned is privacy. 

James Poulter  32:52

Now, we know that people report higher on their worries about privacy than their actions have ever really confirmed. But it’s an important one that we do have to continue to overcome. Well, thank you so much to each of you for taking the time…I just just want to ask: where can folks that want to get in touch with you find out more and reconnect? Massimo, just tell us where people can find you on the web. If they want to connect with you.

Massimo Volpe  33:13

They can take a look on our website at And then, from there, they can find me on LinkedIn very, very easily anytime. 

James Poulter  33:22

Manolo, what about you? Where can…where can people find out more about you and Q Division?

Manolo Almagro  33:25

Sure. LinkedIn is always a great place. I’m all over that place. And I think also our website: You can find us there and there’s also an information link on there if you need to know more.

James Poulter  33:38

Massimo Volpe, Manolo Almagro, thank you so much for taking the time to join us on this week’s episode of Talking Shop, the podcast from Vixen Labs focused on helping marketers make more of voice and, particularly in this series, dissecting the work we’re doing with the Voice Consumer Index. And we thank you so much for joining us.





House 337 acquires Vixen Labs

By Vixen Labs / December 18, 2023

Creative collective House 337 has acquired conversational AI agency Vixen Labs as part of a strategic initiative to bolster its expertise in artificial intelligence and broaden its customer experience offer.

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