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31 Jan – 4 Feb 2018
From the earliest incarnations speech recognition technology has shown huge promise conceptually for sure, but at the same time the experience was typically very frustrating in the past, with the user having to repeat themselves several times even to get the most basic of words recognised. In fact, there are several banks who insist on having you shout at the phone with simple words like yes or no several times just to make progress and check your account balance or make a simple query!
The implications of these advancements are huge, in fact, they are bigger than huge! Voice commerce sales already accounts for $1.8bn sales in the USA and ca. $200m in the UK. This includes retail sales triggered by voice ordering via various software, services and hardware. These figures in themselves are already impressive, especially for the USA, but the projections are even more impressive: In March 2018 the OC&C Strategy Consultants published a survey for 2022.
By then the USA is forecast to hit $40bn retail sales via voice commerce, with the UK tipped to top $5bn by the same date.
This is a huge tsunami wave about to hit consumer products industries, and there doesn’t seem to be sufficient anticipation of this massive wave which is in the midst of arriving. So, let’s take a look at some of the implications of this change for the toy industry, especially toy retailers:
One good example of experience in toy retail is Hamleys of London in England. If you haven’t been to Hamleys, let me briefly describe what happens when you visit. Firstly, when you arrive at the store you are met with real ‘WOW’ in terms of the amazing window displays. Then a greeter in uniform welcomes you, and their colleague is there to bring on the fun with some kind of (perhaps intrusive!) play like spraying bubbles, throwing toy planes etc. As you move through the store, demonstration is a key factor, in fact over the years Hamleys demonstrations have been the launch pad for various successful toy brands and companies.
The point is this – at some point in time over the last generation as we have been hit with wave after wave of technological innovations we have not always maximised the effect of the advantages physical retail can have. Retail is a hard business, so the importance of finding a counter advantage is critical.
The other major area where speech recognition is affecting the toy industry is in the product itself. We’ve had voice recognition toys for quite a long time, but again the software or hardware has often not been good enough to deliver true magic experiences. Children are not likely to continually repeat themselves to a toy with poor speech recognition capabilities.
Today though we are increasingly heading to the point where the toys can get so slick that we can expect children to have a degree of meaningful interaction with toys. Clearly this comes with great responsibility for toy companies, but also heralds fantastic opportunities for high end tech driven toys better than ever before. What exhilarating times we continue to live in!
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spielwarenmesse eG.
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