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The future of omnichannel — voice commerce

by Nortal HQ, March 5, 2019

In the fourth quarter of 2018, shipments of smart speakers (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.) grew 71%, from 22.6 million devices in Q3 to 38.5 million — more than the total number sold in all of 2017.

These kinds of numbers make it clear that smart speakers are here to stay. And that businesses will want to tap the commercial potential of these new device.

Keeping this in mind, when Nortal was asked by CoreMedia, a German company specializing in creating digital experience solutions, to take part in its internal hackathon, we knew exactly what we should pitch — a proof of concept (POC) for a voice-powered commerce solution.

The process

From extensive experience working with Elastic Path, we knew that its Cortex API is highly versatile and likely would work with what we had in mind, the commerce part of voice commerce.

Next, we had to choose a platform that could process natural language into text and interact with Elastic Path via Cortex API. There’s a plethora of available ready-made solutions from all the big tech companies — Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri, etc.

We decided to go with Amazon Alexa mainly because of its extensive documentation and relative ease of adding a “skill” to the device and having it work out of the box. Now we had both the commerce and voice part sorted. Time to get to work!

Because it was a hackathon, we had very limited time (36 hours), so we decided that our POC would demonstrate adding a few products via Alexa and showing the results on a live shopping cart on a separate web user interface.

The interface interacted via the same Cortex API and refreshed cart data in real time, an example of how easy it is to connect any front-end point to Elastic Path and pursue different omnichannel commerce solutions.

‘Apple added to your cart’

After a grueling 1½ days we had achieved our goal — a working prototype that took voice commands such as “buy apples,” “buy banana” and “delete banana from my shopping cart.” All this action was viewable via the web interface that updated the cart as commands were given.

We understand that these are not the most advanced commands. For example, you can’t browse for products, pay, track an order, etc. But this was not our goal and it was our first interaction with the Alexa development kit, so we are very happy with the results.

This prototype touched only the tip of the iceberg of possibilities for voice assistants and commerce. For one thing, it proved that you don’t need to be selling on the Amazon platform to take advantage of the technology.

In the end for Team Nortal, the hackathon ended in good spirits. Our prototype was voted third best by 50 other participants. Thank you, CoreMedia, for inviting us to the event.

Team Nortal:
Team lead: Titas Abramavicius (Nortal).
Developers: Pijus Akelis (Nortal), Pavel Jakovlev (Nortal), Eric Smerling (CoreMedia), Simon Lecheler (CoreMedia).
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Based in Hamburg, Germany, CoreMedia is a strategic content management and experience orchestration engine behind today’s most iconic online brands. Leading global B2C companies (Deckers, Luxottica, PVH Corp, Finnair, T-Mobile) and B2B firms (Continental, Claas, Emerson, DMG-Mori) create world-class digital experiences powered by the company.