Why Voice Computing Standards are Needed Now: Interview With Jon Stine

THE RISE OF VOICE COMPUTING opens a range of innovations for consumer commerce. It not only impacts how consumers interact with digital retailers and services, but also how business decisions are made.

In this debut edition of HyTalk, we meet Jon Stine, founder of the Open Voice Network. OVN is spearheading the effort to define both technical standards and ethical use guidelines for voice assistance technologies.

Jon shares his fascinating outlook for the future impact of voice computing. We discuss its effect on every-day consumer experiences and AI-empowered commercial applications. He describes some fundamental principles and “blue sky” scenarios.

Voice Computing in the Enterprise

Most of us are growing more familiar using with smart voice devices like Alexa, Siri, and Hey Google for simple tasks. Interactions with voice assistants in the business environment are more novel, however. Enterprise AI platforms have game-changing potential for consumer commerce businesses, in two respects: One, they enable superior experience design, especially personalized pricing and assortments. Two, they enable business users to access relevant data more easily and make more informed and forward-looking decisions.

As the use of both consumer-facing and AI decision tools grows more widespread, the mission of the OVN is growing in importance. As Stine explains, technical standards are needed to make voice computing work broadly across multiple platforms and computing environments. Ethical standards – especially related to data privacy – are just as crucial.

(The HyTalk interview series is produced by my firm VSN Strategies for Hypersonix.)

Learn more about the Open Voice Network

Learn more about Hypersonix

Retail Tech Innovation or Consumer Change: Which Came First?

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This is much more than a philosophical musing. It’s a question that matters greatly to retailers. Retailing becomes more intricate over time at a pace that exceeds growth in consumption.

This means the next incremental dollar you add to your top line will be a little bit harder to obtain than the last one. Omnichannel requires retailers to maintain, optimize and adjust to keep pace with shopper expectations and behaviors. Those expectations change fast. They are elevated by shopper experiences and shaped by forces outside the retailer’s control.

I call this the Law of Equivalent Experience: The best service standard experienced anywhere is instantly expected everywhere.

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You already know – more or less – who the decision-makers are at each target account: the CIO, the head of store operations, the head of merchandising, the CFO, and the CEO.

Each of these individuals has the power to say “no.” If your solution doesn’t seem to align with one of their objectives, the game may be over. You need all their heads nodding to close the sale. Is your story designed to be persuasive to all five yeses?

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What Amazon and Whole Foods wish they knew about in-store fulfillment

MINDS WERE BLOWN last week when Amazon announced its intention to acquire Whole Foods Markets 461 locations in a $13.7B cash buyout. A media and analyst frenzy followed that has kept the world of retail business on edge for many days.

As it happens, your intrepid storyteller was already deeply involved in a project focused on the in-store fulfillment of online orders. Click & Collect has been coming on strong for many months. It seems like Amazon’s serial adventures with AmazonFresh Pickup, AmazonGo, Prime Now and Prime Pantry have been a primary catalyst. Obtaining a portfolio of physical stores is its most audacious experiment to date. Now the competition gets interesting.

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