Google Assistant and Ecommerce on Smart Displays

By SG Digital on 10/14/2019

A major problem for businesses is how to leverage natural language channels such as smart speakers, smart displays and digital assistants for eCommerce

Smart displays and TVs are the key to unlocking this potential, with the promise of hyper-personalised, natural language driven customer experiences being the prize.

Google recently released their Interactive Canvas control on the Google Assistant platform, which is a rival to Amazon's Alexa Presentation Language (APL).  Both frameworks allow businesses to create Web experiences for their customers on smart displays such as the Google Nest Hub Max and Amazon Echo Show.

The Google Interactive Canvas in particular has the potential to unlock eCommerce on these emerging platforms, and quickly! One of the key benefits of Google's approach is that it uses established web technologies i.e. html, css and javascript.  This opens up Smart Display development to any mid-level web developer, even those with a limited understanding of Natural Language Processing. Google is only allowing the release of gaming apps on Interactive Canvas for the moment, but this will change.  

Demo Of Ecommerce on a Smart Display

To demonstrate the potential for voice enabled eCommerce apps on Google Assistant, I have written an eCommerce app for a Shopping Assistant who offers the customer a 100% personalised experience. 

The following short video shows the test version of the app, and some of the potential features that can be incorporated into this new, personalised language driven experience.

UX and UI Challenges of Digital Assistant Voice Apps

A natural language eCommerce voice app presents a whole new set of challenges for User Interfaces and User Experience on Smart displays. Here are examples of some of the challenges faced and the solutions I used.

 

Nav Bar on a Voice App

A traditional website has its Nav bar at the top of the web page, but this area is reserved by Google for user feedback e.g.

One solution is to move the Nav to the bottom of the screen, and more importantly, keep it simple! Remember, its a voice app, so interactions should use voice first design. In my example I have kept it to core navigation controls - Home, Back and Cart.

 

Voice App Logo

With the Nav Bar moved to the bottom of the screen, the logical place for the voice app logo is bottom right. To allow the user to re-initiate a conversation with the assistant if voice recognition stops, I have incorporated a button in the logo that re-starts dialogue with the digital assistant. 

 

How does the User Know What to Say?

This is the million dollar question! Natural language is just that - Natural, so the user should not have to think. To help, I have taken a 2-fold approach. Buttons are styled as speech bubbles, which gives a visual indication that these words can be spoken e.g.

Also, the product speech bubbles are numbered, so the user can just say '1' in the example above and the selection is made - nice and simple!

Another tactic used in voice first natural language apps is to say 'Help' at any time for options.  In my demo, saying help opens up context driven options that the customer can speak: 

What Next for Voice First Ecommerce and Digital Assistants?

There is a revolution on its way, and it will change the way we interact with businesses on the web.  Facebook are releasing their Portal TV product in late 2019, which has Alexa built in.  I have no doubt that both Google and Amazon will follow with TV based versions of their smart speakers.

The problem with embedding a digital assistant within a TV is that Google and Amazon digital assistants are then at the mercy of updates to TV software and OS.  With separate Smart Display devices that work via a TV's hdmi port, the front runners in Digital Assistant technologies can have more direct control over user experience.

As soon as these devices land, businesses should seize the opportunity to leverage a channel that is right in the heart of the home.

In a future blog post I will eleborate on how I see this type of tech being utilised by business, and explore the new commercial opportunities smart displays will bring.