Sber Expands Voice Assistant Shopping Beyond Groceries
Sberbank’s Salute voice assistant users can now order a wide array of home goods and other products as part of a major expansion in voice commerce offered by the Russian tech and financial giant. The voice assistant can connect and order items as varied as a “saucepan or an inflatable pool” in addition to foodstuffs from the SberMarket delivery service in 144 Russian cities as the company continues its aggressive feature expansion.
Sber’s Salute voice assistant will take orders for SberMarket by asking the voice assistant for the type of product like bread or soap or for specific brands and versions of products. The AI will then help narrow down what exactly the user wants to order and how much, adding it to the shopping cart and paying with the connected bank account. The orders can only be made via the mobile app only for now, though the company’s smart speakers and smart displays will be included soon. That’s a striking difference from Amazon and Google in the U.S., which started with ordering smart speakers before expanding into mobile apps. The users are also free to mix and match from more than 70 retailers. The voice assistant can handle ordering vegetables and meat from different stores and coordinating multiple carts simultaneously.
“Ordering groceries has become a routine for many people, and it is often time-consuming when you order for a big family. The integration of delivery services with the Salute assistants speeds this up, in part due to voice search and the multimodal interface,” SberDevices CEO Konstantin Kruglov said in a statement. “The time you save can be spent on something that really matters, like cooking dinner with the entire family.”
Sber has already been offering limited grocery ordering in some markets for the last six months in partnership with e-commerce platform Samokat as a test before the general release. The company reported that the most popular items were bread and milk, which were each part of 17% of all orders, closely followed by ice cream at 16%, with water and potato chips rounding up the top five at 13% and 10% of orders respectively. Sber didn’t mention if any of the orders included the unique beverages offered exclusively through Salute in a deal with Unilever earlier this year, however.
Sber’s interest and investments in voice commerce is a logical outgrowth of the rising popularity of voice commerce worldwide. Juniper released a report this month estimating that voice assistants will handle $19.4 billion in transactions by 2023, a 320% growth from what’s expected this year. Sber already has a broad ecosystem that includes all of the relevant elements, so it’s an easy leap to connecting its voice assistant to its e-commerce and online banking systems.
Sber has been rushing out all kinds of new features for its voice assistant, integrating it into more and more of its other services ever since releasing the SberPortal smart display and the SberBox TV set-top streaming device simultaneously with Salute last year. The voice assistant and its three distinct voices and personalities have interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin at an AI conference hosted by Sber. Most recently, the voice assistant has connected with more of the banking side of things, adding the ability to exchange currency and move around and invest pensions for users with the right kind of accounts. Buying groceries and tools is just the next step for them.
“Customers would use the Salute virtual assistants to order food mostly (potato chips, popcorn for a movie, a snack for the evening), while now the assistants can be used to order groceries for several days, you can also order school supplies, cosmetics, bicycles, or inflatable pools – everything our partners have to offer,” SberMarket vice president for product development Maria Malysheva said. “The ability to order goods with voice will appeal to everyone who loves to be among the first to test new technologies and knows the value of their time.”