Tesco Labs head of technology research Paul Wilkinson says that voice is overriding the weekly shop and will impact how customers act in-store.

Speaking at Retail Week’s inaugural Tech. event, Wilkinson said that there was “a lot of opportunity” for the grocer to deploy voice search tech in-store to allow shoppers to locate items on their shopping list faster.

The Tesco Labs head said that voice-activated devices could be linked to shopping trolleys or to a voice-activated assistant on a retailer’s mobile app, and stressed that the retail sector could “definitely make better use” of the technology across its bricks-and-mortar estates.

“Voice isn’t the end but it may well be the beginning of quite a big revolution,” said Wilkinson.

“[Shoppers] don’t necessarily sit down on a Sunday night and do a big shop now – they go on and add items to their list on their mobile and add it as they remember, and voice will increase this habit.”


Wilkinson said that voice and smart home devices that incorporate auto-replenishment will also disrupt how shoppers top up on household essentials such as dishwasher tablets.

“Your whole house can do the really boring bits of the shopping for you, which has all sorts of interesting implications for brands and brand loyalty and stickiness and so on,” said Wilkinson.

“It’s like the Amazon Dash button on steroids, you don’t need a button to push any more, that’s a bit passé. But having the dishwasher do it itself, that’s actually quite interesting.”

Wilkinson said the grocer’s Lab division, which employs 25 people, is intended to “learn how people shop and how they might shop in the future”.

“That’s where we’ve seen the voice explosion come from,” he said, referring to Tesco’s IFTT platform, which adds items to users’ online shopping baskets based on automated commands.

Wilkinson said products that are being trialled on the platform “might become features of the website or applications that stand on their own at some point”.