Blog Post - Naji El-Arifi, Feb 12 2019

What comes after voice commerce?

What comes after voice commerce?

The voice commerce market is likely to be worth around $40 billion by 2022. Already, more than half of consumers say that they would be happy to make purchases via voice commerce, as opposed to using a screen. In fact, all the signs are that we are moving away from a world where screens are the main interface for accessing the internet and online services and towards a future where everything is done via voice. But, with that reality already on the horizon, is there anything more innovative to follow?

Use your brain

The future of online commerce could soon take us in even more creative directions with a brain-computer interface (BCI) that enables consumers to think their way to purchases. This may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it's a potential development that some very high-profile minds are already taking seriously. Facebook, for example, is building an interface that connects brain and computer for typing and "skin hearing."

Facebook's interface can already do weight words per minute. Back in 2017, the social media giant predicted that the technology would soon exist to support 100 words per minute. We're not there just yet, but the claim itself reinforces both the commitment and ambition. Elon Musk has also jumped on the BCI bandwagon with Neuralink, which is researching "implanting tiny electrodes in the brain that may one day upload and download thoughts."

How does BCI work?

Every human brain has neurons, which are individual nerve cells that are connected to one another. Every time the brain starts working, the neurons are working, with tiny electric signals passing from one to the other at speeds of up to 250 mph. The signals travel along insulated paths in the brain. However, every time a signal is sent, some of the signal escapes the insulation. And scientists have found that not only can they detect this escaped signal, but also direct it to a device to enable BCI. Currently, any method of BCI requires invasive surgery that is likely to put most people off, but technology could change all that in the years to come.

Using BCI in practice

From controlling computer games to enhancing the lives of those who have disabilities, BCI has a lot of potential uses in practice. In the context of commerce, it could mean that, in the future, decisions about whether or not to make a purchase - and the action to enable it - come directly from the brain with no other interface in-between.

The big stumbling block is currently connecting signals to a device without invasive surgery on healthy brains. However, as soon as there exists the technology to read brain signals from outside the brain, BCI is likely to become the new reality, fast.

While voice commerce is currently dominating the trends in online shopping, it may not be the end game in terms of new interfaces. The brain-computer interface might seem like science fiction right now, but there are some very determined forces at work committed to making it happen.

Voice commerce is one of several key trends highlighted by Wunderman Commerce in our new report, Wunderman Commerce Futures 2019, that are set to have a significant impact on eCommerce - and which present organisations a variety of opportunities in their quest to thrive in a digital-first world.

Download our Futures 2019 report