Former Walmart head of U.S. commerce Marc Lore is now co-founder, chairman of the board and investor in “conversational commerce” B2B startup Wizard Commerce, which recently raised $50 million in a Series A funding round, according to a TechCrunch report Wednesday (Oct. 6).
Startups in “conversational commerce” believe the future of mobile commerce lies in texting.
The Wizard fundraising round was led by NEA’s Tony Florence and also included Lore himself and Accel. Lore, Florence and Accel’s Sameer Gandhi have board seats, as well as Wizard co-founder and CEO Melissa Bridgeford.
Wizard plans to use the new money to hire employees in artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, sales, finance and operations.
Wizard spun out of text-based shopping platform Stylust, which used artificial intelligence and image recognition to give shoppers more options on what to buy via text message. The platform also offered a “one-text checkout” experience.
Bridgeford said Wizard is an opportunity “to build our vision on a much larger scale and to partner with Marc, who’s really a tremendous visionary in retail tech and really a proven founder and a proven operator.”
“We really share the vision that conversational commerce is the future of retail,” she said.
Wizard’s product is “an end-to-end shopping experience” — including opt-in, search, payments and shipping and reorders — allowing brands and retailers to do business with customers by text.
PYMNTS’ Connected Economy research shows 26% of consumers own a device with a voice-controlled assistant and 30% of all consumers have created shopping lists using voice-activated devices. One-quarter of consumers say they’ve used voice-activated devices to make a purchase, while almost 20% haven’t, but might.
Juniper Research in 2019 forecast $80 billion in voice commerce by 2023, but revised that prediction in August to show that eCommerce transactions via voice assistants will reach only $19.4 billion by 2023. This year is expected to see $4.6 billion in voice commerce.
The lack of visual information available when making a purchase could be holding back voice commerce adoption, Eric Turkington, vice president of growth at voice and conversational technology company RAIN, told PYMNTS.