State of Voice Shopping 2019
When we visited the topic of voice-enabled shopping last year, we concluded that brands and businesses looking to take advantage of the new medium would need to do some significant legwork across their ecosystems to promote the capability to customers and have their products appear properly. While that principle continues to hold true today, much of the landscape around voice shopping has changed materially in 2019.
The Velocity of Voice Shopping Behavior is Accelerating
Voicebot AI’s 2018 Voice Shopping study found the amount of voice shoppers to be 26 percent of smart speaker owners. While there's certainly ambiguity on the exact amount of consumers making purchases through smart speakers, many studies have cited a range of figures, with 20 percent surfacing as an acceptable figure to report.
There are strong signals that this behavior is growing. In December 2018, eMarketer forecast that 27 percent of consumers will shop using smart speakers in 2019. However, in July 2019, it raised its estimate and noted the acceleration of shopping behaviors occurring on smart speaker devices.
Voice Shopping: Broad Activity, Specific Sales
When it comes to voice, the term “shopping” encompasses far more than just purchasing an item. Voice users are turning to their assistants for many points along their buying journey, including product research, price comparison, adding to cart and more. An Adobe Digital Insights report states that “nearly half (47 percent) of smart speaker owners reported using one to initiate product search and research, 43 percent said they use them for creating shopping lists, and 32 percent do so for price comparison.”
Amid the strong signs of opportunity for fully supported voice shopping journeys is the current truth that the majority of items being purchased by users are digital products such as music, movies, and other media or goods that don’t require a tactile evaluation. Underscoring this point is Voicebot AI’s finding in its Voice Shopping Consumer Adoption Report that “over 85 percent of voice purchases were for $100 or less. Voice is being used for everyday transactions and is not yet viewed as a channel for higher priced items.”
Brand Preparation for Voice-First Shopping
With all this growth in commerce through voice, brands have clearly shown an intent to increase their investments to capture value. In a study of 400 business decision makers, Adobe found that “91 percent are already making significant investments in voice, and 94 percent plan to increase their investment in the coming year.” However, with all this activity, brands will need to make sure they address a few core areas of digital readiness.
The first area is customer service. Increasingly, consumers are considering voice as a medium to reach companies’ support centers just as they would any other channel. According to Voicebot AI, up to 60 percent of consumers could be interested in using voice-enabled devices to contact customer service departments.
Another key area is discoverability and search engine optimization. A recent study by Uberall found that only 3.8 percent of businesses currently offer correct information in voice searches. Gaining and maintaining visibility through these platforms will be critical to staying competitive with other products going forward.
As we head toward 2020, companies keeping tabs on voice shopping’s maturation should remember that although the usage is increasing, consumer behavior indicates that in the near term a significant volume of purchases will be smaller monetary amounts and often consist of digital products. However, this may change quickly as familiarity with the voice shopping experience develops and privacy concerns are abated.
Matt Lang is the strategy director and Will Hall is chief creative officer of RAIN, a digital consultancy that has emerged as a pioneer in voice and conversational AI.
Related story: What Voice Shopping Skeptics Are Failing to See