Voice Assisted Shopping: The Future is Starting Now

Voice Assisted Shopping has arrived, with some big e-tailers already jumping in. Here’s what you need to know now about its potential, and how to prepare.

Most voice assisted shopping happens through smart speakers, which are the fastest growing consumer technology since the smartphone, and they’re revolutionizing the way we interact with technology.  Amazon boasted that customers’ use of Alexa for shopping more than tripled during the 2018 holiday season as compared to 2017.

Strategy consultants OC&C predict that voice shopping will grow to $40B by 2022, up from about $2B today across the United States and the United Kingdom. Some predict even faster growth: Juniper anticipates that number to be $80 billion by 2023.

There are today just four companies who’ve jumped into the Voice Assistant market, with Google leading the way. Right now only Google and Amazon enable shopping for retail goods (as opposed to in-app purchases). You can access the various Apple stores through Siri, but not other stores.

Adoption rates for voice assisted shopping are still small, but the potential is large.

We’ve previously reported on all the ways you can now shop by voice. Reports from The Information earlier in the year found that only 2% of Amazon Echo owners have ever tried voice shopping. But that’s changing.

Millennials are the earliest adopters.

CouponFollow’s Millennial Shopping Report 2019 says that 45% of millennials use voice assistants while shopping. This doesn’t say that 45% of millennials are using voice assisted shopping for all their needs or that they are consummating the purchase by voice. It also noted that two-thirds of the millennials said more than half of their online shopping was through Amazon.

Engaging the elderly

Small screens and keyboards are not particularly easy to use, especially if your vision or dexterity is fading.

Conversations through voice assistants may rise as a welcome interaction. It may even turn out to be the least burdensome way to do routine chores like grocery shopping.

Baby boomers are already adept at shopping online, and the oldest are turning 73 this year. As mobility concerns continue to rise, it’s likely that more will look to their devices and online services to help with everyday tasks.

Conversations will start to offer suggestions

The transaction is only one piece of a shopping occasion.

Perhaps more important for voice is its role in the surrounding experience, such as answering questions, identifying a shopper’s needs, and making shopping lists. Voice assisted shopping can still be a bit funky and as much as 65% of first tries aren’t relevant, but it’s expected to get better at shopping conversations as artificial intelligence improves.

Reasons why voice assisted shopping has huge potential

It’s faster. We can speak faster than we can type, so using voice is typically quicker. You can reel off the name and a detailed list of adjectives describing the product you want in less than half the time.

It’s frictionless. There are simply fewer barriers to overcome in order to start the shopping experience. You don’t have to whip out your phone, unlock the screen, find the app and wait for it to load. On your phone or your smart speaker, just activate the voice assistant with a 2-word command.

It’s about to get even better. The rise of smart speakers with screens could open the door for voice shopping to actually become what it’s forecast to be. Devices like the Echo Show and Google Home Hub are the beginning of the multi-modal voice experience, where you can see a screen and control it with your voice. Extend this to the Fire Stick TV with Alexa on-board, and the TV could easily become the shopping mall of the future.

Whether or not you believe the hype of the forecasted numbers, there is simply too much traction and potential with voice shopping for it not to be something that can seriously impact your business. With that said, it doesn’t come without its own challenges.

Opportunity also comes with challenges.

First, there are challenges for retailers, including:

  • Data ownership. If you choose to use one of the top two platforms, Alexa or Google Assistant, then they’ll ultimately have visibility into all of your skill or action activity, including what your users are asking for and buying. That’s pretty compelling competitive intelligence.
  • Commission. For a truly seamless experience, you’ll need to use a native payment service, like Amazon Pay or Google Pay. For that, there’s a charge.
  • Competition. Amazon’s aim is to be the place where you can buy anything online. That means that, whether or not you compete with Amazon today, you might tomorrow

In addition, there are challenges for consumers, including:

  • Difficulty browsing. Although we can speak faster than we can type, it’s quicker to scan a list of search results than it is to listen to those results read back audibly. General browsing is a challenge on voice.
  • Difficulty discovering possibilities. Discovering voice applications is a challenge. So finding out what shopping facilities exist on voice and understanding how to access them can be a challenge for some.

The bottom line is, be prepared.

As the AI for voice assisted shopping continues to develop and improve, having your products visible to both search crawlers and AI reference data points means using the best available technology. A connected Product Information Management system (PIM) is a must; your Excel sheet can’t be accessed by these bots. And accurately syndicating your PIM data across multiple channels is another must.

Shopping Feed syndicates product listings on all of the world’s most powerful marketplaces, syncs and refines inventory data with >11M product tags, and automates order fulfillment.  Contact us for more info: contact@shopping-feed.com  (920) 333 3488