There is a debate raging about whether a new economic revolution has started without the masses realizing it. And people are voting with their dollars and their voices: the new economic trend that is quietly gaining traction is voice commerce. This trend makes use of a software application on smart speakers, all mobile phones and is commonly used on commercial websites. It lets people use their voices to order products and services instead of the mouse or the keyboard. Some of the voice commerce platforms come replete with sophisticated voice recognition capabilities and are able to process complex sentences and responses.
A Growing Trend
While one study showed only 2% of people who own Amazon Alexa have used the smart speaker to make a purchase using their voice, others show more than 35% of respondents had made a purchase using a smart speaker. And with about 21.9% of the internet users in the United States owning a smart speaker, the adoption of this new way of buying can potentially happen with revolutionary speed. It’s anticipated that over 31% more people will use smart speakers to make purchases in the next year and by 2020, almost 35% of U.S. internet users will have used smart speakers to purchase at least one item.
Barriers To Growth
Another survey showed many more people considered using smart speakers to purchase products, but there were three barriers that prevented them from doing so. Those barriers were concerns about privacy and security and the inability to see the product clearly. With the release of the Echo Show by Amazon, that third hurdle will be eliminated and even more people will be shouting their purchases into smart speakers, especially when reordering or putting more items on their shopping list. Some see that as the most likely role for smart speaker, not replacing ecommerce.
With the steady growth of smart speaker purchases, some marketing gurus are already predicting that soon Alexa, Siri and their ilk will be selling commercials. About 40% of people in the United States with voice assistants already said they would welcome product suggestions that were relevant to them. This is a likely addition to voice purchases, visual search, augmented and virtual reality and chatbots as these technologies vie for the attention of consumers. Some studies say researching products is how consumers most often use voice-enabled devices while shopping online and in-store. However, most consumers still prefer shopping the traditional way, for now anyway.
While Alexa isn’t airing commercials yet, 85% of Amazon customers chose the products the system recommended while they were voice shopping for groceries, home goods and electronics. Consumers trust the reviews and product information Amazon offers, so they agreed the recommended products were things they needed. Such a powerful influence may hasten the time when voice-assistants are hawking products. Some say companies are in talks with Amazon to have their products marketed on Echo devices. Amazon denies the rumor is true, but with Echo devices in millions of homes it seems like a lucrative opportunity for early adaptors.
Monetizing Amazon Echo Devices
Initially Amazon said there would be no ads on Kindle Fire. Three years later, Fire-only deals began appearing on the platform and now there are lots of ads on Kindle Fire. Ads on Echo devices appear to be inevitable. Creating value-driven, personalized ads that work with voice seems like the next frontier. In the meantime, brands are jostling for position to be included in Amazon’s voice search traffic and whatever is to follow. Wise brands should already be optimizing for voice search right now with their sales performance, search relevance and order history and be ready to go once Amazon opens the floodgates.
A recent test of Alexa’s order logic showed she recommended products that had the Amazon’s Choice badge first. They were followed by the top product in the order history of the user. Amazon has already issued a list of requirements for getting an ‘Amazon’s Choice’ badge. They include the popularity of the product and positive customer reviews. Alexa is excellent at reordering products from the purchase history of users. So the key for many brands to get on Alexa’s good side is to develop a purchase history with as many Alexa users as possible and optimize for relevance in the product listings and keyword language.
Voice Shopping Going Mainstream
While Amazon is poised to control a large share of the smart speaker and voice purchasing market initially, the mainstream will embrace the technology soon. Last year people spent $2 billion using voice commands. That number is expected to rise to $40 million by 2022 in the United States alone. Over 62% of American households with a smart speaker have used it to buy groceries and 35% used the platform to purchase retail items. Amazon sales are sure to rise with the increasing use of smart speakers. But that rising tide is sure to lift the boats of other mainstream retailers as well.
The Future Is Here
Conversational commerce is the new ecommerce. While Amazon sales continue to grow and brands wait with bated breath for the monetization of Echo devices through advertising, making purchases online using your voice has become an ever-growing trend. Both online retail giants Amazon and Google are investing in this large niche and consumers are adapting quickly. Voice command technology is more than just a novelty. It’s more convenient for the consumer, is less labor intensive and reduces costs for ecommerce companies and makes the process for purchasing products online easier.
The History Of Voice Purchasing
Man has been using verbal communication to exchange goods and services for thousands of years. IBM began to capture human speech with all its nuance, inflection and complexity in a computer program called voice recognition technology in 1961 with its Shoebox computer. Fifty years later, Apple and Amazon took it to another level with their virtual assistants Siri and Alexa. People searched Google using voice based commands 35 times as much in 2016 than they did in 2008. Now, its predicted that by 2020 voice based technologies will do 50% of online search queries.
More, Faster, Better
Voice commands makes online transactions faster and easier. You can shop in bed, while working out or even in the shower, using your voice. It will help to personalize the online buying experience. Companies will collect data on customers’ personal preferences, customer expectations and consumer trends easier and steer them to products that interest them. The challenge to online merchants will be developing voice based optimization techniques and short, catchy, precise descriptions of products to market them to customers using purely verbal descriptions. Voice commerce is here. It is time to prepare your marketing plans to benefit from this exciting new trend.