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Report: Smart Speakers Are Driving Awareness of Voice Commerce

Though all of the buzz around voice as the hot new retail channel centers on smart speakers, a new report points out that the landscape is far more nuanced than that.

In fact, more consumers currently use voice assistants on their smartphones than they do through smart home speakers like Amazon’s Dot and Echo devices that house the Alexa assistant, according to the Voice Shopping Consumer Adoption Report from Voicebot.ai in collaboration with Voysis. The report also found that more people have used voice to shop on their desktop computers than via smart speakers. Last year, more than $1.8 billion in transactions occurred through voice technologies, according to data from OC&C Strategy. More than one-fifth (21.2%) of the consumers surveyed by Voicebot.ai have used voice during their shopping activities and more than half have done so via smartphone.

So why all the focus on smart speakers? For one, they’re a vehicle for behavioral change, further splintering the path to purchase. Men are leading the way with voice-assisted shopping, according to Voicebot.ai, outpacing women’s usage by 63 percent versus 37 percent. When looking exclusively at smart speakers for voice shopping, the gender gap widens further: 68 percent to 32 percent.

Though voice-assisted shopping is growing, consumers called out a few of the reasons holding back wider usage. Some said they’re simply uncomfortable with a process that relies solely on voice and others cited a mistrust of a voice platform with sensitive payment details. The 20 percent who said they didn’t like not having a screen to verify their orders and purchase info could be thinking exclusively about smart speakers—because voice services on a smartphone obviously would involve a screen.

Plus, devices like Amazon’s Echo Show do include a display for confirmation reinforcement. Voicebot.ai said some of these misunderstandings indicate “there is still consumer education to be done about the full breadth of voice shopping options. There will be voice-only shopping as through a smart speaker, but there will also be multimodal experiences where voice will be a convenience for facilitating the process.”

Despite the drawbacks they cited, consumers found a lot to love about voice-enabled shopping, particularly appreciating that it’s hands free (27.3%), it allows them to multitask efficiently (20.7%) and it helps to answer queries more quickly (18.9%).

Though it’s a common assumption that voice commerce today is mostly useful for reordering—in that the purchase is already a product familiar to the buyer—the report discovered than more than half of consumers had used voice to purchase something entirely new. For now, most voice-driven purchases remain under a fairly modest spending threshold, with the report finding that 85 percent of orders were less than $100. It could be consumers want to minimize the risk of buying with just their voice and decrease the financial downsides. “Voice is being used for everyday transactions and is not yet viewed as a channel for higher priced items,” the report noted. “It appears that the $20-$50 price point today is ideal for voice shopping.”

Everyday household items lead as the most-purchased category of goods consumers have bought through voice commerce, but tied for second place were apparel and entertainment, including music and movies, the report found.

Consumers also expressed an interest in using voice to receive services in store, said Voicebot.ai. They want to use voice assistance to locate products (31.1%), get info on promotions and offers (29.5%,) compare products (25.5%), receive associate assistance (20.8%) and check out on their own (17.6%).

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