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Just 5 Percent of Shoppers Want to Use Voice Tech to Buy Clothes

More than 1,000 U.S. consumers were questioned about what they could see themselves buying with voice assistant technology. Just 5 percent envision apparel among the purchases in their voice-commerce future.

Sumo Heavy surveyed 1,046 people in the U.S. ages 18 and older in April to get a feel for where the voice assistant landscape stands and what’s happening in commerce. The results speak to a slow, steady burn for a technology igniting the imagination of brand marketers but lagging in significant uptake among consumers—but brimming with future potential.

In the voice tech world dominated by Amazon and Google, familiarity breeds contempt in some tech-averse people but the curiosity to experiment for more future-forward consumers. People who use voice assistants regularly—i.e. daily or weekly—represent 29 percent of the overall sample, and they’re more likely than others to use voice as a shopping mechanism, 42 percent to 17 percent, according to Sumo Heavy’s 2019 Voice Commerce Survey entitled “The Current State and Future of Voice-Assisted Shopping.”

Voice commerce solves key customer pain points around the shopping experience, the report said, such as slow-to-load web pages, broken links and error messages like the notorious 404. These problems, some of the biggest reason in why people abandon digital shopping carts, don’t factor into voice-enabled commerce.

Though people familiar with voice tech show a willingness to engage with commerce, they’re more likely to favor “convenience” categories over others, the data suggests. Twelve percent said they could see themselves use voice channels to purchase fast-moving consumers products like household goods and consumables, nearly equal to the number (11 percent) who see voice’s potential for ordering groceries and food deliveries. But another 11 percent also think voice assistants will be useful for experience purchases like buying event tickets, booking flights and securing hotel reservations.

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What the report called “consumer products” such as electronics fared poorly, selected by 6 percent as a purchase they’d make via voice commerce. Just 5 percent expressed interested in buying clothing with a simple voice command, suggesting that the fashion category might be bound by the compulsion to see, touch and feel prior to purchasing.

That could be a factor in why Amazon released this month a new screen-based smart speaker in the Echo Show 5, priced at $90 and powered by its industry-leading assistant, Alexa. Experts have said that the screen-and-voice combination could be a killer app in the smart device category and give consumers greater confidence to use these gadgets for their shopping needs.

According to Sumo Heavy co-founder and CEO Bart Mroz, these findings suggest that “we’re at the cusp of the voice revolution.” One of the most promising signs, he added, is that voice technology is seeing regular usage after consumers give it a go.

“Once more consumers discover that their voice assistants are capable of more than performing simple tasks like playing songs and relaying the weather report, they’ll use it for other activities, including making purchases via voice,” he concluded.