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Here’s How Voice Technology Influences Shopping

Now that voice technology has been named one of the most important consumer trends of 2019, its position as the next big thing in retail is nearly unassailable—but a new survey of 4,500 online shoppers has found that a trust gap still exists between consumers and the tools that enable voice commerce.

According to “Reimagining Commerce: Principles of Standout Digital Shopping Experiences,” a survey conducted by cloud-based customer service management company Episerver, 17 percent of online shoppers make multiple voice purchases in a month as of 2019, compared to 11 percent in 2017.

However, the survey also revealed that consumers are having a hard time learning to trust the relatively new purchasing channel and harbor concerns regarding the security of artificial intelligence-powered voice recognition technology.

Forty-three percent of respondents said that a lack of security features is the main reason they will not make more voice purchases in 2019. Other than security, 35 percent of consumers listed a lack of product images as the top deterrent while 33 percent said it was the difficulty of comparing one product to another that most prevented them from using voice-based channels for commerce.

“Voice purchases are growing in popularity, but the channel has yet to make a major impact for brands and retailers as a purchasing add-on,” Episerver researchers wrote. “The majority of online shoppers (55 percent) report that the presence of voice purchasing does not impact which brand or retailer they will buy from. When voice does influence perception, more shoppers see the technology as a purchase deterrent than driver.”

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Episerver refers here to the results of a question that asked consumers whether the presence of voice technology from a retailer was more or less likely to influence purchase decisions. Only 10 percent said that they would be more likely to purchase from a brand or retailer that offers voice purchasing while 35 percent said they would be less likely. Overall, 55 percent said that it would likely not make a difference for them.

“The jury is still out on whether users will ever fully embrace a purchase avenue where they can neither see nor touch products—a major roadblock for voice,” Episerver noted. “Brands and retailers can develop education and content around voice’s purchasing capabilities to bridge a crucial gap in the overall customer journey.”

Episerver pointed to the prevalence of shopping through social media channels, once considered a less-than-ideal platform for commerce, as a roadmap for voice technology to become more popular among consumers. In its survey, Episerver found that 63 percent of online shoppers have clicked on a social media ad over the last year—and 33 percent made a purchase based on that click.

Additionally, 52 percent have clicked on a product on an influencer’s post and 31 percent of that group ended up making a purchase.

“Where voice commerce currently lacks, social commerce excels,” Ed Kennedy, senior director of commerce at Episerver said. “Our data indicates social media drives purchases and has massive sway over younger consumers. It has evolved from networks’ early testing of primitive ‘buy now’ buttons to a native part of people’s everyday lives in which scrolling quickly turns into shopping.”

Evolving its purpose in the shopping experience is where voice technology can begin to shine, Episerver said. Already, voice recognition is being used more and more by consumers to complete other tasks, tasks often related to shopping. Twenty-two percent of consumers surveyed said they have conducted product research using either the Amazon Echo or Google Home over the past year, a year-over-year increase of 83 percent, hinting at a possible role for voice technology in the future.

“The average shopper’s path to purchase is more complex than ever, filled with a wide variety of capabilities and attractions popularized by digital native brands,” Episerver explained. “Vying for consumers’ attention and wallet share will only grow more difficult as additional players enter the fray, further congesting an already crowded digital shopping ecosystem.”