Smart speakers — those voice-activated digital assistants in your home or office — are changing the way people interact with news and information and how they buy goods and services. Launched within the past few years, these devices from Amazon, Apple, and Google have outgrown their early "fad' status, and have made a dramatic impact on consumers' lives.
Gone are the days of writing date reminders on your kitchen calendar or jotting down reminders on Post-It notes affixed to your computer screen. Now, notes Google, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of smart speaker owners make their digital assistants part of their daily routine. Last year, users directed their voice devices to check weather and commuting routes, sports scores, and news updates while streaming music and radio. Now, increasing numbers of people are using voice devices to make online purchases with their Amazon, Google, or Apple-connected accounts.
Transforming Consumer Shopping Habits
A recent study from shopping analytics firm Narvar found that 42 percent of voice device owners use voice devices to make purchases — that's a big jump from the 29 percent of smart speaker owners from six months ago. The increase is due to more routine usage and familiarity of the voice-activated devices. As a way of comparison, do you remember when consumers were skittish to place shopping orders online over the internet? As usage increased and security measures got better, online shopping took off in numbers and sales. Expect the same here.
You can now plug in a Google Home device, click over to Walmart Voice Shopping and make purchases directly using voice commands. If you use Amazon Echo, you can ask Alexa to update your grocery shopping list as you remember needed items.
More consumers are using voice-activated devices, and more marketers are creating new opportunities on the platform. It's time to see what early impact is forming around shopping patterns via voice devices.
Let's look at five ways voice-activated assistants are shifting our shopping experiences.
People are spending more time with voice-activated shopping experiences. A March 2018 study by OC&C Strategy Consultants found smart speaker devices have become more common in family homes, and usage is more prevalent. Accordingly, purchases made through voice-activated devices will rise sharply, and may hit $40 billion in sales by 2022. This increased time by consumers using voice-activated shopping will likely result in less time engaging with our mobile phones and the web via desktop, tablets, and laptops.
More people are creating lists to do their voice shopping. Amazon Echo users can now create lists for anything. "Alexa, create a list" is all it takes to create lists for such things as important family dates, school project tasks, grocery shopping lists, holiday shopping lists, or similar lists. Using voice devices to create shopping lists can also help later for certain product discovery.
There's no visual branding with voice shopping. It's an audio play. Shoppers have far fewer opportunities to interact with visual branding when shopping by voice. In fact, the visual aspect is almost completely missing from the voice shopping experience. Will this harm sales that rely on visual allure? Can it help generic items that are well known by name?
There is less product variety offered via voice shopping. A recent Google Home survey showed that more than half (52 percent) of voice-activated speaker owners say they'd like to get information from brands on promotions, sales, and deals about products and services. As the opportunities build for brands and marketers to pitch their goods directly to smart speaker owners, it could be only a matter of time before device owners are ordering from "suggested' items" rather than a wide selection of goods in a certain product category. Could this create a shopping environment where the major category players win out over the lesser known brands? At least some seem to find it possible.
More automated returns will be processed using voice shopping. The returns process for consumers may become more automated and streamlined over time. Voice shoppers will get speaker reminders about product deliveries and returns. If you're dissatisfied with an item bought via your voice-activated device, you'll be able to return it with return labels already sent to your email address.