Voice-assisted commerce is likely to be the next frontier for local retailers. According to our recent Voice Assistant Monitor™, 75% of smartphone owners have used voice enabled applications via their smart device. This represents a 150% increase in usage over the past five years. This usage, driven by millennials, is expected to continue to grow as voice technology moves beyond the smartphone to speakers, cars, appliances and other devices.
While most of the current activity is dominated by general tasks like looking up general information (65%), finding weather information (48%), and looking for directions (56%), we are seeing increased usage for commerce related activities. In fact, over the past 4 years there has been a 75% increase in the number of people looking for a deal or local product or service via voice search.
Big box brands have recognized this trend and are already trying to capitalize on it. Walmart recently partnered with Google and its voice-activated Home system. Whenever a consumer runs out of a household staple — from detergent to cereal — the shopper will simply be able to ask Google to reorder it. And since the system can be tied to the shopper’s Walmart account, it will know exactly what brand of paper towels or soap is preferred.
Alexa, Amazon’s version, currently provides a similar service for Amazon Prime members. If you are out of something you can simply ask for the order and have it shipped to your home. To drive usage Amazon offers exclusive deals for voice searches in addition to a credit for first time users.
When it comes to actually purchasing products by voice search, early data indicates it is less than 10% of users. This is expected to increase over time as the adoption of devices grows. Currently, Alexa is thought to have more potential for commerce than Google Now or Siri, given that Amazon is already an ecommerce giant. This may change over time as these companies race to implement more integrated technology and services.
It does present new challenges for retailers. They now have to think through the different buying patterns or use cases that customers go through where a voice experience would enhance that process. For example, Kohl’s customers can take advantage of the voice search feature within the brand’s iOS or Android app. Instead of typing in a product request and sifting through tens of result pages for the desired item, shoppers can use their voice to search Kohl’s inventory and have the app do the majority of the work for them. This enhances the shopping experience by removing fiction points.
Consumers also speak differently than they do when typing. Instead of competing for keywords retailers will have to consider specific phrasing and long-tail sentences that consumers use to search for products. This changes how retailers will have to implement SEM programs.
While conversational commerce is still new, it will be something retailers will need to pay attention to for years to come.