Behind The Hype, Voice Is Shaping Up For Ecommerce Greatness

There is more excitement around voice as the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) launches the "Voice Coalition" through which it hopes advertisers can come together to discuss and further understand what the new medium can do for them.

Interestingly, some research paints a rosey picture, but as ever with voice, it's more of a promise of what is potentially to come rather than a picture of voice commerce having already taken off.

To be honest, I think marketers prefer a more honest approach about how this new medium is building rather than crazy predictions like that one that is always doing the rounds suggesting that half of search by 2020 will be via voice. 

The WFA figures are far more realistic. When it comes to commerce, it turns out that just over a third of us -- at 35% -- use our smart speakers to make enquiries over pricing, and 30% use voice to add an item to a shopping list and nearly one in five, at 18%, addd them to a cart. Around one in seven, at 15%, have used voice to make a direct purchase.

It's also worth pointing out that four in five of those people who add items to carts via voice have later gone on to buy it. 

For the future, however long that may be, two in three expect to be using voice to put items in a car, and an impressive 60% expect to be using voice to make purchases.

A last couple of stats that are worth mentioning, before we go number blind, are that two in three of us are fine with Alexa recommending brands to us, and this increases to four in five millennials.

The feedback I get from experts in the field is that it is obviously very early days for voice commerce  and that as this research suggests, people are beginning to use it to add items to shopping lists and carts -- but it is not quite yet an ecommerce powerhouse. 

The observation I have been offered many times is that people are adding repeat purchases to their carts and if they do buy direct over voice, it is typically to place a re-order for an everyday item that does not need much consideration, such as laundry detergent or light bulbs.

These are, of course, the type of item that the average consumer already has a favourite brand for, and just asking Alexa to put another pack of razors in the cart is a friction-free way of being able to convert later or even complete the process via voice. There is little thought required.

That's why its so interesting to see that the vast majority of people are happy for Amazon to recommend brands.

For me, this is the big one. More than two in three of us, and four in five millennials, are okay with asking Alexa for a generic item and letting "her" make a recommendation. Crucially, this remains high -- at more than four in five of us -- if Alexa does what we all suspect she will end up doing, and recommends an Amazon-branded item. 

For the moment, it looks like people are getting used to being able to add repeat purchases that require little thought to shopping carts and some early adopters are ordering these items immediately, via voice, rather than simply adding them to a cart. 

As this percentage grows, the good news is that people generally trust their smart speaker to make good ecommerce suggestions, and so the future looks bright.

Any medium that is trusted by people to take the friction out of making routine purchases has everything it needs to progress and become the search engine for future purchases that are one-offs that require more thought.

Forget the half of search being over voice by 2020 hype. This research from the WFA provides the figures marketers need to commit to memory for when next making the case to their CMO for voice. 

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