It’s no secret that e-commerce is on the rise. According to a survey recently commissioned by Adtaxi, 66 percent of consumers make an online purchase at least once a month, and over half (52 percent) of online shoppers spend as much, or more, of their dollars online than in-store.
With the rapid growth of online shopping comes the inception of new technologies promising to streamline and improve the e-commerce experience for customers. Among them: voice-activated smart devices.
Voice-Activated Smart Devices
While consumer adoption of voice-activated devices is still in its nascent stages, use of the technology has gained significant momentum over the past several months, showing potential for unprecedented growth in the coming years. According to Adtaxi’s survey, 27 percent of consumers currently own a voice-activated smart device, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, with 24 percent having used one to make a purchase — and that’s only the beginning. When it comes to voice shopping, we are just getting off the ground.
Purchases made through voice assistants will continue to escalate sharply, projected to reach a striking $40 billion in sales by 2022. Brands that capitalize on this trend will find a profitable new vehicle for advertising, but why exactly are consumers jumping on board with voice shopping, and do privacy concerns pose a threat to the sector’s growth?
Why Voice Shopping?
One thing is certain: Convenience is king in the digital age. With information readily available at our fingertips, technological advancements have fostered a user expectation of instant gratification, in turn ushering in a new age of practically effortless shopping. Consumers in today’s on-demand world are increasingly researching and purchasing products online for a more painless experience, taking place from the comfort of their own home.
Voice-activated smart devices are taking convenience a step further, delivering an at-home shopping experience that is even faster and more efficient at nearly every stage of the process. For instance, the days of writing reminders and shopping lists on pieces of paper attached to the refrigerator are long behind us. In their place, voice devices allow users to create important lists and perform purchases on one digital platform — all hands-free. Already gaining significant traction for these reasons, voice shopping is on the fringe of becoming mainstream within the next few years.
When Is It Most Useful?
This technology lends itself particularly well to repeat purchases, meaning that voice will be harnessed most by brands that sell these kinds of products. Utilizing a voice assistant to buy products considered “lightweight decisions” is a major win for busy households. Think about it: No more forgetting to put paper towels or toothpaste on the grocery list and having to go back to the store.
Even better: Voice assistants can set reminders for these kinds of repeat purchases, with users being asked, “Would you like to reorder now?” Without even needing to remember they are running low on a particular product, the consumer can engage in this interaction with a simple reply and initiate the purchase immediately — much easier than having to click through to complete a purchase with a computer or mobile device.
As technology progresses, we will soon see this play out in remarkable new ways. For example, refrigerators will become smarter, asking users if they would like to purchase the mustard they’re nearly out of. Or, we will see customer service become omnichannel and consumers will be able to receive personalized assistance from a representative through their voice-activated shopping experience.
What About Privacy Concerns?
As Internet users, we assume that we must give up some level of privacy in order to learn, explore and shop online. However, owning a device that could potentially record personal conversations and use that data to better predict consumer behavior can be an uncomfortable concept to grasp. Adtaxi’s research supports this, finding that 64 percent of consumers are indeed concerned about a voice-activated smart device threatening their privacy.
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Still, roughly half of those individuals would not let such concerns stop them from purchasing one — showing that convenience is truly paramount to the customer experience and for many individuals, it trumps privacy worries.
Even so, issues surrounding privacy concerns will be dealt with by the market and will not hinder the growth of voice shopping. Soon, companies will be competing to offer the “safest” device as a selling point, sharing key marketing messages that verify the consumer’s voice data stays with them. Skeptics, rest assured knowing that the industry is taking these fears seriously and will act accordingly with an adequate response, restricting the ability for voice-activated devices to collect and record personal data.
E-commerce is characterized by ease of use and personalization, and what technology better embodies these ideals than voice-activated smart devices? As the use of voice assistants continues to pick up speed — showing no signs of slowing down — it’s likely that their role will continue to revolve around “lightweight decisions,” helping users keep up with repeat purchases, while also becoming more common in the home.
As for whether the voice assistant will play a greater role in more serious purchasing behaviors — such as buying a smart television — that remains to be seen. In the booming e-commerce technology market, the possibilities that lie ahead are virtually limitless.
Evan Tennant is national director of e-commerce at Adtaxi, a digital marketing agency.