Voice commerce holds promise. But at the moment, more consumers are turning to voice assistants to research products than add them to their cart.
Why is that?
Despite the proliferation of Alexa-enabled Amazon devices and growing competition from Google Home and smaller players, there are twice as many monthly smartphone voice assistant users compared with monthly smart speaker users (90.1 million vs. 45.7 million), according to a new study by Voicebot, Pullstring and RAIN. While 88.5% of US internet users own a smartphone, only 22.9% own a smart speaker.
The dominance of smartphones for voice assistants was also demonstrated in a September 2018 survey by CivicScience. One-third of US internet users access voice assistants through phones compared with 9% on smart speakers. This data also shows the rising usage of voice assistants in cars (11%).
According to the Voicebot study, smartphone voice assistants are most commonly used while driving (62%)—which makes sense since hands are not free—followed by relaxing at home (38%), a very different use case.
Even as voice is integrated into more channels like cars, TVs and appliances and moving beyond the obvious use cases, voice commerce isn't catching on as quickly.
Voice via smartphone is primarily used as an informational tool. The highest number of users asked general questions (83.6%) as well as monthly usage (52.7%). Asking about traffic or directions (47.4%) and finding a place to eat (28.8%) were the next most common monthly use cases.
Interestingly, using voice to research a product before purchase had higher usage than entertainment-related tasks like streaming music, games, radio or podcasts. A substantial figure (41.8%) have at least once tried researching a product, 24.8% did this monthly and 5.3% reported daily usage.
The majority of US internet users are fairly indifferent to buying via a voice-activated speaker, though. According to an October 2018 survey conducted by Bizrate Insights for eMarketer, 54% haven't tried it and have no interest and 31% haven't used it but had some interest. Only 5% have used it while 1% used it regularly.
However, 37% had performed a shopping activity via voice. The highest number of respondents (18%) asked for product recommendations, followed by browsing products (15%) and re-ordering previously purchased products (11%).
Voice commerce has the potential to go beyond re-ordering paper towels. "Renewables and consumables are the gateway drug to voice shopping," said Greg Hedges, vice president of emerging experiences at voice strategy agency RAIN. He spoke with eMarketer about the factors that will drive transactions among today's voice users.