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How Voice Commerce Will Impact Omni-channel Brand Strategies…and what you should do about it.

Data keeps flowing in about how many smart speakers were sold in 2017. The latest is from CIRP and it says the U.S. total smart speaker installed base is now 45 million. Edison Research data show those smart speakers reach is 39 million U.S. adults and over 50 million including children. But, this channel is about more than smart speakers. Voice assistants are also available through mobile devices, laptop computers, cars and even appliances. The more compelling statistic comes from a Cap Gemini survey of 5,041 consumers in the US, UK, France and Germany – over half of consumers have used a voice assistant with 81% accessing them through mobile devices.

Voice assistants are destined to become a big part of consumers’ lives and represent both a big opportunity and a threat for brands. Why? Purchases that occur today through physical stores, websites and apps will materially shift to voice commerce over the next three years. Brands can take advantage of these changing consumer preferences or cede a rapidly growing sales channel entirely to their competitors.

Voice Commerce to Grow More Than 6x in 3 Years

It will surprise no one that 82% of voice assistant users have asked for information about news, weather, recipes and other topics. Nor will it surprise anyone that 67% of users have also used voice assistants to stream music or videos. However, it may surprise you that 35% of these users have made a purchase using voice.

The voice commerce usage is even higher than the adoption rate of voice to control smart home devices. However, what consumers suggest will happen next is equally intriguing. Voice assistant users claim to have spent about 3% using voice and expect it will climb to 18% in three years. Non-voice assistant users expect their voice assistant enabled purchases to climb from nothing to 7%.

This data suggest that voice assistants are not only popular, they are destined to change consumer purchasing behaviors. Even if these self-reported projections grow at a slower rate, consumer intentions are clear. Voice will be an increasingly important purchasing channel in the near term. Will your brand be ready?

How Purchasing Works Through Voice Assistants Today

Amazon today offers Alexa users voice commerce purchasing through and it is integrating Amazon Pay into transactions for the sale or digital goods such as media and games through third-party Alexa skills. Brands that sell physical goods through today can take advantage of this. Physical goods transactions from within Alexa skill voice apps is not currently supported, but it is reasonable to assume that feature will be added soon. It is in Amazon’s interest to do so.

This is particularly true because Google does enable physical goods transactions through Google Assistant and third-party Assistant apps. More than 40 retailers such as Walmart and Target are part of the Google Express program that enables transactions through Google Home and Google Assistant similar to the ordering features through Alexa. There is also a closed developer preview that adds voice commerce directly to third-party Google Assistant apps. We expect Siri to enable more transactions through Apple Pay in the future as well. All of the leading voice platforms know voice purchasing is a feature that consumers want.

Voice Assistants Will Narrow Consumer Choices and Recommend Goods

You might think brands can sit back and just sell through retail. It is true that very few brands have successfully moved to a consumer-direct sales model through the web or mobile. Why should voice be different? The problem for brands is that voice assistants are already narrowing consumer choices and even introducing them directly to brands.

Today, both Alexa and Google Assistant are actively recommending third-party voice apps to users. If you don’t have an Alexa skill or Assistant app, you cannot be recommended for product search, purchase or other forms of consumer engagement. These activities are going to increase and it is important for brands to develop content, SEO and commerce options suitable for voice interactions now to ensure they have a seat at the table. You can’t win if you are not present and you will lose customers to competitors if you do nothing.

What Brands Can Do Today to Prepare for Voice Commerce

The shift in consumer behavior toward voice commerce presents a challenge for many brands today. Very few brands have any voice presence at all. Nor do they have content suitable for a voice-driven audio experience. XAPPmedia has launched over 700 voice apps for Alexa and Google Assistant on behalf of leading brands and media companies. Based on that experience and our direct work with Amazon and Google, we suggest every brand implement a five-part strategy to prepare for voice commerce growth.

  1. Establish voice app presence to build consumer connections and facilitate the path to purchase
  2. Implement voice SEO strategy to drive discovery
  3. Measure voice app data to improve consumer engagement and SEO
  4. Enable product sales within the branded voice app
  5. Promote branded voice app/s through earned, paid and social media

Many people underestimated early signs that foreshadowed the rise of the web and mobile. We are seeing compelling signs that voice assistant adoption represents the fastest growing consumer technology in history. The impact will extend beyond a simple user interface update. Voice assistants will have broad impact on computing, information access, commerce and consumer choice. Brands cannot afford to be left behind as voice commerce changes consumer purchasing habits.

To learn more about how you can implement a voice commerce strategy for your brands, click the button below.

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