There is a new report by OC&C that reveals voice commerce reached nearly $2 billion in the U.S. in 2017. More surprising to some is that it is projected to reach $40 billion in the next five years. That is an 86% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). And, it’s not just a U.S. phenomenon. In the U.K. voice shopping is expected to climb from just $200 million to $5 billion in that same period.
This will all be driven by voice interaction becoming more common in consumers’ everyday lives. Smart speaker penetration in the U.S. is expected to rise from 13% today to 55% in 2022 and from 10% to 48% in the U.K. Maybe more important will be the increased use of voice on mobile and through other devices that may help these numbers grow even faster. Few people recognize that nearly one billion mobile devices have voice assistant access today. Voice is headed for ubiquitous use. The question for brands is whether they are ready for this rapid shift in consumer behavior.
Consumers Are Open to and Using Voice Shopping
Another study from Voicebot.ai corroborates voice shopping interest by consumers. Nearly 17% of U.S. adults express interest in voice shopping today and 26% of smart speaker owners have made a purchase using voice. About 40% of consumers that have tried voice shopping say they are now doing it monthly which translates into 11.5% of smart speaker owners. Consumers are forming habits around voice and it goes beyond convenience.
It’s Not Just Repeat Purchases and Won’t Be Audio Only
The OC&C study shows that the largest category for voice commerce today is grocery at 20% followed closely by entertainment and electronics with 19% and 17% respectively. Even clothing made an appearance in the top four at 8%. What this tells us is that a broad set of product categories are eligible for voice shopping. Commodity items and repeat purchases are clearly good candidates for voice shopping because the consumer isn’t seeking additional information. However, we are seeing consumers use voice shopping today for one-time purchases and products that would often be characterized as experience buys.
Another consideration for brands is that voice shopping doesn’t mean voice and audio only. Amazon introduced the Echo Show with a screen in 2017 and at least four manufacturers plan to launch smart displays supported by Google Assistant in 2018. There are also rumors that both Google and Facebook will launch their own smart displays which are voice controlled devices like smart speakers, but have an integrated display to share visual information where desirable. Brands must develop voice interactive content suitable for a voice and audio experience, but they will have an opportunity to enhance the user experience with visuals to accompany the voice interaction.
What Brands Should Do Today
Brands need to be doing more today than simply thinking about voice commerce. Purchases by voice are already taking and consumer habits are being formed. Most brands must first establish a voice presence in order to be a purchase option. This requires more than just repurposing your website content. It needs to be configured for easy consumption through voice interfaces and conversational interactions. And, it needs to be available on the major platforms because consumers have several voice assistants to choose from..
In addition, voice SEO is in its infancy but competitors are already staking out territory for key consumer queries. Discovery will be a critical differentiator for brands engaging in voice commerce and early movers have a distinct advantage. We are seeing this today particularly on Google Assistant, but there are also considerations for Amazon Alexa.
Voice commerce has quickly transitioned from a hypothetical concept to a current reality. It is going to quickly become an important purchasing segment and brands need to establish a voice presence. That will help you learn, start establishing voice SEO and be in a position to capture the billions of retail dollars that are flowing through voice.