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Few People Regularly Make Purchases Through Smart Speakers

Voice commerce might one day change how people shop online. But for now, only a minority of consumers regularly use a voice-activated smart speaker to make purchases.

In a December 2018 survey of 1,036 US internet users conducted by Bizrate Insights, 58% of respondents neither used nor were interested in making a purchase using a smart speaker like Amazon Echo.

"Shoppers will typically want to see the product, read reviews, comparison shop and otherwise engage in a more complex path to purchase that doesn’t lend itself as well to voice," said Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer.

In August 2018, technology publisher The Information rattled the digital sector with a report suggesting that only 2% of Alexa-enabled device owners had completed a voice-enabled purchase, and only 10% of those buyers had repeated the behavior.

Estimates of voice buying activity vary, though, depending on who you ask. A variety of sources have found considerably higher levels than reported in The Information. Estimates over the past 18 months have ranged as high as 50% and up.

By the end of 2018, we forecast there will be 17.2 million US smart speaker voice buyers, making up 28.2% of US smart speaker users.

"For the time being, voice commerce is probably best-suited to replenish goods, where the shopper already knows what they want and can utter a simple command to reorder that product,” said Lipsman.