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The Uncomfortable State of Voice Commerce

Voice commerce holds promise. But, not everyone is comfortable—or even interested—in using their Amazon Echo or Google Home device to make a purchase (yet). Here’s what marketers need to know.

Product Info? Check. Order Using Voice? No, Thanks.

Many people use voice to conduct simple tasks, like getting directions, making phone calls or checking to see if they need an umbrella when they go out. An August 2018 survey from Social Lens Research found that while 25% of US voice command users use voice to find a new product, a smaller percentage—10%—use the technology to make a purchase.

Purchases via smart speakers don’t happen very often, according to August 2018 data from Chatmeter, which surveyed 1,000 US voice tech users. In fact, 41% of males said they’ve never bought anything through a smart speaker and 51% of females agreed. For the most part, purchases are happening sporadically. Only a few men (8%) and women (5%) said they made a purchase everyday.

A more recent study from Bizrate Insights came to a similar conclusion. Only 2% of US internet users said they regularly use their smart speaker to buy something. In contrast, 58% said they neither used nor were interested in making a purchase using a smart speaker.

OK Google, Am I Doing This Right?

Consumers don’t yet seem comfortable with the mechanics of purchasing through voice, or trust that it will be secure.

Nearly half (48%) of respondents surveyed by RetailMeNot said they won’t shop via a smart speaker because they worry about the privacy of their personal information. Almost as many respondents (46%) are concerned about the security of their personal information.

Similarly, the Chatmeter study mentioned earlier also found that 42% of voice tech users were greatly concerned about security. What's more, respondents expressed concerns about ordering the wrong item and accidentally ordering twice.

But, Voice Commerce May Be a Game Changer—One Day

As consumers get more comfortable with voice tech, we expect the concerns will fade. By the end of 2019, we forecast there will be 22.7 million US smart speaker voice buyers, making up 32.5% 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 Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer. “Reordering is where voice commerce will gather momentum in 2019.”