What is voice-based e-Commerce? - Retail Council of Canada
Marketing & Merchandising | Digital Retail & Technology

What is voice-based e-Commerce?

July 29, 2022

This article is provided by Reshift Media, a Canadian-based digital marketing and development organization specializing in retail businesses.

Whether you are checking the weather, playing your favourite songs, or searching the web, digital voice assistants can often be a great help when you want to carry out digital tasks without reaching for your phone or computer. But just when you thought your options might be restricted to what your digital voice assistant can do, voice-based e-commerce has swooped into the shopping scene, creating opportunities to purchase products as easy as talking to your device.

While the name essentially gives it away, voice-based e-commerce, also known as voice commerce, involves using your voice to make a purchase via a digital voice assistant (i.e., a smart speaker such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri). While the commands can look different depending on what you want to order and where you want to order it from, it is essentially as simple as saying something along the lines of, “Hey Google, add Item-Example from Store-Example to my cart” and then following the additional prompts necessary to complete the purchase.

The Rise in Digital Voice Assistants

Digital voice assistants are not new to the scene, but their shopping capabilities and e-commerce opportunities are gaining popularity. For a bit of context into the smart speaker realm – it is projected that by 2024, there will be 8.4 billion digital voice assistants worldwide, which is a significant jump from 4.2 billion reported in 2020. In Canada, smart speaker use has shown a steady increase over the years; in 2017, 3.7% of the population used this type of device, which jumped to 10.5% of the population in 2018, 15.7% in 2019, and 17.9% in 2020. Meanwhile, in the US, approximately one in four adults own a smart speaker.

The pandemic largely contributed to the spike in smart speaker purchases worldwide, as it saw 69% growth during the pandemic versus prior years, while North America saw a 72% growth in shopping using such devices. This is largely a result of the transformations in consumer buying behaviours retailers saw throughout the pandemic, with fewer consumers wanting to enter a physical store and instead opting for more digital shopping options like online, mobile/social commerce, and more.

It is clear that smart speakers, no matter what they are used for, is an industry that is not slowing down anytime soon. However, with more consumers discovering the e-commerce possibilities with their digital voice assistant as more retailers make this option available, the industry will see transformative trends that could change how smart speakers are used altogether.

In fact, this can already be seen with the voice assistant e-commerce transaction value, which reached$4.6 billion US in 2021 and is expected to grow to an outstanding $19.4 billion US in 2023 worldwide. This significant jump is due to the growing ability to make purchases using your voice on smart speakers – again, something that is only increasing in popularity as more retailers understand and implement this convenient shopping experience for their customers.

Making Purchases Using Digital Voice Assistants

In 2017, online shopping transactions using a digital voice assistant in the US sat at approximately $2 billion. Although this is a large number, it is minuscule in comparison to what that figure has grown to now in 2022 – a whopping $40 billion! This means more consumers turned to their smart speakers and utilized its digital voice assistant to make purchases at higher rates than ever before.

According to eMarketer, the majority of US consumers use their digital voice assistant to browse new products, create shopping lists, and perform a product search. As for making actual purchases, more than 24 million US consumers made at least one purchase using a smart speaker in 2021. But what are consumers purchasing? Since voice commerce is a growing market, there will be greater reach across industries, but from recent reports, the most common categories of purchases using a digital voice assistance include health and beauty products, and electronics. As for the demographic utilizing this form of e-commerce, it is reported that 18 to 34-year-olds frequently turn to voice commerce, with older US adults not yet as open to the idea of using a smart speaker to shop.

It is important to point out that for voice commerce to work, the consumer has to already have their financial and contact information inputted into the smart speaker’s system so that a seamless shopping experience can occur. This is something that some consumers may feel wary about, especially regarding privacy concerns. However, as voice commerce continues to grow and become more “comfortable” among consumers, such as the way social commerce has, this may appear as less of a hurdle for consumers to cross.

The Role of Voice Search

While voice commerce involves the use of a tangible voice assistant located in the home, it is still important to point out how voice search plays a role when consumers shop. Voice search has been around for some time, and its popularity has helped give rise to the idea of shopping using your voice.

Voice search allows users to turn to their mobile device or smart speaker to look up product information or find information on an, often local, business. Research conducted by Google back in 2017 looked at the rise in popularity of voice-based assistance in Canada and found that 70% of smartphone users are interested in achieving tasks on their phone by speaking rather than typing, while 73% of consumers want to complete tasks by speaking into a digital voice assistant.

From a retailer’s perspective, preparing your e-commerce website for voice search also includes preparing for local searches. Remaining voice search optimized involves ensuring your Google Business Profile is updated, implementing speakable schema markup, and keeping your website search engine optimized by following several SEO best practices. After all, websites with high domain authority and that rank high on a search engine results page are more likely to appear when a consumer conducts voice search.

The impact of voice search can also impact which businesses a consumer purchases from. For instance, 85% of consumers reported that on occasion, they went with the top product recommendation produced by their digital voice assistant rather than the brand they originally wanted to buy from. Based on their search, consumers can then make purchases, and this can be a major breakthrough for many retailers as voice commerce grows even more popular over the next several years. But now, while not as many retailers are set up for voice commerce, retailers have the opportunity to implement this option to customers and stand out from competitors.

How Voice Commerce Benefits Consumers and Retailers

According to recent reports on the benefits of voice commerce, 56% of US consumers state convenience as the reason for engaging in this type of shopping experience, with saving time and money following closely behind.

Many consumers look for convenience when they are shopping – online or in person. In fact, more than half of consumers place it as the top reason why they were influenced to shop. With voice commerce, you really can’t get any more convenient than talking into a speaker and having the product delivered to you. Accordingly, voice commerce allows retailers to meet their customers wherever they are –at home, at work, while they are multitasking, and so on.

Saving time is also a critical component of voice commerce. Consumers can skip the time involved in searching on an e-commerce website, adding items to their cart, filling out personal details, and so on. It really is as simple as asking a digital voice assistant to add an item from a store (if that store has voice commerce set up, of course).

While speed and convenience are two very important traits that many retailers strive for in e-commerce, some retailers may think that voice commerce eliminates the chance of budling a relationship with the customer. After all, if the consumer no longer spends time on the website, they may miss out on the overall experience. However, voice commerce is very personalized, which adds to a customer experience.

Since many smart speakers use artificial intelligence to help make digital voice assistants more personable and collect data from the consumer, the entire shopping experience can be that much more personalized because the device the consumer is using already “knows” them, what they previously purchased, and so on. It also makes it easier for consumers to make repeat purchases, which increases the likelihood of brand loyalty.

Many consumers also may view voice commerce as an exciting addition to their shopping experience, which helps position you as the retailer ahead of the digital curve. It could even be the deciding factor on whether a consumer purchases from a retailer; if Business A offers the same products as Business B, but is set up for voice commerce, why wouldn’t a consumer purchase from Business A if it can save them time?

The Future of Voice Commerce

The global transaction value of voice assistant e-commerce will reach $19.4 billion US in 2023, and this is simply a projection. As more retailers begin to implement voice commerce within their business, this number can skyrocket above this already extraordinary amount.

If you are a retailer that implements new digital solutions for your customers, voice commerce can be a natural next step. Adapting to the latest trends in e-commerce, which, in itself, is a massive industry, can help you stand out from competitors and better meet the needs of your customers by providing convenient and time-saving solutions.  

About Reshift Media

Reshift Media is a long-time partner of the Retail Council of Canada. The company is a Toronto-based digital marketing and development organization that provides leading-edge social media, search and website/mobile development services to retailers around the world. Please visit www.reshiftmedia.com to learn more.