Today, nearly 50% of all online searches are facilitated by voice-enabled tools as consumers engage with businesses on mobile devices and their smart home speakers. According to OC&C Strategy Consultants, voice commerce is predicted to reach $40 billion by 2022. A massive number considering 2019 sales revenue recorded at $1.8 billion. Voice commerce leverages voice-activated technologies and machine learning to create a friction-free environment that enables consumers to use speech commands to search and purchase products online.

It Started with the Smart Speaker

Most smart speaker interactions are information-related, with 65% of adults 25-49 speaking into their voice-enabled devices at least once a day, most often to research purchasing decisions. The artificial intelligence (AI) behind smart speaker tech uses machine learning to understand the nuance of human language better. Conversational, or voice commerce as it is most commonly referred, for retail has been around since Amazon launched its first Alexa-enabled Echo in 2014. As the usability of voice-enabled search grows in popularity and consumers become more reliant on the feature in their day-to-day activities, voice-enabled searches are likely to lead to future retail sales. In a recent survey conducted by Invespcro, 62% of voice-enabled speaker owners have ordered items using voice commerce.

Speakers with Mad Skills

How can retailers take advantage of the smart speaker craze? One solution is to maximize their brand presence utilizing the shopping channel retail strategies for each platform’s online marketplace. Alexa Skills provides brands with an opportunity to promote their wares on the Amazon platform. From configuring order transactions to creating a personalized skill where consumers learn about daily deals.

In 2018, Google Home began a parallel program. Like Alexa’s Skills interface, Google Shopping Actions allow consumers to engage with its Google Assistant to purchase items across all product lines, including Image Search, Lens, Text Search, Shopping and YouTube. Apple Home Pod products use Siri’s voice commerce AI, paired with a retailer’s iOS app, to facilitate voice purchases. Amazon continues to be a pioneer in voice technology with the recent launch of Amazon Polly, enabling brands to virtualize a known voice. Think Dennis Haysbert from the Allstate Insurance commercials, as a brand persona on the Alexa platform.

Adoption of Contactless in Commerce

According to Mastercard Contactless Consumer Polling, consumers have embraced touch-free payment methods, with 51% of Americans now using some form of contactless payment, including tap-to-go credit cards and mobile wallets like Apple Pay. Whether that quick adoption will apply to use touch-free methods for in-store browsing and shopping is the wild card for retailers. Despite the uncertainty, 91% of businesses surveyed by Adobe Analytics claim to have already made investments in voice, with 88% of companies planning to expand their reach through voice-enabled applications for different platforms. Features of voice search may include placing subscription renewals, pre-ordering for pickup, package tracking with a direct line to customer service, and allowing customers to review and update loyalty reward perks.

What’s Next for Retailers

As retailers reopen, some may explore how to apply the concept, including the adoption of artificial intelligence and chatbots, to create user-friendly contactless experiences in-store. Another potential solution is replacing touch-screen points of service with facial recognition authentication. Although more than half of consumers prefer facial recognition for authentication at retail stores, banks, airports, and offices, there is a concern over how this technology infringes on personal privacy. With so much hinging on the pandemic, 66% of consumers prefer to use mobile apps at stores, good news for those brands and retailers hyper focused on investing in mobile.

What will you order using voice commands? Share with us at @AnjeeSolankiCRE.