Voice has always been a compelling way to activate certain human behaviors. It can stir women to distrust men based on voice pitch, it can soothe a crying baby, and now it’s being utilized to making shopping easier.
Well, that’s the hope.
Voice commerce is the new trend in online shopping that is piquing the interest of major players such as Google and Walmart. The two giants recently announced a one-month partnership to take on Amazon’s current dominance in the voice-shopping market.
Consumers in the US will be able to purchase any Walmart product through Google’s voice-activated assistant platform.
“For example, if you order Tide Pods or Gatorade, your Google Assistant will let you know which size and type you previously ordered from Walmart, making it easy for you to buy the right product again,” says Sridhar Ramaswamy, senior vice-president of ads & commerce at Google.
Walmart’s Head of Ecommerce Marc Lore shared that the retailer plans to expand the use of voice-activated shopping across its 4,700 stores to “create customer experiences that don’t currently exist within voice shopping anywhere else”.
To understand what currently exists and whether investing in voice-commerce makes sense, one must look to ecommerce giant Amazon and its strategy surrounding AI assistant Alexa.
Leading voice commerce, Amazon, of course
This year’s Prime Day, Amazon’s largest shopping event for its Prime members, happened on July 10 and theEcho Dotwas the best-selling product across any category globally, with customers purchasing seven times more of these devices this year than in 2016.
What are owners using Alexa to do?
Amazon used Prime Day as a vehicle to increase its foothold in voice and offered premiums to influence a wave of shoppers to purchase these cylinder-shaped units. They included:
- Voice shoppers had early access to select Prime Day deals a full two hours before the general public beginning
- More than 100 Alexa exclusive deals were already available
- First-time voice-shopping customers who purchased with Alexa before Prime Day received a $10 promo code
- Amazon device owners could sign up for Prime via voice command. New members who signed up for Prime by voice got their first year of membership for $79, a $20 saving
LivePerson, a cloud-based software platform, surveyed over 500 Alexa owners in the US and discovered the following:
- A significant majority (70.6%) of respondents have made a purchase on Amazon through an Alexa voice command at least once
- 45.8% of Alexa owners are repeat shoppers (meaning that, of consumers who give Alexa shopping a try once, almost two thirds turn into repeat users)
- 70.6% of Alexa owners have an Amazon Prime account
By 2020, it’s projected that Amazon will sell 41.3 million of Echo units (each one retails for about $44.99). Having a physical presence in the household of many Americans gives Amazon a new channel of power.
Professor Scott Galloway of L2 placed an order for batteries on Alexa and discovered that the assistant would only recommend Amazon label products. Without the visual cue of product discovery, Alexa can strongly influence consumer buying decisions.
The voice trend has become so irresistible that even General Electric plans to soon sell a LED lamp with Alexa built in so consumers without an Echo can ask questions for information. Some food for thought.