Conversational commerce — the purchase of products via voice systems such as Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa — will revolutionize how consumers and brands interact in ways not seen since the 1990s, the early days of e-commerce, according to the Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute.
The past year, in particular, has seen significant progress in conversational commerce, according to the institute’s report, “Conversational Commerce, Why Consumers Are Embracing Voice Assistants in Their Lives.” Prior to the prevalence of home speakers, voice assistants were restricted to chatbots accessed via messaging apps for shopping. Today’s voice-activated personal assistants have changed that paradigm.
More than 40 large retailers, including Walmart, Target, Costco, Walgreens and Home Depot, have partnered with Google to pioneer voice-based shopping via Google Express. Google has also added support allowing Google Home users to place voice-activated orders to select store partners. The technology that makes all of that happen only continues to improve. Amazon recently launched a new generation of devices as part of its Echo line, which now boasts improved conversational capability, better memory, improved voice recognition and an experience that’s more akin to natural human interaction.
The Capgemini report found that consumers may be more willing to use voice assistants for future shopping as opposed to looking up websites or visiting brick-and-mortar stores: Twenty-four percent of those surveyed said they would use a voice assistant rather than a website, and 40 percent predicted they would do so three years from now. The institute found that 51 percent of consumers use voice assistants today, many accessed via smartphones; 35 percent of those surveyed said they have used voice assistants to buy groceries, home-care products and clothing.
Voice Assistants Represent a Growing Market
A recent survey from OC&C Strategy Consultants predicts that growth in the voice segment will be driven by a surge in the number of homes using smart speakers in the next four years. The study also found:
- Top tech companies lead the pack. Three tech giants lead the virtual assistant AI space in the United States: Amazon’s Echo, operating in 10 percent of U.S. residences; Google’s Home, in 4 percent; and Microsoft's Cortana, in 2 percent.
- Young consumers opt for smart speakers. Owners of the devices skew younger and tend to be more affluent, and also are more likely to have children.
- Voice-based purchases tend to be for stand-alone, lower-value items. The three most commonly shopped categories through voice are commoditized: groceries (20 percent), entertainment (19 percent) and electronics (17 percent). Clothing ranked fourth at 8 percent.