The use of smart speakers for shopping is on the up and up in Australia, with more households owning smart speakers, voice retailing or vcommerce proponents argue it could become as normal as mobile shopping is today.

The Versa Voice Report said three quarters of smart speaker owners are already using their devices for purchasing or are open to doing so. This figure equates to 6 million Australians.

The report also notes Australian users have an average of 1.5 smart speakers in their home.

Smart speakers were introduced to consumers in 2014 through the Amazon Echo but the technology was first brought into the mainstream market by Apple through its virtual assistant Siri in 2011.

Amazon has sold 100 million Alexa devices since its inception in 2014 while its main competitor Google has sold roughly 52 million Google Home devices.

Smart speakers have been in the market for close to five years, over that time international markets are experiencing greater consumer confidence in vcommerce purchasing than Australia, according to Versa, 72.5 per cent of US smart speaker users using voice to make online purchases.

According to TechCrunch, voice shopping is expected to hit US$40 billion in the US and UK by 2022.

Kath Blackham, CEO at Versa said she is seeing giants like Woolies and Coles getting their act together through building shopping lists and delivering on that shopping list.

Woolies has been one of the early innovators for voice shopping, along with Domino’s, Village Roadshow and Flight Centre.

She notes that voice has only been around for 18 months so it’s taking time for other retailers to get on board with vcommerce.

John Batistich non executive director for Zip Co, General Pants Group and Foodco said when it comes to voice shopping, consumers like the hands free convenience giving them the ability to multitask.

He said, “Consumers who use voice for commerce report higher levels of loyalty, conversion and average order value.”

What are people buying?

According to Versa, that 50 per cent of Australians it surveyed said they would consider buying across most retail and service categories using voice.

Consumers would be more interested in low involvement purchases like movie tickets, food delivery, groceries and books.

Source: Versa Voice Report

Those purchases which are more involved like clothing, small and large appliances, homewares and accomodation were still something consumers would consider buying via voice.

Batistich noted Australians are searching, ordering and buying with voice in rapidly increasing numbers.

“We expect to see ubiquitous adoption, particularly for the purchase of streaming services and the reordering of everyday consumables at home, in the car and at work,” he said.

Bigger retailers that offer more complex shopping experiences are beginning to make their platform ready for voice.

A new core market

Voice has been embraced by millennials and gen-z but another market to embrace vcommerce is the baby boomer generation, according to Versa’s research.

Blackham said they are the generation have barely got there heads around the internet, the mobile screen is too small but voice is that window of opportunity for them to use online shopping.

She said, “Voice is going to open up capabilities of people that maybe cannot read very well, or are not very well educated. They will still be able to get the information and have access to the internet which is so important.”

Concerns and barriers

With most technologies there are some people not embracing vcommerce, the Versa report noted the biggest barrier for uptake is a perceived lack of need with 77 per cent seeing no need for vcommerce.

Kath Blackman, CEO, Versa

These respondents said they don’t have a smart speaker at home and are not considering buying one.

Twenty three per cent of said a barrier was a lack of knowledge about smart speakers.

Along with barriers comes some concerns, Blackham said the biggest worry from consumers she gets is privacy and smart speakers listening to conversations. However she said their concerns are misplaced as people forget about smartphones that could be listening too.

She said, “I think we worry about new technology but don’t realise how advanced some of the existing tech we’ve got in terms of tracking us.”

Batistich said there is also a risk for retailers who “ignore the power of voice” as it has huge implications for customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction.

He explained, “Retailers need to be become a user, dedicate some technical resources to explore, review the quality of their data structure in a voice-first world, partner with a voice experience agency to experiment with conversational design and use cases, understand the algorithms the platforms use to recommend and choose products and build and iterate relevant skills for your brand partnering with a specialist.”

Blackham said there is also a pitfall for marketers who don’t spend any money on advertising the voice product.

She also noted making voice systems too complicated for users, “The best experiences are the most simple experiences, you’ve got to remember its very hard to build a really amazing experience if you’re trying to do too much for the user.”

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