It goes without saying that our shopping experience has changed drastically over the past decade. The way we shop has shifted from the high street to purchasing online, whether through websites or mobile applications. The convenience of online shopping is about much more than just being able to make purchases at our fingertips — the emergence of voice technology has made it possible for us to make voice-based purchases in the form of voice commerce, or so-called “vCommerce”.
Many people are already familiar with voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana. Initially, these voice assistants were limited to mundane tasks such as setting alarms, creating reminders and searching the web. Nowadays they are able to connect with multiple devices and can manage more sophisticated tasks ranging from helping students revise for exams to reading bedtime stories, or even making purchases online.
Fundamentally, voice commerce enables users to place orders through a voice assistant. The voice assistant processes commands and takes the user through voice-operated steps, such as selecting products or confirming purchases. Voice commerce can help eliminate the need to click through a website or mobile application. In the future, it could be taken to the next level by integrating voice recognition to verify a user’s identity or incorporate some form of product recommendation system. For example, voice assistants might be able to detect a cough and recommend relevant medicines to the user. According to Voicebot, vCommerce can be classified into two types:
- Purchasing digital goods, such as making an in-app voice purchase while in a game
- Purchasing consumer goods that require home delivery, which is appropriate for reordering or purchasing new products where information has been obtained from other channels.
Voice commerce is on the rise, according to Amazon which reports the number of purchases made through Alexa more than tripled during the 2018 Christmas holiday season compared to the previous year. In addition, OC&C Strategy Consultants estimates voice commerce will contribute up to $40 billion in sales by 2022. Already, more than 62% of households in the US have used voice commerce to buy groceries and 35% have purchased retail items.
The adoption of voice assistants is also a boon for voice commerce. The number of installed voice assistants, such as Alexa and Google Assistant, surged to 66 million devices in December 2018, up from just 37 million in the same month last year. Similarly, Juniper Research has predicted the number of voice assistants in use globally will triple to 8 billion interactions per year by 2023.
We can expect to see voice commerce grow rapidly in the near future as online stores aggressively compete to provide customers with greater convenience and a superior shopping experience. The shift to voice commerce could revolutionize even the most mundane aspects of our daily lives, from making payments easier to improving shipping efficiency. With the current pace of technological change, we might even see more advanced applications, such as trading securities through voice commands.