Voice Shopping a Bust As New Reports Shows Low Engagement
A new report from The Information reveals that Google and Amazon seriously have no idea how to sell products using their respective voice assistants. And that comes as a surprise as some forecasts think voice shopping could be a $40 billion market in just a few years.
It appears that of the give-or-take 50 million Alexa devices - although Jeff Bezos has been a little bit shy about the exact number - sold by Amazon, only 2% used the smart speaker for online shopping, nearly 90% wouldn't do it again. With no surprise, digital assistants are used to exactly what you think they do. Setting timers, playing music, controlling smart devices, and checking the weather top the most common use cases.
The Information has learned that only about 2% of the people with devices that use Amazon’s Alexa intelligent assistant—mostly Amazon’s own Echo line of speakers—have made a purchase with their voices so far in 2018, according to two people briefed on the company’s internal figures. Amazon has sold about 50 million Alexa devices, the people said.
Of the people who did buy something using Alexa voice shopping, about 90% didn’t try it again, one of the people said. A larger number, 20%, have engaged more broadly with Alexa voice shopping by using commands like “What are my deals?” and “Where is my stuff?” to track orders that were likely made on other devices.
With this new information, skeptics are wondering if Google and Amazon can ever right that ship. The idea of buying anything that impulsively severely disagrees with new-age customer journey, even if the current path feels a little sardonic compared to its linear predecessor. Even those dedicated to digital marketing are conservative about its future.
“We’ve done a lot of work to manage back the expectations to say we don’t expect a high volume of purchase here right away,” said Patrick Givens, who builds skills for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant at the digital marketing agency VaynerMedia. “We would definitely think of commerce in voice today as a space to try to build learnings right now, but not a place where we expect to see meaningful purchase volume” for the foreseeable future.
Jo Jaquinta reflected these thoughts as well. Credited to more than a dozen Alexa skills for clients, Jaquinta thinks that developing Alexa skills is an exercise in marketing, not a sales tactic.
“I know no app that pays for its development costs itself,”Jaquinta said. “The return they’re seeking is out of publicity and brand awareness.”
And Amazon can really only blame itself. We've talked about the new age of retail - or Retail 2.0 as retail futurist Doug Stephens so warmly calls it - and how it should act as an experience, not a place to simply buy items. Amazon currently has one of the strongest e-commerce experiences in the industry, and they have the numbers to prove it. The fine difference between it being a perfect system and it is the best system is a fine line, but it holds one common thread - inertia.
Amazon has spent a lot of time crafting an interface that can capture users attention and provide answers to questions they never asked. Their secret algorithms can suggest products they might not have wanted but see the value in. The name of the game was quantity over quality, and they could theoretically hit that same stride with the niche market of voice buying loyalists.