Is voice-activated shopping set to become the next big retail trend or just a hype?

Voice-activated commerce is really beginning to take root in the world of retail. But will it really take off? Or is it just hype?
14 September 2018

Would you shop using a smart-speaker? Source: Shutterstock

Voice-activated shopping has been heralded by publication after publication as one of the next big things in retail, sure to revolutionize the way consumers order products.

Many large companies are on the race to position themselves as leaders in the voice assistant space, ready and waiting to capture the voices of consumers worldwide.

Amazon’s Alexa,¬†Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri¬†are the obvious smart-speaker goliaths currently. But a few weeks after announcing a smart speaker positioned to compete against these players, Samsung has opened up the opportunity for developers to create apps for its digital voice assistant, Bixby.

Not only are the tech giants positioning for themselves for the emergence of voice-activated shopping, but many retailers are too. Just this week British catalog retailer, Argos, introduced a voice shop service using Google Assistant.

The service allows customers to order from the retailer’s portfolio of 20,000 products straight to their home or to a local store using its Click and Collect service.

So, considering the commotion around voice-activated shopping, is this really set to be a trend that truly takes off in the world of retail? Or is it simply just a hype?

Will consumers use voice-activated shopping?

According to a recent report from The Information, smart-speaker users are not showing a love for voice-activated shopping.

Just two percent of Alexa owners have used the device for shopping. Perhaps even more concerningly, of those who had made a purchase through voice, just 10 percent did so again.

With repeat purchase rates being a pretty good indicator of customer satisfaction with a service, this doesn’t show much promise for the rapid adoption of voice-activated shopping.

Is it really the most convenient way to shop?

The thing to consider is whether the technology is bringing any more convenience or value to today’s consumer.

In most cases, shopping on Amazon via a mobile device, tablet, or laptop is a pretty seamless experience. While Alexa may save you a little time when making a purchase, the problem with voice-activated shopping is consumers do not have access to visual cues- often an important feature of making a purchase.

Does voice-commerce bring more convenience to the consumer? Source:

Trust and privacy issues

Not only are there questions surrounding the convenience of voice-activated shopping, but also around the trust factor of this new form of commerce.

According to an Intent Lab survey, 42 percent of respondents decline to make purchases on voice assistants because they feel uneasy about sharing private information.

But this trust factor also extends beyond voice-activated commerce to the general adoption of smart-speaker devices.

And no wonder considering stories such as an Amazon Echo device recording a conversation between a couple and then sending it to one of their contacts without their permission, tales of voice hacking, and that notorious creepy witch-like laugh released by Alexa.

Alexa sparked up debates surrounding the privacy of the devices. Source: Shutterstock

These tales don’t exactly help to inspire consumer confidence in the devices, especially when it involves your payment details when making a purchase.

Despite the evidence of slow adoption and customer concerns of voice commerce, it’s important to note it is still very early days.

As the technology becomes more advanced, retailers become more involved, and customers become more comfortable with the trend, perhaps one-day voice-activated shopping will be the next big thing in retail.