Is ‘voice shopping’ the next big thing in digital commerce?

Voice shopping has emerged as a key channel for consumer purchases & the trend is expected to pick up as 90% of the internet users in India are online on their mobiles, say experts  

e4m by Kanchan Srivastava
Published: Feb 8, 2022 8:39 AM  | 6 min read

Voice commerce is making its way into the Indian customers’ shopping habits faster than ever. Over 83 million Indians are already into voice shopping which is nearly 28 percent of the total online shoppers, reveals the latest report of dentsu-e4m digital advertising in India 2022. 

The 71-page report, which was released last week, suggests that voice shopping has become an effective e-commerce channel and is poised to grow at an impressive rate of 103% to reach 168 million by the end of 2022. 

This growth rate is highest in the digital commerce category with video commerce, social commerce, and D2C (hyperlocal commerce) poised to grow at 45-55% rate. These statistics are sourced from the WATConsult’s Digital commerce report. 

Large eCommerce brands are already leading the way in implementing voice shopping solutions. For instance, Amazon offers Voice Purchasing in the Alexa app. Consumers can browse an online store’s catalog, get product ratings, prepare a shopping list, check their availability and pricing, order the items and find the nearest outlets-all without having to browse the web on their phones or tablets.

The trend is expected to pick up as India has the world’s second-largest internet population and a significant 90 percent access the internet via their mobile phones, industry experts say. 

It is not just an Indian phenomenon. In the US too, 45.2 million people used voice shopping in 2021 reflecting 120% growth compared to 2018 and a 30% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), Voicebot Research said. 

The core reason behind the ever-increasing number of voice shoppers is that it saves time and is hassle-free. They also feel that voice shopping enables them to easily buy products online at their convenience and offers a hands-free experience. Voice shoppers feel that it is natural for them to interact with voice assistants while shopping online and it allows them to multitask, the report notes. 

What's fueling this trend is possibly the surging popularity of smart speakers, industry experts point out. Market research firm Statista predicts worldwide revenue for smart speakers to hit or exceed $35.5 billion by 2025, from $19.6 billion in 2020.

Advanced AI

Voice shopping has been a popular topic for e-commerce players over the past few years. Now, data and studies point out that it has emerged as a key channel for consumer purchases. 

With more advanced AI capabilities, virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Voice, and Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby are now smart enough to help users with their online shopping.

The growth for select activities like music, checking news, seeking answer to a question, or controlling devices is already a common feature. In no time we shall see a large majority placing all orders using voice assistants. If companies only take a closer view of population dynamics, the urban rural split, the aging population, the heterogeneity of languages and the adoption of the Internet by larger groups, certainly voice is bound to create a huge impact for the sector and the economy, experts say. 

Contactless & comfort 

“Voice shopping or Conversational Commerce, is an emerging trend. In a post-pandemic time, where contactless experience is not a luxury anymore. Voice continues to deliver on top of the funnel search metrics. Brands as part of their marketing strategies will have to factor in a voice strategy going forward,” Harsh Shah, EVP, Business- North and West, Dentsu Webchutney, explains. 

Venkat Nott - CEO and Co Founder, Vinculum Solutions, says, “It is the age of ‘Now Commerce’. Deliveries are moving from 1hr to 30 mins to 10 mins. With the advent of quick commerce, brands are looking at ways to be "cool" and provide ease of experience for customers to discover them. Voice search and Voice ordering are likely to play a key role in product and price discovery. Voice ordering will be an important tool for repeat purchases of essentials and medicines.”

Online device-based voice shopping is growing incredibly with Alexa, Google home becoming household necessities voice based shopping is expected to be $40 billion in US within this year, says Raja Vishal Oberoi, CEO at Market Xcel. 

Oberoi noted, “The future of voice commerce is promising with the maximum comfort and opportunity coming in from repeat orders getting extremely comfortable things to do especially in categories like food, groceries and cosmetics. Next, businesses need to figure out the right set of keywords in their web content to enable customers finding products easily and also helping voice-powered devices find your products. Such as

Hey Alexa, order me a BIG Mac ‘n’ Cheese!

“Your order for One BIG Mac ‘n’ Cheese from McDonald’s is placed and will be with you in 20 minutes! Bon Appetit!!"

Local businesses benefitting 

Which categories are getting the most number of orders from the voice shoppers? 

To this, Harsh Shah responds, “While this is still in a work in progress situation, as we know, the majority of voice queries cater to utility, i.e. calling, asking for directions, playing a song, checking the price for a particular item, etc. Conversational commerce will have to work with other trends to see users through the full funnel.”

Local businesses unsurprisingly benefit a lot from voice search, given the number of local queries done via voice search. Restaurants(‘places to eat near me’), supermarkets (‘shops selling X near me’), Cinemas (‘theatres showing Spiderman near me’), and D2C brands who intend to drive top-funnel traffic, "Shah said. 

In the US, conversational commerce has quite evolved. The most common voice shopping category in the US is groceries, a survey conducted by Coupon Follow revealed. This is followed by electronics, personal health, and beauty, and then clothing. 

Gender parity 

While the Coupon fellow’s survey says more men than women shop via voice in the US, which is 54 percent men and 39 percent women, the Indian survey didn’t look at it from a gender's perspective. 

Shah said, “It is very difficult to differentiate as voice doesn’t factor in gender. Also, devices driving active conversational commerce like Amazon Echo and Google Home as family devices and not individual devices. One of the studies (Narvar) showed that 51% of those who shop via voice use it to research products. Some other numbers suggest an almost equal split of male and female queries. However, we will continue to see Indian internet skew towards males and also reflect on conversational commerce.”

Young India 

"Voice usage is particularly popular among the 16-34 age bracket, with two-thirds of mobile voice search users falling into this particular age group. However, we are bound to see voices breaking this barrier as it democratizes the internet for the massive Bharat population getting added daily to the internet age of India. We will also see older generations using voice a lot more in the coming years across geographic locations," Shah pointed out. 

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