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The Future of Voice Commerce

Smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant are beginning to shape the future of voice commerce. In the age of convenience, chatty digital assistants create a no-click purchase from just the sound of your voice.

According to a study by Voicebot.ai earlier this year, 47.3 million U.S. adults have access to a smart speaker, and recent Consumer Technology Association numbers show that approximately one in eight Americans have bought a smart speaker or given one as a gift. As much as 71 percent of smart speaker owners use the gadgets at least daily. Smart speakers could become even more prevalent as holiday gift giving gets under way and new features come online.

As more consumers connect to speakers, more uses will be developed and the technology will evolve.

The next step could take the voice phenomenon deeper into the retail experience with styling and recommendations. Personalized product recommendations on platforms have already sprung up, eager to power recommendations for e-commerce sites and apps. Retailers and their partners are already collecting customer data and crunching insights, and pushing those insights to a smart speaker is forward progress.

Amazon was the first to connect the dots between e-commerce and their smart speaker, making fashion the focus of devices like the Echo Look selfie camera, and offering buying suggestions based on Alexa searches and past shopping behaviors.

According to CTA’s 2018 Voice Shopping Report,the sudden rise of voice-controlled smart speakers show no signs of stopping.After being on the market for only three years, the devices are estimated to hit 39.2 million units sold in the U.S.this year, a 44 percent increase over 2017. And for 2019, the group predicts another 13 percent growth.

Up until this point, people tend to use smart speakers to initiate music streaming, control smart homes or get information like weather forecasts, news and traffic reports. Shopping hasn’t yet hit the top features list, but it’s starting to make headway. CTA predicts that one in four online adults in the U.S. will likely shop by voice next year, setting up for what could be an important shift in consumer behavior.

Beyond retail e-commerce, smart speakers are reinventing the travel industry as well. Smart speakers are becoming more regular for travel needs, requiring less and less interaction with traditional airlines, hotels and travel agencies. Some of the more tech-savvy travel players, like Expedia and Booking.com, are partnering with Amazon and Google to offer rewards and deals to customers who book through their smart speakers.

One of the major trends in smart speakers now is pairing them with a screen. It’s the convenience of voice and no-touch, but packaged with the power of images. Perhaps more than any particular features, it may be privacy worries that have held smart speakers back the most.

Purchases made through voice assistants will continue to escalate sharply, projected to reach an impressive $40 billion in sales by 2022.

*From WWD ‘Talk to Me: The Ride of Voice Commerce’; Forbes ‘Okay Google: Voice Search Technology and The Rise of Voice Commerce’; Harvard Business Review ‘How Smart Speakers Are Poised to Reinvent the Travel Industry’

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