Retail Revolution – Voice Commerce
2 October 2019

The rapid rise of AI in our everyday lives may not yet be visible, but it’s certainly audible – usage of voice assistants and voice-enabled smart speakers has exploded in the last two years. But is AI having any impact on eCommerce? And most importantly, what should brands be doing about it today?

This week myself and OMD EMEA’s Product Innovation & Insights Director, Chelsea Horncastle, were fortunate to be able to tackle some of these questions with an audience of senior eCommerce clients from across Omnicom Media Group, hosted by our partners Amazon.


OMD’s proprietary global research initiative Retail Revolution has given our clients unprecedented insight into consumer behaviour with, and attitudes to, Artificial Intelligence. Spanning 2 years, 13 global markets, 20k respondents and the full range of AI services and devices, our research data shows a remarkable growth in consumer use of voice:

  • Available for less than 5yrs, Voice Assistant usage amongst internet users (56%) has rocketed past Music Streaming (52%) and is on a par with Games Consoles (56%).
  • Awareness of AI (including voice) is a huge 92% of the internet users in our sample, and perhaps unsurprisingly this has been driven by mass adoption of Smart TVs and Smart Speakers, now used by 48% and 29% respectively of those aware of AI.
  • Overall, 71% of respondents in our research are using or open to AI of all types, with an increase of 10% in those using some form of AI technologies since our initial research in 2017 (24% in 2017 to 34% in 2019)
  • There is growth across all of the mainstream assistant platforms, but the most commerce-focussed assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, is showing the most rapid growth in usage over the last two years.

What’s clear from OMD’s research data is that usage of AI is surging, particularly voice assistants in the UK. But what are consumers using voice for and how?


Honeymooners and Experimenters

As with any new technology platform, lack of prior experience in using voice interfaces tends to lead consumers into a ‘honeymoon’ period of initial learning and trials. After the novelty of some features wears off (including jokes and wacky anthropomorphic questions about the assistant!) we see users quickly fall into one of three usage groups: Experimenters, Comfort Zone users and Lapsed.

Of these, those in the ‘Comfort Zone’ – using voice but not unlocking its full potential, in their own judgement – comprise almost half of users (48%) in the UK. This speaks to a recurring theme in our research of difficulties around learning and discovery of voice capabilities across all the major platforms, including finding out about built-in capabilities & updates, skill discovery, and integrations with other technology platforms.

Despite that, fully 50% of voice assistant users are using them on a weekly frequency, rising to 64% amongst smart speaker users.


Voice Commerce

Given the rapid adoption and relatively high frequency of voice usage, what role is voice playing in the purchase journey?

Looking across the full purchase funnel, 17% of voice users say they are using voice as part of their purchase journey on a monthly or greater frequency.

Most surprisingly, more than 25% of UK internet users have made a voice-assisted purchase to date!

While that suggests rapid mass adoption of ‘V-Commerce’ by consumers, inevitably the majority of voice purchases and usage to date are lower consideration categories that lend themselves to conversion without the need to study the product visually – taxi bookings, takeaway food, train and cinema tickets.

High consideration ‘visual’ purchases such as luxury goods, cosmetics and fashion – all staples of regular eCommerce growth – unsurprisingly feature near the bottom of our index in terms of consumer openness to purchase them via voice (although this is likely to evolve quickly, as with the rise of smartphones and mobile commerce in the last decade.)

Of more immediate interest is consumer openness to grocery and meal/recipe solutions via voice, with approximately half of respondents open to greater assistance and purchasing in these categories. If personal care, cleaning, household and other ‘weekly shop’ categories are included, a huge opportunity for voice to transform consumer interactions with supermarkets and CPG brands is visible in the data.


What to do about it?

We are clearly at the very beginning of the voice ‘revolution’, with brands needing to take steps today to position themselves for success with Voice in the next 18mths. While there isn’t space here to cover all of the findings of Retail Revolution, the qualitative research has generated five key recommendations for any brand’s voice strategy:

OMD offers a suite of customisable and bespoke voice solutions to address these challenges, and is already working with some key client brands to create, and execute, voice strategies. Our products include:

  • A ‘Voice Readiness’ audit programme to identify status, health factors and opportunities
  • Ignition Workshops, bringing together our clients with key specialists and strategists to identify a voice strategy and roadmap;
  • Skill Creation and Discovery programmes, coding and implementation of voice solutions, backed by awareness activity to drive installs;
  • Bespoke consumer research investigating behaviours, openness to ideas and common ‘language’ around your brand, category or product

For more information on Retail Revolution, contact [email protected]

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