Intent Lab: Voice Search Spotlight

Privacy is the biggest barrier to voice-assisted shopping

The launch of the digital voice assistant Siri by Apple in 2011 catapulted voice assistants into the mainstream, mass market. Today, all smartphones come pre-installed with some form of digital voice assistant.

The most popular uses of voice assistants are routine-related activities, and consumers are largely asking about news, not adding laundry detergent to their shopping list.  No digital assistant on the market is primarily used for shopping: Apple’s Siri is being asked about the weather, Google Assistant to report the traffic and Microsoft’s Cortana to give sports scores.  

Intent Lab research already shows that shoppers are more comfortable buying products with Alexa because shopping is native to Amazon:  47% would buy from Alexa using Amazon Prime, 29% from Apple’s Siri, 16% from Google Assistant and 8% from Microsoft Cortana.

When it comes to which product categories consumers would consider using a voice-controlled digital assistant, the Intent Lab found:

  • 19% would buy household items
  • 15% were interested in ordering meals
  • 13% would buy groceries
  • 11% would make an electronics purchase
  • 11% considered buying personal care/cosmetics
  • 9% were interested in apparel
  • 6% would spend on travel

But consumers have trust and privacy issues — 42% of Intent Lab respondents said they don’t make purchases with voice because they don’t feel comfortable sharing private information and 23% won’t say “buy” because they don’t trust the information they’re getting from the tool, according to the Intent Lab’s DSI.  A lack of visual capability is also holding back the tide, but that’s likely to change as voice is embedded into a plethora of new devices with screens, inside and outside of the home, including cars.

For now, voice lends itself best to concrete tasks as consumers find it most useful for getting short specific answers (35%), directions (31%), product information (17%) and simple product/brand comparisons (12%).

As marketers closely watch how this emerging channel performs, brands need to create proactive voice strategies that include strong partnerships with the platforms, target functionality, work to build trust, invest in cues and skills that build relationships with the human user, and add value to consumer’s lives.

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