We know that voice technology is changing the way people interact with search engines and this, of course, means marketers and brands need to adapt. However, there’s a big difference between someone asking Google Home about last night’s football scores and using the device to actually buy something.

Before marketers and brands can adapt to voice search, they need to first pinpoint where the business opportunities are because there’s not a lot of value in voice searches for “who was the 13th US president?”

Thanks to a study from Voicebot.ai (PDF), we can get an idea of what people are actually buying with voice search in 2019 and where the commercial opportunities might be.

 

One in five consumers have shopped with voice search

 

According to Voicebot.ai’s Voice Shopping Consumer Adoption Report, June 2018, one in five consumers have used voice search to buy a product at least once. Among those who have, more than half used their smartphone to complete the purchase while just 13% used smart speakers. Surprisingly, PCs are the second-most used device to make voice purchases with 22% of voice shoppers using their computer.

Of course, a lot more people own computers than smart speakers at this stage, so we might expect to see these figures change if the devices make their way into more homes.

For now, though, voice shopping is predominantly a mobile thing.

 

Young males are the most likely to buy something using voice search

 

It turns out men are more likely to buy products through voice search than women and younger people are, perhaps unsurprisingly, hungrier to use the technology for buying things.

As Voicebot.ai explains, “When it comes to voice shopping, men lead women by 63% to 37%. This was true in every category with voice shopping through smart speakers being even more skewed at 68% to 32%. The closest ratio was voice shopping using an Android smartphone where the separation was only four points at 52% to 48%.”

Meanwhile, 18-to-29-year-olds are most likely to make a purchase using voice search and the likelihood steadily declines with each age group.

 

Consumers like the hands-free nature of voice shopping

 

It’s important to understand what benefits consumers get from the voice shopping experience and it seems to be the hands-free nature of the technology is what shoppers enjoy the most.

Topping the list of what consumers like about voice shopping is “It’s hands free” (27.31%) followed by “I can do it while doing other things (20.7%) and “It’s faster to get answers and results” (18.94%).

It’s worth noting that the fourth most common reply to this question from consumers was that they didn’t like the voice shopping experience at all (17.62%).

 

A lot of people aren’t comfortable with voice shopping

 

Likewise, it’s important to understand what users don’t appreciate about voice shopping – especially when almost 1 in 5 say they don’t like it at all. A significant 31.72% of people asked by Voicebot.ai said they’re simply not comfortable shopping by voice and another 23.35% say they don’t trust smart speakers with payment information.

The third most common complaint is there’s no screen (21.15%) involved as we’ve said before that voice search is limited to what it can do for shoppers until a screen is brought into the mix. Nobody is going to buy clothes they can’t see or book hotel rooms without looking at images first and the same issue applies to the vast majority of purchases – except, perhaps, for repeat purchases of small products people already know and trust (eg: toilet roll).

Interestingly, 18.06% of people also said there was nothing they didn’t like about buying with voice search.

 

Voice purchases are typically low-value

 

As expected, the average value of voice transactions is quite low with 63.9% of purchases being worth less than $50 and 85% of purchases costing less than $100. Meanwhile, just 5.9% of voice transactions are worth more than $200 and here’s what Voicebot.ai has to say about this trend:

 

“Voice is being used for everyday transactions and is not yet viewed as a channel for higher priced items. This situation could be the result of several factors. First, smaller purchases carry less risk and as a result are good candidates for trying out a new shopping channel. If things do go wrong or are unpleasant, the downside is minimal. Second, it may be that consumers are more discerning about higher priced purchases and are more comfortable with screen-first as opposed to voice-first shopping.”

 

This won’t come as a surprise to many people but there is one assumption about voice purchases, this study suggests might not be true.

 

Voice shoppers are buying new products

 

It turns out the majority of voice shoppers are using the technology to buy new products – not simply using it to place repeat orders of items they’ve already used. According to Voicebot.ai, 31.72% of people who have bought with voice search ordered a new product for the first time, compared to 23.35% who reordered a previous purchase and 20.26% who have done both.

 

“Many people think about voice commerce as most suitable for reordering items you have purchased previously and yet we see more consumers saying they are ordering products they have not previously ordered online.”

 

This is where the opportunity could be for brands looking to use voice search as a platform for gaining new customers.

 

Household items are the biggest seller with voice search

 

Everyday household items are the most common types of voice purchases (25.11%) while apparel ties with entertainment, music and moves (21.5%) to round up the top three. The chart above shows how voice purchases compare against other forms of online shopping and its people looking for local services who appear happiest to make their purchase on either platform, quickly followed by gamers.

Elsewhere, the vast majority of online purchases continue to be made on devices with screens but it will be interesting to see how much this dynamic changes over the next few years.

 

While voice search clearly has its limits as a consumer channel, people are already using the technology to purchase goods and there’s clearly room for growth. The challenge for brands and marketers is to spot where these opportunities lie quickly enough to make their products discoverable at the key moment.

These insights from Voicebot.ai offer us some clues but there’s still a long way to go before voice search becomes a mature marketing channel.