Advertising Strategies and Lessons


Consumers Are Reluctant To Use Smart Speakers For Purchases

February 13, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_1125986345 Smart speaker concept. AI speaker. Voice recognition.

As of 2019, more than a quarter of Americans owned smart speakers, up 40% over 2018, illustrating consumers’ general comfort with smart speaker usage. However, the tasks consumers are comfortable using smart speakers for is different than insiders predicted, resulting in slower than expected adoption of making purchases with smart speakers. According to eMarketer, “By the end of 2020, [eMarketer] expect[s] that 21.6 million people will have made a purchase using a smart speaker. This is lower than our Q2 2019 forecast, in which we expected the number to reach 23.6 million.”

Consumers Aren’t Confident With The Security Of Making Purchases With Smart Speakers

Despite using smart speakers to make inquiries, play music and create lists, many consumers don’t feel at ease making purchases from their smart speakers. A lingering reason for the purchase aversion is a lack of trust in the security of ordering over smart speakers. All of the leading smart speaker brands support WPA-2 encryption and two-factor authentication, but when it comes to making payments and data privacy, consumers remain skeptical. Despite concerns and the slower than expected adoption, eMarketer did report growth: “The activity is growing and will pass a milestone this year when 10.8% of all digital buyers in the US will make a purchase using a smart speaker.”

Purchases On Smart Speakers Aren’t As Frictionless As They Seem

The modern consumer is very clear about wanting their shopping experiences to be as frictionless as possible. Ordering on smart speakers is, clearly, very convenient. But the purchase requires research beforehand, often on another device where the product can be seen, compared and reviewed against comparable products. Also, two-factor authentication, sometimes necessary for smart speaker purchases, requires touchbacks to shoppers’ smartphones, which is another point of friction.

“There’s a good deal of friction in the voice-based buying process because people can’t see what they’ll actually be purchasing unless they have a screen on their smart speaker,” said Victoria Petrock, eMarketer Principal Analyst. “So, most of the purchases made today are reorders and things that don’t need to be inspected.”

Brands Need To Stand Out To Compete For Consumer Attention On Smart Speakers

If consumer comfort with ordering over smart speakers is primarily for items that don’t require a lot of thought or research, marketers of such products need to develop strategies to compete for the “attention” of smart speakers, many of which make recommendations after consumers place voice orders. While roughly a third of consumers have their “go-to” brands established for purchases they make repeatedly, many consumers are still susceptible to suggestions, particularly for niche products targeted at their specific consumer needs. Brands that want to be noticed by smart speaker algorithms will need to play by the rules of smart speaker search engine optimization. The growth of sales via smart speakers may be slow, but there are still opportunities for savvy brands who adapt accordingly.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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