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  • NETMEDIA International

[Tribune] Will voice assistants and connected speakers meet the demands of e-commerce?

In 2019, 46% of French Internet users had already used a voice assistant, whether on a smartphone, computer, tablet, speaker or smart TV. According to the Cnil, there are 16 to 20 million users in France.

With the health crisis and the repeated confinements, the sphere of housing has been over-invested, the rise of DIY and gardening attest to this: the French have sought to create a cocoon. If it is still a bit early to measure the real impact of anti-Covid-19 measures on their market, connected objects are part of these equipments that help to improve the daily comfort with as main benefits the saving of time and the facilitation of the daily life.

Among them, speakers allow several uses, linked above all to entertainment and information: listening is one of the major uses (89% of users listen to music on these devices, a third to podcasts). They also meet practical needs for everyday life: checking the weather, controlling other connected objects in their homes (light bulbs or shutters, for example), assisting with cooking recipes, etc.

Voice assistants are yet to simplify shopping

However, beyond these most obvious uses, voice assistants do not yet seem to be at the forefront of online shopping, as our analysis Cracking the code for voice commerce shows. We could have imagined that asking Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to buy this or that product directly on the Internet as if we were talking to someone would simplify consumers' lives.

But there are still many barriers to the growth of these uses, and the benefits of using voice rather than a screen or keyboard are not always clear. Many models of speakers do not have screens: the consumer cannot see or check his purchase before validating it. They do not receive a tangible confirmation like the invoice in traditional e-commerce. Finally, many consumers have shared dissuasive experiences, like this American mother: her children had used Alexa to order their own Christmas gifts, which meant a bill of... 700 dollars!

In situations where there is no perceived risk in the use of voice, because the possibility of an error is non-existent, or without serious consequences, the voice assistant has its place: this is the case for uses related to entertainment, information or the control of connected objects, mentioned above. On the other hand, when the act becomes more involving because it involves payments, bank card codes or personal data, a defensive system can be put in place. The added value of voice is not perceived: the question of the usefulness of voice assistants is raised. Moreover, consumers do not trust the protection of personal and banking data. The fear that the technology becomes intrusive (use of order history, tracking...).

To spread, voice assistants still have benefits to prove

Consumers need to feel that a connected assistant used for voice commerce is "doing the job for them," helping them save search time with personalized predictive offers or giving them access to competitive prices more readily available than on other channels. Monitoring prices for a particular product and alerting when a price drop or promotion has been spotted by the algorithm saves the consumer from having to do this monitoring themselves, from having to check notifications on another device.

They need to feel confident. Post-purchase notifications and order confirmation emails have their role to play, notably as a visual validation of the purchase act and preservation of some of the previous routines. Similarly, a notification applied to a product previously purchased on the application reduces the risk of error and avoids confusion. Finally, voice assistants must accompany the daily life of consumers to become a reflex: if they are integrated with other tools such as calendars, messaging, they will expand the spectrum of their services and proposals, creating new opportunities for voice commerce.

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