Voice command technology is fast improving, with voice search and voice command becoming more proficient with machine learning and AI developments supporting the advance of the technology. This means that the way people interact with eCommerce is also set to change.

Consumers are increasingly interested in making their shopping experience not only faster and easier but more engaging. Consumers enjoy novel ways of shopping, and online voice command shopping is appealing for many reasons:

  • Speed
  • Ease
  • Repeat options
  • Can be done on the go
  • Available on a variety of devices

Statistics show 43% of voice-enabled device owners use search to shop, and 51% of people who shop via voice search use the technology to research products. Nearly 5.5 million US adults make purchases with their smart speakers, such as Alexa, on a regular basis.


Demand for voice-controlled smart assistants have increased and one researcher predicts that from this year, 25% of digital workers will use virtual employee assistants on a daily basis. The more people use the technology and the more diverse the range of people who adopt the technology, the more applicable it becomes to people living in all countries, from all backgrounds and needs. Machine learning technology adapts to the speech patterns used by different people in different parts of the world, regardless of the language used. It learns how certain questions are more likely to be phrased, such as:

  • What will I have for dinner tonight?
  • What takeaways are open near me?

Why Do We Need Voice Commerce?

Voice commerce is an expected norm for younger people. They are used to having a connected device on them at all times and expect that devices make life easier from the point of view that they take care of menial daily tasks, such as grocery shopping. It is easy to say ‘Alexa, create a shopping list’, then have that list sent to a store or contractor who collects the items and delivers them to your front door. With voice commerce, consumers expect that:

  • The buying experience is made simple and easier.
  • It is a faster way to buy.
  • It is an innovative way to shop.
  • Saves time through automation.

Using voice command to make purchasing decisions, while it seems fast, is not simple. It still takes time for consumers to make decisions and the purchasing process is still in place. While most shoppers have certain brands that they are comfortable with when purchasing daily necessities or weekly groceries, translating this to voice command shopping is not a simple process.

Ecommerce merchants need to examine their sales funnel to ensure that the systems they use are transferable and fulfil customer expectations in this new shopping environment. The typical sales funnel is basically the same:

  • Identifying a Product: Looking for solutions that will solve a problem.
  • Product Analysis: Comparing product features, price, feedback, ratings, etc to make a purchasing decision. 
  • Product purchase: Selecting the shipping method, payment method and making the purchase, which can be automated in voice commerce.
  • Post-Purchase: Checking the order status, providing feedback, returning the product and contacting customer support.

Most voice command purchases are for items such as:

  • Music and movies
  • Books
  • Groceries
  • Stationery 
  • Electronics and home appliances

While people are confident ordering using voice search for everyday purchases, such as milk, toilet paper and cleaning products, that is because people tend to have strong brand loyalty for such items. When it comes to other types of purchases, people tend to trust the supplier more than the brand and they will use a service provider that they are familiar with for voice-command searches and purchasing for:

  • Food ordering and delivery
  • Streaming TV and movies
  • Event ticket booking
  • Ride/cab booking

Challenges with voice commerce

One of the obvious questions for consumers is privacy and safety. There have been instances in the past whereby people have found that devices in the home are ‘listening’ to them while passively active in the home. Users who had enabled voice search needs the microphone on the device turned on at all times, and some people found that they were receiving targeted ads only minutes after having what they believed to be a private conversation in their home. For example, a couple who have done no online research for a holiday to Fiji and only briefly discussed it over dinner would only hours later see targeted ads on social media about package holidays to the Pacific region. 

Search engine owners have replied that because they state in the terms and conditions that they can sell user data to third party users that they have no breached user privacy and that users must read and understand terms and conditions prior to using their services. While from a business perspective this is fair and legal, it places users in a precarious position whereby they cannot interact with technology if they do not submit to these invasive terms.

That is why privacy laws and user protections have been introduced and made more stringent, particularly in the EU. It is undeniable that people need access to the internet, but they should not be subjected to invasion of privacy so make use of the tools that are supplied. However, those tools are provided by private enterprises and the cost of using the tools is agreeing to the use of your data by the enterprise. The middle ground would be allowing users the option of paying to use a service in exchange for keeping their data private. At this time, few enterprises are offering users this option, as selling user data is highly profitable. 

For many people, data privacy and online security are no longer major concerns. Young people have accepted that they sell their data and are targeted with advertising. Whether this is due to conditioning or a lack of understanding, the fact is that tech monoliths are winning the fight to sell user data and offer no other options – give us your details or don’t use the platform – simple.

In regards to voice-activated searches and shopping, privacy concerns should centre around the fact that users are constantly monitored. While at this time user data is sold to marketing and advertising agents, there could be a time that that same data is used by nefarious agents to find and persecute people. The security of online data is a major concern and as a business, it is important to understand the changing face of internet security and to act in a way that benefits the ethical good.