What purchasing via Voice Assistants spells for brands
The rise of prominence of voice assistants naturally leads to more purchases taking place over such devices. Current annual US spend on voice assistants is estimated to be around $2 billion, however this is expected to increase to $40 billion by 2022. With Amazon's Echo devices currently being the only voice assistants in the UK that facilitate purchasing, Alexa is making an increasing number of purchasing decisions for people without them even realising.
To purchase via Amazon's Alexa, users must be an Amazon Prime member. Recently released statistics in the annual letter to Amazon's shareholders show there are now 100 million paid prime members globally. Last year, more new members joined Prime than any year before, and Amazon shipped more than five billion items via this service worldwide.
The introduction of Echo devices around the home means there is a rise in subconscious purchasing, mostly down to convenience. With more people willing to fulfill their FMCG purchases via these devices, this has subtly changed the way people now browse and select these items. The browsing aspect has changed, simply because when being vocalised, people only want to hear about (maximum) three items before making their decision.
The introduction of screens to voice devices (such as Echo Show or Echo Spot) has changed consideration of products slightly - more items can be viewed and compared. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing as previous studies have shown that people are more likely to complete a purchase when there is less choice. This is described as the paradox of choice, as the more products that people are presented with, the less likely they are to choose one to purchase. This can be explained further by looking at working memory; we only retain a limited amount of information (which is essential in remembering information and making decisions), so having fewer options provided to us by these voice assistants could work in a company's favour.
Amazon's Choice - making sure you make the cut
The purpose of ordering through these devices is for added ease and convenience. With increased use, it is expected that these devices will know which products are your preferred options (e.g. what type of toothpaste is your go-to). The assumption is that it is related to previous purchases. Whilst sometimes this assumption is correct, initially Alexa's go-to product of choice is Amazon's choice, ad whilst it isn't entirely known how you become 'Amazon's Choice', vendors that have good product pages, which include good reviews, well priced products, and well displayed product images etc., appear to make the cut that is 'Amazon's Choice'.
The rise in purchasing of non-branded products, or Amazon's Basics, is indicative of a wider trend seen outside of Amazon also. This relates not only to products such as Brandless, but also to people subscribing to companies such as Beauty Pie, which at first supplied make-up, but has since gone into skincare, candles, and is expanding elsewhere. Business models such as these show that people care less about brands and more about the quality and price of the goods they are buying. This is why people are willing to make their purchases via Voice Devices and accept Amazon's first suggestion. They trust Alexa (Amazon), not only to make the right selection or recommendation, but also to pay for it correctly, and deliver it promptly.
What does this mean for you?
You must make sure your product or brand is your customers' favourite or first choice. It is no longer good enough to be in their top 5 Google search results, as you will not get the access to your customers that you once took for granted. You can aid this by having clear but limited product names or lines, so customers know what to ask for when searching for your products.
It is now also vital that your position within marketplaces is strong, particularly on Amazon. You must have a strong product information page on these websites. Your pages should have consistent and clear information, and you should be cognisant that the information relayed to users via voice assistants is taken directly from these pages. It is up to you, therefore, to manage and own as much of this information as you can so that it is received by the listener of the assistant as clearly as possible.
The quicker you are accessible to those wishing to purchase through voice devices, the more successful you will be on these platforms in the long run. It is essential that you are prepared and equipped to deal with purchase requests via these means, otherwise customers will resort to Alexa's choice and this may remain their choice going forward.
In short, you'd be wise to act now and optimise your marketplace offering in order to stay ahead of this curve and maximise your exposure to those customers already spending billions via voice assistants.