How Do Smart Speakers Stack Up Against Visual-Based Retail Technology?

Despite all the hype around smart speakers, most consumers are more interested in shopping with retail technology that offers a visual aid, as opposed to completing purchases entirely with voice.

According to an August 2019 survey conducted by eMarketer and Bizrate Insights, 58% of US internet users have neither used nor are interested in using smart speakers to make purchases. While 4% of respondents said they have made a purchase using a smart speaker at least once, just 2% did so regularly.

On the other hand, emerging retail technologies offering a visual component have similar adoption rates but have garnered more interest among consumers who have not yet tried them.

Just 28% of respondents in the Bizrate survey were at least somewhat interested in making purchases via smart speakers, compared with 54% who were interested in using visual search. While just 2% said they used visual search regularly, an additional 8% had some experience with the technology, vs. the 4% who had tried making a purchase on a smart speaker.

Even though it's still early stages, augmented reality and virtual reality—used by just 6% of respondents—garnered more interest than smart speakers, Bizrate found. Some 39% of respondents who have not used AR/VR said they were at least somewhat interested in using the technology.

However, just because consumers aren’t interested in making purchases with smart speakers doesn’t mean they won't use them to shop.

Bizrate found that US smart speaker users were conducting shopping-related activities on their devices, including browsing for products (15%), asking for product recommendations (15%), and even going as far to add products to a shopping cart before finishing checkout on another device (12%).

In total, we forecast that four in 10 US smart speaker users will engage in shopping-related activity using a smart speaker in 2019, but won’t necessarily use it to complete a purchase. However, more than a quarter (27%) will buy something using a smart speaker at least once this year.

We forecast that the number of US smart speaker users will top 77 million this year. With such a large percentage already engaging in shopping-related activities, smart speaker purchases have the potential to become a fast-growing trend. The question is: What will it take for consumers to stop clicking the buy button and start speaking it?