Shopping habits have changed tremendously in the past decade or two, with online ordering, then smartphone shopping, becoming common. A new report suggests that shopping by voice – "Alexa, order a new pair of my favourite jeans" – is about to become a retail trend.
Connected home devices, virtual reality, streaming television services, drones and – most of all – voice ordering are making digital shopping part of everyday life, according to the Walker Sands 2017 Future of Retail Study, a product of the Chicago- and San Francisco-based communications firm.
The report surveyed 1,622 consumers across the United States in late March.
"Today's consumer is vastly different from the consumer of just a couple of years ago," said Erin Jordan, who leads the retail technology and e-commerce groups at Walker Sands, in a blog post accompanying the study. "What used to be a distant idea of a 'smart home' is now seemingly here to stay."
A key factor in the view that voice-based buying is becoming important is the fact that 24% of consumers now own in-home voice-controlled devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, the study says. Another 20% plan to purchase one in the next year.
Amazon has been critical in driving the growth in voice-controlled devices by offering such products at different prices, making it easier for consumers to try out the technology. Amazon's decision to make Alexa accessible across many non-Amazon devices has also given the online giant an edge over Google and Apple, which have taken more of a "walled garden" approach.
Consumers are still worried about security and privacy issues, however, when buying things on a voice-controlled device, the study says.
A Columbus-based observer of such trends buys the notion that voice-based buying is an emerging trend.
"We've found that most people use voice for just a handful of things," said David Smith, associate vice president for integrated solutions at digital marketing agency Mindstream Interactive.
"We've also found that no two people use voice quite the same way, typically due to a combination of personality traits, environmental factors and level of comfort."
The Walker Sands study also notes that even as consumers embrace alternative shopping, they still want to visit traditional stores. Even more surprising: 58% of 18- to 25-year-old consumers prefer to shop in a traditional store, compared with less than half of 26- to 45-year-old shoppers.
The seeming disconnect between online and traditional shopping, especially across age groups, is something every retailer is trying to decipher, Smith said.
"We believe that, ultimately, it comes down to really, really understanding the entirety of the customer experience," he said.
"The brands that really understand how all those pieces fit together and how to authentically connect and support the customer throughout are the ones that are successfully navigating all this crazy change." — The Columbus Dispatch/Tribune News Service