Voice assistants in e-commerce: Voice commerce revolutionizes online retailing

Voice assistants in e-commerce: Voice commerce revolutionizes online retailing
Published on: Nov 1, 2018
Updated: Aug 19, 2022

"Siri, where is the nearest supermarket?" - we've been hearing these or similar questions more and more lately. Fewer and fewer American parents want to name their daughters Alexa, because that would only cause unnecessary confusion with the voice assistant of the same name.

In Germany, the problem is not yet quite as serious. However, voice assistants are also gaining ground here, because they make our lives easier every day. No time to write or search in Google? No problem - a short conversation with the voice assistant and the solution to the problem is already at hand. Voice control, as a form of artificial intelligence, has become an integral part of many people's everyday lives.

Voice assistants can be used on various devices. Whether on the smartphone, the tablet or via the TV - the possibilities are not limited to the speaker in your own four walls.

[tooltip title="Siri voice assistant" color="purple"]Siri stands for a "beautiful, victorious woman" in Norwegian. The Norwegian developer of the original Siri voice assistant, Dag Kittlaus, worked with a woman named "Siri" and therefore gave the voice assistant this name.[/tooltip].

Voice assistants are an extension of chatbots and, in the context of online shopping, are assigned to the field of voice commerce. Here, customers can completely dispense with typing in questions and control everything via voice - it (almost) couldn't be easier.

The most famous voice assistants

Apple's Siri kicked things off in 2011 when it was first presented to the public.

Google has also been operating a digital assistant called Google Now since 2012. The new Google Assistant is now set to get even better and keep up with the competition. It answers questions on a wide range of topics and has recently been able to make bookings independently, for example for a table at a restaurant, thanks to Google Duplex. Duplex was first integrated into Google Assistant on a test basis in the summer.

Today, the Amazon Echo with its voice assistant Alexa is very popular. In 2014, the voice assistant was presented to the public for the first time. It additionally accepts orders from Amazon and informs the user about upcoming delivery dates.


But Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is also in the process of programming his own voice assistant. Jarvis is not yet a finished product, however, but rather a private project of the founder. Unlike Alexa, Jarvis is supposed to learn itself how to solve unknown tasks. It is thus a combination of voice assistant and artificial intelligence.

Application areas of voice assistants

Many people probably do not know at all that voice assistants are versatile. They are increasingly being used in both private and professional environments.

They are predominantly used to call contacts (56 percent), operate navigation software (51 percent), search for information (50 percent), and compose messages (49 percent). The inhibition threshold for ordering products is still very high. Around 14 percent of users order products via the voice assistant.

Image Voice assistants can be used in many different areas. 

Speech assistants in e-commerce - hidden potential

Sounds improbable, but it really is: voice assistants are expected to bring six times more revenue in e-commerce within three years. Capgemini's Digital Transformation Institute surveyed around 5000 consumers on this topic. They also came to the conclusion that as early as the next three years, around 13 percent of all consumer spending will be made via Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant.

Current status

Voice assistants are increasingly taking over living rooms around the world. Simple questions about the weather or directions can already be asked and quickly and easily. Shopping functions, such as those found on Amazon's Alexa for some time now, are currently still in short supply, however. In the field of voice commerce, however, things are set to change in the next few years, because voice-controlled sales platforms are the future of e-commerce. More than one in two Internet users today has already used a voice assistant. So it doesn't sound so far-fetched that orders will soon be increasingly processed via the digital assistant.

###What online retailers need to know.

Amazon is already demonstrating this. The Alexa voice assistant can independently place orders, handle communication between customers and companies, and provide suitable and individual product suggestions. However, it decides which product should be ordered by the retailer. Furthermore, there are a few sticking points that need to be taken into account. To be able to order via the voice assistant, an Amazon Prime membership is required. In addition, the Alexa app has to be downloaded and voice shopping has to be activated there. For a few months now, the auction channel 1-2-3.tv has jumped on the bandwagon. There, you can now store using Amazon Echo integration or Amazon Skills. Skills are free apps for Alexa and can be activated by a short combination of words. Phrases such as "Alexa, buy the current product from 1-2-3.tv" are now more common there.

Image Alexa Skill at 1-2-3.tv. (Source: 1-2-3.tv GmbH)

But Amazon is not the only place where you can already conveniently order products via the digital assistants. In the U.S. as well as the UK, users of the Google Home can already place orders since February 2017. With the words  "O.K. Google, order..." users can order all products that participate in the so-called delivery program  "Google Express". Since Google does not have its own merchandise platform like Amazon, the company cooperates with various providers, such as Walmart, Target and Tesco.

Apple cannot yet offer a comparable function with its Siri. However, it is already possible to order a cab quickly and conveniently via the app of the same name with the words "Hey Siri, order a cab with mytaxi.

This could soon be the case here, too:


Suitable products

According to a survey, interest in purchasing consumer electronics and electrical appliances (60 percent) and groceries (54 percent) using voice assistants is highest. Hobby and leisure products are in third place with 51 percent. Fashion and accessories are also among the popular product groups at 47 percent.

Image users prefer to order consumer electronics and electrical appliances via the digital assistants. (Source: Statista)

However, everyone should be aware that implementation is more difficult than expected and that not all products are suitable for ordering via the voice assistant. This includes items such as clothing and shoes. It is still very important to be able to view the product visually before buying it, which the voice assistant cannot do at this point. However, it is not at all far-fetched that voice assistants will soon be equipped with an additional video function. You can already order a screen, the so-called Amazon Echo Show, from Amazon.

Further field of application: customer and shipping communication


In the future, however, voice commerce can be used for more than just order processing. There are other useful areas that can be covered by it. One possibility is the handling of customer as well as shipping communication. The use of the voice assistant does not have to end with placing the order. Amazon's Alexa can already do this, as questions like  "Alexa, when will my package arrive?" and answers à la  "Your package will be delivered tomorrow between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m." have already established themselves there. Other customer service inquiries could also be handled easily via the digital assistant in the future. However, the prerequisite for this is that online retailers control order and shipping communications themselves and do not transfer them to the shipping service provider. Only in this way can online retailers ensure that customers receive their information reliably.

###Experience shipping messages in action!


Voice assistants are becoming increasingly popular. The reason for this is that they can be used in a wide variety of areas. The digital helpers are also becoming more and more popular in e-commerce. Amazon is already leading the way with Alexa. Ordering via the voice assistant is simple and time-saving. In the future, a large part of consumer spending will take place via the digital helpers. Companies can expect an enormous increase in sales.

Customer communication will also be handled via voice assistants. Ordering and shipping communication are particularly important here. This is also a reason why companies should not only manage the order communication itself. Shipping communication should also not simply be handed over to the shipping service provider naively. This is the only way to ensure a unique shopping experience.

More on the topic "Artificial Intelligence in E-Commerce" can be read in our new blog series.

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