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Advertisers sell benefits of e-commerce on smart speakers - but it could be a lost cause in the U.S. market

U.S. consumers have gotten increasingly comfortable using smart speakers for everyday tasks like playing music and getting immediate answers to questions. This has encouraged better user reception to advanced offerings, and has posed a question to consumers and advertisers about what's next for smart voice assistants.

Gradually expanding customer trust and product expectations have triggered major tech companies like Amazon and Google to release sophisticated smart speaker models with voice-enabled buying capabilities. The enthusiasm for these products suggests that smart assistants could be a natural fit for e-commerce.

While the outlook seemed especially promising in 2019, we are now updating our initial forecast to show that the projected 23.6 million smart speaker users engaging in e-commerce activities will be closer to 21.6 million, and that the overall usage on U.S. smart devices will only reach 83.1 million, down from our anticipated 84.5 million userbase.

Smart Speaker Activity

The lowered forecast indicates that consumers are using smart devices less than expected and are not taking full advantage of all the product offerings. As voice-enabled purchasing potential appears less promising with these new predictions, we may see advertisers tweak their approach. eMarketer is sharing the factors impacting smart speaker e-commerce and product usage behavior in 2020 as well as valuable insights for advertisers looking to leverage this market.

  • Unanticipated extra steps in the setup process, coupled with the dwindling focus of consumers, may enable users to revert back to using smart speakers for simple tasks like weather reports and schedule reminders. 
  • Usage will continue to plummet unless advertisers can find a way to clearly articulate the advantages of this voice technology, the safety around voice-enabled buying, and the steps needed to sync this technology with apps, appliances, and other devices.
  • Consumers will be more inclined to make voice-enabled purchases on a smart speaker with a screen, as customers prefer to see the item they are purchasing and get a better sense of the product value. This is especially important for users who are new to a site or buying an unfamiliar product.
  • Advertisers are not ready to give up on the potential of voice-controlled e-commerce just yet, but managing concerns like unwanted ordering and the security of personal and financial information will be top of mind in 2020.

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