People still aren’t into buying things through their smart speakers

Hey Alexa, order more TP.
Hey Alexa, order more TP.
Image: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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Smart speakers promise to be your voice-activated personal assistant. Devices outfitted with Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, and Apple’s Siri can tell you the weather, add an event to your calendar, or—as these companies are hoping—purchase whatever you need in that instant.

But according to a new report from market research company eMarketer, consumers aren’t really using speakers to make purchases. eMarketer projects that just 27% of smart speaker users will make a purchase through the device next year. That projection is down from 31% in the second quarter.

That still means that more than a quarter of users are talking to their devices to make purchases—a much higher number than estimates from earlier reports, which suggest that relatively few people (definitely less than 18%) use their smart speakers to shop and that only 2% of Alexa-enabled devices were used to make purchases. That would appear to be a problem Amazon, in particular, since its primary business is commerce and it’s been aggressive in getting Alexa into as many devices as possible.

However, there are more smart speaker shoppers: according to eMarketer, 37% of smart speaker users have put items in their digital shopping cart using their device. Based on the discrepancy between smart speaker buyers versus shoppers, it appears that 10% of shoppers begin the purchasing process but don’t follow through on the buy.

As the number of smart speakers grows, perhaps the volume of sales they generate will, too. eMarketer projects that in 2019, US smart speaker users will grow by 15%, with 74.2 million people using a smart speaker device. It also predicts that the number of UK users will grow by 31.6%, for a total of 12.6 million users.