Quartz: Voice technology – Whose choice is it anyway?

By Adam Gerhart, CEO, U.S.

There’s no stopping voice technology. eMarketer forecasts that 57 million US adults will use a smart speaker at least once a month this year, such as Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. This figure that rises to 91 million when you count voice assistants embedded into other devices, like Apple’s Siri.

It doesn’t stop there. Another report says that by 2020, half of all searches will be done by voice. Yet another predicts that voice shopping will grow to $40 billion in 2022. “Not since the smartphone has any tech device been adopted as quickly as the smart speaker,” eMarketer’s report said.

But what does this mean for us, the consumers? Beyond the undeniable truth that voice technology will change how we shop, it’ll also change what we actually buy.

Voice and choice paralysis

Here’s how shopping psychology currently works. Walk into a grocery store, and you’ll find endless choices in front of you. Different kinds of toilet paper, multitudes of batteries, an entire section devoted to yogurt, an entire aisle filled with cereal. That seemingly unlimited choice only gets magnified when you shop online. For example, a search for “paper towels” will give you 30,000 product results on Amazon and endless pages of information on Google. Unless you have really strong feelings about exactly which paper towels you use (and some people really do), the endless selection can feel a bit overwhelming.

The rise of voice shopping will change that drastically, helping you cull down the decisions—but that’s not necessarily a good thing. If you ask Alexa or Google Home to buy you granola bars, they don’t give you a list of options to choose from. Unlike what you’d find in either a brick-and-mortar or online store, you’re given a couple of options at most. While you can ask for more, it’s an extra step you’ll need to actively take.

The result? Unless you’re looking for a very specific product (say, Nature Valley Crunchy bars), you’ll probably go with whatever is served up to you first. And after you’ve ordered something once, it becomes incredibly convenient for you to just re-order the same brand over and over again: Your voice assistant will assume that you simply want to repeat your previous purchase, and present that option to you first. And so the cycle continues. Unless you proactively ask for a different brand by name (or until a time when paid voice search results become a reality, and the first choice could be determined by the highest bidder), you’ll simply wind up with the same products each time.

Welcome to the world of incidental loyalty.

You can read the full article on Quartz