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Voice commerce has the potential to erode brand loyalty, as 85% of people who have used virtual voice assistants (VVA) for purchases have at some point bought the first VVA-selected option instead of the specific brand they requested, according to a report from Digitas [download page].

The study also notes that only one-quarter of VVA purchasers ask for more options when the VVA-selected brand option isn’t the one they want, while about 1 in 10 will completely abandon their planned purchase if their first choice isn’t presented.

Moreover, Millennials – few of whom describe themselves as brand-loyal to begin with – are twice as likely as older adults to typically purchase a VVA-selected option when it’s not the specific brand they requested.

Together, these statistics paint a worrying picture for brands, who appear to be at the behest of VVA selections. That’s particularly troubling when considering research from L2 indicating that Alexa, for example, prioritizes Amazon’s Choice products over top-ranked items in conventional search.

Meanwhile, a recent study from comScore suggested that Smart Speakers could be “creating a barrier to brand loyalty.” That’s because fully 42% of survey respondents who had made a purchase via their Smart Speaker asked it to purchase the item (e.g. laundry detergent) as opposed to the brand (58%).

Why It’s Not Yet Too Large A Problem

The potential for voice commerce to upend brand loyalty is likely more of an issue that’s on the horizon for brands than an immediate one.

Why? Well, for one, few people seem to be using voice assistants for shopping purposes. Despite survey results indicating that Smart Speaker owners are becoming more comfortable shopping via these devices, an article from The Information cited sources briefed on Amazon’s internal figures to reveal that “only about 2% of the people with devices that use Amazon’s Alexa intelligence assistant – mostly Amazon’s own Echo line of speakers – have made a purchase with their voices so far in 2018.” (The article was published earlier this month.)

It’s true that Amazon’s dominant position in the Smart Speaker market is waning, so that 2% figure might not be necessarily representative of voice commerce (at least via Smart Speaker) as a whole. But there are other reasons to believe that brand loyalty isn’t too threatened by voice, just yet.

In survey results released earlier this year, there was a positive outlook to AI-driven curation, but at the same time few survey respondents seemed willing to delegate shopping responsibilities to voice assistants. Fewer than one-third would let an AI assistant automatically buy staples they typically buy, and only 1 in 5 would allow it to automatically buy perishable groceries. Likewise, just one-fifth would be comfortable letting AI proactively order items they haven’t purchased but might like.

As long as the shopper remains in the driver’s seat, without delegating responsibility, they have control over which brands they purchase. For the time being, then, it’s up to the brand to engender that loyalty which will persuade a shopper to choose it over another suggestion…

About the Data: The Digitas results are based on an online survey of 2,019 US adults, 557 of whom had made a purchase using a digital assistant.

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