I accidentally started Siri on my iPhone. It mistakenly thought I said, “Tell me about June my dog injure.” As you can see from the screenshot below, Siri was clueless about how to respond. It did make an effort, however.

Siri misunderstood the query, which led to a meaningless answer.
Siri misunderstood the query, which led to a meaningless answer.

If you have shopped online using Alexa or Google Assistant, you may have encountered a similar experience.

According to “Adobe Digital Insights 2018,” more than 40 percent of consumers own a smart speaker, and that was before Q4 2018 sales. One would think we would all be shopping via voice.

But, that is not the reality. We are nearly as far away from conversational commerce now as three years ago. The primary use for voice commerce is to initiate a search for basic research. According to the same Adobe study, 30 percent of smart speaker owners use them to shop online, but only a small percentage consummate a purchase, even re-order.

The rise of voice search has been noteworthy. According to a 2018 study from Invoca, a voice analytics platform, titled “The Rise of Voice,” Google estimates that 20 percent of searches were initiated by voice in 2018. Google projects the percentage to be 50 percent by 2020. Consumers are becoming comfortable with initiating a voice search for weather, sports results, news, and so forth. Many people now dictate their text and email messages using voice on their smartphone.

Complicated Shopping

Shopping is too complicated to conduct by voice, at least thus far. There are too many products, variables, and attributes to choose from in most categories. The second challenge is dialog. Shoppers want to ask questions — engage in a conversation — but artificial-intelligence-powered voice assistants are not ready for that, yet. A third challenge for voice shopping is visual. Without photos or videos, it is difficult for people to visualize products.

I recently asked my Google Assistant for options to buy a 72-inch high-definition television. The assistant immediately listed five models and provided the brand name along with details about each one. I barely remembered any of the brands, much less any of the information, before it finished. The presentation was fast and one-way. It would have been difficult to go to the next step of specifications, pricing, user reviews, and so forth. This experience would be much better if I had Google Hub and a screen for…