iPhone 4S showing the new Siri voice application. Siri is a voice recognition system which allows users to control the phone by using spoken words.

“Alexa, Do My Christmas Shopping.”

While mobile shopping continues to loom large in holiday retail forecasts, there’s another disruption making its voice (literally) heard this season: voice-activated shopping.

While Apple’s Siri and similar voice-enabled technology has existed for years now, Amazon has found a sweet spot in linking these robotic assistants to our shopping cart. Their voice-enabled devices (Alexa and Echo, among others) were breakaway hits during the 2016 holiday season, with Amazon reporting the sales of these items were nine times higher than they were during the 2015 holiday season.

So Americans are now armed with a fleet of attentive listening machines – will they use them to shop? Statistics already show the answer to that is a resounding yes. According to RetailDive, “Owners of the Amazon Echo spent around 10% more on Amazon in the six months after they bought the device than before they purchased it, with purchase frequency also growing 6%, according to data collected this fall by NPD Group’s Checkout Tracking purchase monitor.”

It’s important to understand the way that Amazon’s devices allow you to shop – if you ask Alexa to order you a pair of headphones, she can’t read off all 395,000 product results available on Amazon. Unless you happen to have ordered a specific brand of headphones through Amazon before, she’ll recommend an “Amazon’s Choice” item.

The implications are clear: The retailer has some influence on the brands and products that end up in your shopping cart, and major leverage with advertisers who want to cozy up to this growing group of shoppers. For example, with Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods, you might be prompted to check out with a Whole Foods brand of Columbian coffee beans instead of your no-frills Folgers.

While Amazon is certainly the biggest name in the space, other companies are getting in on the action. From RetailDive: “At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, LG Electronics unveiled its Smart InstaView web-connected refrigerator, which leverages Alexa technology to allow users to buy groceries through Amazon Prime by speaking their orders to the appliances. A day later, Ford Motor Co. announced its Sync 3 infotainment systems will enable in-car Alexa applications: Motorists can order products, ask questions or search for restaurants and travel directions, all from the comfort of their vehicle.”

This coming holiday season, shoppers also are sure to see more of what Amazon rolled out last year: Echo-only deals that encourage customers to shop “with their signature voice.”

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on 2017 holiday retail trends (see part 1 and part 3). Subscribe to Market Share so you don’t miss the next post in this series.

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