Walmart Inc. (WMT) needs to listen up — literally.
In two years, voice shopping, or v-commerce, could be as popular as mobile shopping is today, according to recent survey data from MoffettNathanson. So far, less than 5% of consumers use voice shopping, but that number could reach 50% by 2022, the report found.
"The growth curve of voice shopping looks a lot like the trajectory of mobile commerce seven years ago," when less than 10% of American consumers made purchases on their cellphones, MoffettNathanson's Greg Melich told TheStreet on Thursday, April 5. "If you're a retailer and you're not preparing for this significant trend of e-commerce going toward v-commerce, then you won't be around."
Today, 26% of U.S. adults live in a household with at least one personal assistant, such as Amazon.com Inc.'s (AMZN) Alexa-enabled Echo or Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOG) Google Home device. So far, only one in six personal assistant users has bought goods through voice command, pointing to a "potential for rapid adoption," the report said. Shoppers with personal assistants actually use v-commerce more frequently than early mobile commerce users did.
More telling, however, are the most popular product categories. Behind music, groceries and fresh food are the most-purchased items through voice command. "This explains why grocery and consumable items could more quickly migrate online," the report said.
While Walmart and its competitor Target Corp. (TGT) have partnered with Google to be available through its personal assistant devices, the retailers may have to ramp up efforts to compete with Amazon, which dominates the voice-command space with Alexa. In its third-quarter earnings call last year, Walmart called the partnership with Google a "capital-light" initiative and has not indicated that it would develop any voice-shopping services of its own.
"When it comes to where the consumer wants to go, Amazon has it figured out," Melich said. "Right now v-comm is a relatively small part of e-commerce, but if consumer adoption is anything like the consumer perception of mobile commerce then every retailer's going to need to have a strategy."
Walmart, for one, has been developing its grocery pickup service as well as delivery options. It announced last month that it would expand delivery to 100 different markets by the end of the year.
Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheStreet.