Voice commerce is poised to transform the way customers search, browse and buy online. And that change is coming sooner than you may think.
A recent Capgemini study of over 5,000 people in the US, UK, France and Germany found that:
- 51% of consumers already use voice assistants.
- 35% of them have bought products by voice.
- 34% have ordered meals by voice.
- 28% have booked an Uber or taxi service by voice.
In other words, voice commerce is already a reality today, and adoption is growing at a rapid pace. Ecommerce retailers who take the time to understand this trend and adapt to the age of voice will gain a significant advantage, while those who don’t will struggle to catch up.
What is driving this paradigm shift?
Voice assistants are not a brand new innovation. Siri first became available on iPhones in 2011, and Android Now followed in 2012. However, consumers have only recently started to warm up to voice commands for searching and shopping online.
Partly, that’s because voice recognition technology has really improved over the last 3-4 years. Google’s speech recognition error rates were over 20% in 2014, but has since dropped to under 5% for US English.
But the other, more important reason is the major buy-in voice commerce has seen from industry giants. Amazon has been at the forefront of this charge, with Alexa now allowing customers to easily search for and order both digital and physical products directly off Amazon or their affiliated supermarket chain, Whole Foods Market. Not to be outdone, Google unveiled its Google Express program, allowing consumers to buy products from over 40 major voice commerce partners,
including Walmart and Target. And while Apple has not boarded the voice commerce train yet, Siri is expected to be able to facilitate online shopping via Apple Pay sometime in the near future.
Simply put, the battle lines are already being drawn, and the retailers who move first will be able to stake out attractive positions in the emerging voice commerce marketplace.
How to Capitalize on Voice Commerce
There are several ways retailers can position themselves to benefit from the voice commerce wave. Acting now will allow you to start growing voice-driven sales today, while also preparing you for the immense growth that’s just over the horizon.
Here’s how you can build that foundation:
1. Design your own Alexa voice app
Amazon’s Alexa Skills Kit allows companies to create their own voice apps. While this is not required to sell your items to Alexa users, many retailers will benefit from having their own app.
For one, many SaaS or service-based companies might not be able to sell their offering on Amazon itself. Uber is a great example of this, and their Alexa skill is especially convenient for users rushing to get dressed while trying to order a ride. The skill can store your address as a default pickup location, so users simply say “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride” and they’re all set.
Another benefit of having an app is to increase engagement with your customers even when they’re not buying anything from you. UK drinks manufacturer designed an app called Happy Hour (originally “The Bar”) that teaches users how to mix various cocktails in the comfort of their homes. This is a fun way of engaging customers that eventually results in more sales for Diageo – a tactic that many other retailers can apply to their own advantage.
2. Optimize for natural language search
While Amazon is the current king of direct voice purchases, Google is still the dominant player when it comes to more open-ended voice searches.
Search is another important piece of voice-driven commerce, because not all customers will already have a product in mind. These earlier-stage prospects might be doing some initial research, comparing various options, or investigating specific product features. So if you want your products to reach the widest audience possible, you have to ensure they are easily voice searchable.
The biggest difference between voice and text-based search is that people tend to use natural language queries a lot more often in voice searches. For example, instead of typing “best beginner rock climbing shoes”, a voice searcher would simply ask, “What are the best rock climbing shoes for beginners?”
This means you need to consider a different set of possible search terms for voice, paying special attention to conversational or colloquial keywords that might be associated with your products. Doing this well could mean the difference between coming up on page 1 or page 4 of Google.
3. Improve site speeds
Loading speed is an important issue for any website, but when it comes to voice search, it becomes absolutely critical.
That’s because voice assistants and voice search apps are designed to provide answers to spoken questions in mere seconds. Any longer than that, and the pace becomes very unnatural for users. For this reason, many assistants and apps will skip over pages that load too slow in favor of a faster one – even if the former are ranked more highly in the search results.
For that reason, retailers must ensure that their websites load as quickly as possible. A good starting point is Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool, which will test your website speed and provide suggestions for possible improvements. Pay special attention to mobile loading speeds, as many users will be doing voice searches on their phones.
Another way to improve your voice search speed is to make use of schema markups. Schema tags are a special type of HTML code that explain the content of your webpage to search engines. In Google’s case, this information shows up as rich snippets on search results:
And in voice search, the app and assistant can often take this data and describe it to the user verbally. Given the relative brevity of voice search results, this little bit of extra information could easily make the difference between a successful purchase and losing the customer.
Change the Game with Voice Commerce
Voice commerce is going to be a complete game changer for ecommerce. The only choice remaining for ecommerce retailers is whether to take that change into their own hands, or wait for the market to force that change on them. By starting with the recommendations in this article, you’ll build a strong foundation that will position you well for the coming age of voice-driven shopping.