Have you ever completed a purchase entirely through voice search? If you haven’t, the chances are high that you will soon! According to a recent study, 43% of smart speaker owners are already using voice search technology to shop from their favorite eCommerce stores. If we add the recent Alibaba decision to fight for the smart speaker device market in the West into the equation, it’s easy to draw one conclusion:
Voice commerce is likely to challenge traditional, screen-related consumer behavior and dominate sales.
In this edition of the NewsCatcher, we’d like to shed more light on this emerging eCommerce innovation. We’ll explain how consumers are using voice search to shop, and why it’s worth investing in optimizing your listings for voice technologies. We’ll also discuss three major voice search implementations already on the market.
What is voice search and how does it work?
In a nutshell, voice search describes all the voice-based interactions users have with search engines and digital devices. In its basic form, when a user has a question or wants to complete a process – such as the above-mentioned purchase – they activate their device by voice and finalize it without ever looking at a screen.
So, what makes this human-machine interaction possible? It comes down to speech recognition technology, which enables the device to understand specific words, put them together into a query, and then run it by the vast resources online.
Why should you consider implementing voice search for your e-commerce store?
If you’re wondering what this has to do with e-commerce stores, then you should be aware of at least a few statistics and advancements in consumer behavior. Let’s have a look at them below.
48% of all web searches are conducted via voice
Just think of it – it’s almost half of all queries! In all honesty, it’s hardly surprising, as it frees your hands (and mind) from manual search and lets you find answers to your questions as you engage in other day-to-day activities. It all comes down to availability: it doesn’t matter whether you’re engaged in another process, whether it be chopping carrots for dinner or driving your car. If you think of it this way, I’m sure you can see why voice search optimization is a no-brainer for eCommerce shops.
58% of U.S. customers use voice search technology to research local businesses
Given that 70% of all voice search devices are owned by Amazon, you might think it doesn’t make sense to invest in voice search optimization. After all, you’d expect Alexa to direct traffic straight to the Amazon store, wouldn’t you?
You’re not entirely wrong. However, the good news is that 58% of all U.S. voice searches are directed towards local businesses. This indicates that the technology isn’t a lost cause, and that it represents a huge sales opportunity for smaller enterprises.
The pandemic has caused an amplification of voice technology use
The COVID-19 lockdown implicated a behavioral change in our search habits. As the vast majority of consumers were confined to their homes and had to juggle between professional assignments and house chores, they found voice technology to be a true savior. Given how we’ve spent months living in lockdown, this trend is likely to prevail even as we return to ‘normal’ life.
Alibaba’s plans to take on Amazon
Lastly, as in the case of many other eCommerce and tech trends, it’s worth taking a look at the Chinese market. In mid-2020, Alibaba declared that they were going to invest $1.8 billion to take on Amazon and Google in the West – a step they had previously refrained from taking, as they were only focusing on the Chinese market. Needless to say, if this eCommerce giant is willing to invest in the technology, it means that they have good reason to. On top of everything else we’ve just mentioned, you should definitely explore the possibilities voice search might bring for your own business.
How to use voice search in eCommerce – current solutions
Now that we’ve discussed voice search innovation and its benefits, let’s look at some of the more exciting solutions currently in use.
Creating shopping lists & buying on the go
Walmart has joined forces with Google to make sure that their product listings are optimized for voice search. For both brands, it’s a win-win scenario. The retail giant sells the Google Home device through their online store, and the more it sells, the bigger the potential market share for Walmart voice-controlled shopping. After all, if someone’s getting a Google Assistant, they aren’t likely using it simultaneously with Alexa, are they?
This solution allows buyers to build a Walmart shopping cart continuously, on the go. For instance, if the user realizes they’ve run out of milk after opening the fridge, they can ask the voice assistant to add it to their cart. The order won’t be finalized until they’re ready.
With voice search, shopping has become practically effortless – all you have to do is say “I would like to buy X”, and the device takes you through the process. That’s how Alibaba sold 810,000 eggs, 1.4 million tons of rice, and 76 tons of liquid detergent during the 2019 Single’s Day shopping event, all thanks to Tmall Genie – a smart speaker developed in 2017.
As of mid-2021, Tmall Genie is available in China only. However, given the expansion plans mentioned above, we can anticipate seeing Alibaba successively challenge Western voice search technologies across the globe.
Asking for today’s deals
Customers can turn to Alexa to ask about today’s deals on the Amazon platform from any given category. For instance, if you’re buying a book, Alexa will share product details with you. You can learn about its price, page length, author, cover type, and so on.
Since the user already has their payment method synchronized into their Amazon account, they can make a one-word purchase by simply saying “yes”, or decline the purchase by saying “no”, or they can ask for more details.
If you incorporate voice search into your e-commerce strategy, you’ll also be able to help clients with:
- placing grocery orders and reorders. From a business perspective, this helps Amazon boost sales by reminding customers that they might run out of an item soon. Alexa also refers to previous purchases to better understand user intent – for instance, if the consumer tells them “I’d like to buy the same plain yogurt as previously”, they’ll know which brand and SKU the customer is referring to.
- building their cart and filling the wishlist, which helps Amazon collect data and better personalize their recommendations and offers.
- finding products on the Amazon platform for gifts,
- assisting them with order-related queries, such as checking the delivery date and the whereabouts of your incoming package.
While voice search technology is currently witnessing a pandemic-related boom, it’s important to note that its uptake had already been increasing for several years prior to COVID. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – it’s the easiest way to shop. Not only can consumers engage in a buying process at any time of the day – irrespective of whether they are busy with other activities – but the entire shopping process, payment included, can be completed without even touching a device. Without a doubt, voice search already plays a significant role in the eCommerce world, and its position will only strengthen.
If you want to:
- help customers find what they’re looking for, without the need to manually peruse your offer,
- build customer loyalty by offering consumers a convenient way to find information
- gain a competitive edge over stores that haven’t implemented voice search optimization…
Reach out! At Molecular BBDO we will happily advise you on how you can implement Voice Search technology and guide you through the implementation process. So, get in touch!