Guest post by Michael Deane.
Just a decade ago, AI voice assistants were nothing short of science fiction. Today, they have become a part of our everyday lives.
The use of voice technology in the online retail sector is exponentially growing. An estimated 35% of American households have at least one smart speaker. Moreover, 30% of U.S. consumers who use voice services do so for shopping.
So, it may not come as a surprise that Juniper Research projects that voice commerce will reach over $80 billion per annum by 2023. But, how exactly is voice technology impacting online retail?
Voice Search and Voice Shopping
Voice technology allows a user to use verbal commands to interact with IoT (devices). These include laptops, smartphones, smart speakers, etc. Before Conversational AI and relevant tech came along, voice technology could be used for nothing more than dictation.
Thanks to AI, IoT devices can understand the context and intention behind verbal commands. Advances in AI have made voice search and voice shopping viable.
The use of voice search and voice shopping exploded after the release of the first Amazon Echo and the voice of the product—Alexa.
However, Google Voice Search has brought the experience to a whole new level. Google’s technology is better able to discern a user’s search intent and deliver them the results they want. This is mostly thanks to the massive quantities of data that Google has accumulated through its search engine.
Today, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Assistant, and Apple’s Siri are the key voice assistants in the voice shopping industry.
Amazon’s AI voice assistant has a slight advantage over Google’s in the voice commerce space. This comes from the fact that Alexa has access to Amazon’s huge marketplace. However, Google has partnered up with the likes of Ocado, Target, and Walmart to offer consumers the option of voice shopping. Undoubtedly, Amazon and Google are the main drivers of voice commerce.
Voice Search Optimization
When it comes to online retail, search engine optimization (SEO) is the key marketing strategy for most businesses.
Specialists have always predicted that AI will change SEO through voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa. Now that voice search has become commonplace, these changes have started to materialize.
Voice technology is forcing online retailers and brands to rethink their SEO strategies. Until voice search came along, SEO mostly revolved around textual keywords and references.
When a user types search queries into a search engine, they seldom use full sentences. Instead, they string together a series of keywords. So, to ensure they will pop up in search results when users look for their products, retail brands create content that uses and revolves around these strings of keywords.
However, when consumers use voice search, they make queries using full sentences and natural language. Rather than being keyword-oriented, voice searches are conversational. So, instead of typing “top hiking gear sites,” someone using voice search would ask a voice assistant, “What are the best sites to buy hiking gear?”
To come up on top of search results, online retailers need to create more “natural” content that targets a combination of longer keyword phrases (extra adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, etc.).
Online retailers have to take these factors into account if they want to increase their organic traffic. Brands that redesign their sites to support voice-search and visual search will be able to increase digital commerce revenue by 30%, according to Gartner.
Retailers Offering Voice Shopping
As expected, large-scale retailers are taking the lead when it comes to the use of voice technology. Here are a few examples of how online retailers can use voice technology to improve customer experience, market their products, and automate customer service.
As mentioned, Google and Walmart teamed up to offer Walmart’s customers voice-assisted grocery shopping. Walmart’s Voice Order feature works across all platforms that are powered by Google Assistant, including smartphones, smartwatches, and Google’s smart speakers.
Since Walmart doesn’t have its own voice assistant platform and voice-enabled IoT devices, the partnership has given the company a great opportunity to enter the voice-based commerce sector.
To activate the feature, all you need to do is say “Hey Google, talk to Walmart,” to the Google Assistant. Then, you can start listing items that you want Google Assistant to add to your cart.
Walmart’s Voice Order uses information from your prior purchases to quickly and accurately identify the items you want to buy.
For instance, if you say “add milk,” Google Assistant will add the specific milk you buy regularly. So, you can simply say one word: “milk,” instead of saying “half a gallon of Great Value Organic 1% low-fat milk.” The feature gets smarter with each use.
Nike is another big name that partnered up with Google to create a unique voice shopping experience for consumers. In 2019, the duo launched the first-ever voice-activated shoe drop. The goal was to promote Nike’s most futuristic pair of shoes—Adapt BB.
The shoes debuted during an NBA game between the Lakers and Celtics, on the feet of NBA stars Kyle Kuzma and Jayson Tatum, and received prominent coverage during the game.
When the halftime buzzer rang, the commentator announced to the fans that the only way they could snag a pair of Adapt BBs is by asking Google Assistant how to buy the shoes. The shoe went out of stock within 6 minutes.
This flower giant is a longtime innovator on the frontlines of customer service and technology. The company allows customers to place orders by using Samsung Bixby, Google Assistant, as well as Amazon Alexa.
For maximum convenience, voice-orders can be processed through a variety of payment options, including Samsung Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Amazon Pay.
On top of that, the specialty floral gift retailer has also integrated an intelligent virtual assistant of their own. The company’s new voice-based self-service allows customers to solve queries 24/7. To offer personalized service to returning customers, their AI assistant learns with each customer interaction.
Not only has this telephone-based merchant successfully transformed itself into an online retailer, but it is leading the way when it comes to the use of voice technology and AI in online shopping.
Even though big retail brands such as these were the first to use voice technology to improve online shopping, they are not the only ones dabbling in this innovative approach. At least not anymore.
Thanks to the rapid advancement of voice technology and conversational AI, such solutions have become available to retailers of all sizes. Now, even small businesses can employ custom, intelligent voice assistants to automate customer service and transform the customer experience.
Michael Deane has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a huge range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael’s work at Qeedle.