If you’re an ecommerce business, you are no doubt already palpably aware of the growing interest in voice search. With the number of voice assistant enabled devices in 2018 exploding to more than 30,000 different products in consumer electronics, not a day seems to go by without a new statistic highlighting the opportunities it presents – with the most quoted so far being Comscore’s prediction that by 2020, voice searches will make up at least 50%of total web searches.
Our own internal research of over 30m onsite search queries across desktop and mobile sites from our customers (including many of the UK’s best-known retailers) reveals that while voice searches haven’t quite yet reached Comscore’s much-discussed popularity levels, shoppers are increasingly using their voices to find products in their online shopping processes. This trend is pushing many retailers to look much more closely at how relevant products are surfaced to voice searchers in their onsite shopping experiences. The solution to getting this process right so that it drives customer conversions and engagement lies in optimisation and personalisation; optimising your onsite search experience for voice recognition while personalising voice search results based on the right data insights and customer intent.
Here are my top five tips for making this process happen:
The most important first step is to look at your own onsite search experience. Are you actually offering a voice-enabled onsite search experience for your customers in the first place? If you haven’t actively installed a voice search assistant on your website, then customers won’t be able to use their voices to search for your products when they use your onsite search function. And with an average of 30% of onsite visitors performing an onsite search, it would be an error not to provide this service. Thankfully, mobilising voice-activated onsite search assistants on your brand website is easily actionable through the application of web speech APIs like Google Voice Search that add speech recognition attributes to your webpages. By doing this, your entire product catalogue can be surfaced to voice searchers when then land on your site and engage in the voice search process. Rolling out this first step is key to helping your products become more visible to voice searchers when they engage with your brand online.
Once your onsite search experience offers voice-enabled search, it’s important to take a deeper look at data to understand how and where your customers are engaging in the voice search experience. Voice search can be materially different depending on the devices and channels used, so looking deeply at each shopper journey can reveal valuable insights that can help brands turn each voice search experience into one that encourages purchases.
A great starting point is taking a closer look at how different customers are using their voices to search for products across different devices. You could start, for example, by analysing your search query data across desktop, mobile and tablet to see how voice searches differ depending on the device. Are people asking more long-tail or compound query voice searches when using mobile versus desktop? If so, which product categories are they asking questions about? Are category-related voice search queries different on mobile versus desktop? And are some product categories converting better than others across these different channels? The answers to these questions can greatly assist brands when it comes to optimising their product catalogues for different voice search journeys and consumer demands.
Look at data points to understand customer segments and popular products that are resonating in the onsite voice search experience. For example, are specific age groups using voice search on your site more than others? If so, what types of product or product categories are these customer segments searching for using their voices? Are there differences when it comes to gender as well. By carrying out a quick audit of these analytics, voice search queries can be personalised to match relevant customer behaviours.
One of our notable retail customers, for example, discovered that older shoppers are much more likely to carry out voice searches onsite, while bargain hunters were overrepresented in voice search queries. Understanding this information empowered the retailer to personalise their onsite voice search experience based on specific customer tastes and behaviour traits. By identifying customer segments, shopping contexts and popular product categories in the voice search process, the onsite search experience can be optimised to incorporate relevant consumer needs.
Analyse your onsite search experience to test out when users engage in voice searches versus traditional text searches. One prominent retailer who recently started to offer a voice-enabled search experience for their online store saw interesting results: users first turned to voice search once they could not find their items via the classic search bar. Using voice to initiate a dialogue once you recognize that consumers do hit a wall with your onsite search experience could be a great use case when it comes to optimising your onsite experience for voice recognition searches. By flagging search queries that are causing customers to disengage or identifying areas where customers are more likely to engage in voice searches versus text, the onsite search experience can be optimised accordingly to cover these relevant use cases.
But turning a voice searcher into a satisfied customer lies more in your ability to match voice search queries with customer intent. By serving relevant products to your shoppers in the onsite voice search process, they are much more likely to make a purchase. Analysing customer browsing and purchasing behaviour, along with contextual data about their real-time search sessions can help you to personalise the voice search experience to better match their needs. Utilise data on past purchases, brand affinities and current session information to guide customers to products that are tailored and personalised.
Automated technologies often prove their worth here because they enable brands to personalise voice search results automatically based on data, while giving retailers the ability to adapt search results according to different touchpoints and device types, like mobile or voice-enabled devices, as well as customer segments – particularly useful if you are a large international retailer with a vast product inventory.
The key to perfecting a shopper’s onsite voice search experience, therefore, isn’t just about the back-end optimisation of your website, or quick-fire schema markup. It has much more to do with the fundamental basics of any good customer-focused strategy – finding out what your customers love and showcasing relevant products in the process, in an intuitive manner.