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How to make voice control work for ecommerce

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There is a definite move towards voice as a medium of interaction between consumers and retailers and, as we have seen, there is in all likelihood going to be a swing towards some ecommerce taking place via voice– even if that means using voice as part of the retail journey.

So how should retailers be preparing?

For starters, consumer goods retailers should focus their voice commerce offering on products that are most likely to be shopped through this channel: typically repeat, low price point items. Ensuring products are easily found can also be critical, as 70% of customers know the exact product they are seeking to buy.

The chances of products being ‘found’ can be increased by tailoring search terms to ensure distinctiveness against competitors, such as ‘sensitive toothpaste’ as we shall see.

To ensure voice is a useful channel for consumer goods businesses, maintaining Amazon’s ‘choice’  status and implementing an effective marketing strategy is essential, but difficult. Around 4-5% of Amazon’s ‘choice’ products change daily due to stock or delivery speed issues, which will have a negative impact on a business’ bottom line.

To get ahead, retailers can develop ‘skills’ (akin to mobile apps) which are accessed through smart speakers. Currently, the channel has had limited investment by retailers – just 39 ‘skills’ exist within the shopping category. This has allowed Amazon to capture consumer spend as the
Alexa ‘default’.

To drive incremental spend, retailers can capitalise on consumers’ spontaneous or ‘distressed’ purchases. Inspiring a new recipe, for example, could encourage additional and higher price point purchases.

Building trust is also essential for retailers to succeed in the voice category. So far, only 39% of consumers trust in the ‘personalised’ product selection of smart speakers and less than half (44%) believe that they offer the best value section of products. Trust is a critical issue to bridge, especially among consumers who don’t currently own a smart speaker.

It’s clear that shopping with voice is going to account for a substantial and growing share of the retail market, presenting both a challenge and an

How to implement voice control

With so much attention on adding voice to apps, either on the phone or for home devices, how do you actually make it happen?

The first stage in preparing a retail business for the new voice frontier is early adoption. Your business needs to have a voice-activated assistant. There’s plenty to choose from depending on your requirements, so purchasing is the first step. Besides the obvious advantages of letting your developers experiment, setting up a device in your office can help productivity for everything from scheduling a meeting to ordering stationery.

Ensuring your website and apps recognise voice-enabled searches is a tiny piece of the puzzle, but an important one. Implementing natural language understanding to deliver a seamless customer experience across multiple devices, that all talk to each other, will be the tricky part.
Another element of utmost standing is building trust. Trust is a crucial consideration at a time when customers are used to reading about high profile data privacy breaches on an almost daily basis.

Amazon is currently developing speaker recognition features for Alexa, so we may see a surge in biometric security to ensure that purchases and financial information are kept safe and secure – critical if consumers are going to adopt the technology and keep coming back. Keep a lookout for announcements to make sure you and your business stays ahead of the curve.

Finally, begin to think about integrating data from Amazon’s Alexa to deliver relevant messages via SMS, email or push notifications to customers on the move. For the time-being, Alexa is restricted to just the home, so consider how you can also combine geo-location technology with spending habit information from Alexa to create the ultimate digital experience for the ‘on-the-go’ consumer.

The fast-moving, inquisitive and time poor consumer is who business is catering for. The need to anticipate their needs to stay ahead of the curve, remain competitive and attractive is integral. The customer communication landscape is being modified; business needs to move with these times and ensure the correct channels are accessible.

What it means in practice 

Right now, voice commerce is ideal for re-orders and non-branded goods, but what about brands: how can more sophisticated ‘sells’ be worked into the process?

Here age is going to be essential. While anyone over 30 may struggle to see how voice fits in as a way to shop (rather than just an add-on to the existing shopping paradigm), today’s kids in Alexa and Google Home homes are all very well adapted to talking to devices. I have seen it in action in my own home.

While most do use it to launch a search for pretty much anything they are looking for, variations in colour, size and style are more difficult to convey via voice.

That said, if today’s kids are still voice-centric by the time they are 16-24, then retailers and brands will have to find a way to deliver this sort of functionality.

In practice today, the most critical aspect of looking at developing a voice commerce strategy is to assess what goods you sell are likely to work on a voice device and then try it out in your world. Then roll that out and see where you go.

Analysing the voice search data will also help you understand what else shoppers are looking for and this can also help you understand what, at least, of your inventory you might consider putting up for ‘voice’ – but again, each new addition you make you must try it out and iron out all the kinks in how it may be work in the real world.

This feature first appeared in His Masters’ Voice whitepaper, produced in association with ChannelAdvisor. Click here to explore the whitepaper in full.

Image credit: Fotolia

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