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    Voice Commerce: How Voice-Activated Devices Are Revolutionizing Ecommerce

    July 25, 2023
    7 minute read
    Voice Commerce: How Voice-Activated Devices Are Revolutionizing Ecommerce

    Talk is cheap, but this abundant human resource can create revenue for brands — with the right approach.

    This potential payoff stems from voice-based commerce, which lets customers use voice-activated devices to make purchases, track shipments, and discover new products.

    As noted by Oberlo, 50% of the U.S. population is already using voice search features, and 71% say they prefer speaking rather than typing. And, globally, more than a quarter of the population uses voice search. The result? There’s massive potential for the voice-based market.

    Here’s a look at voice-based basics, how this talky commerce type works, which companies are making voice inroads, and how brands can build their own voice-based platform.

    What Is Voice-Based Commerce?

    Voice-based commerce allows customers to conduct searches, get recommendations, and make purchases by using their voice.

    The most common of voice commerce examples are smart home speakers. Customers can ask devices such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa to purchase products using stored credit card information.

    As noted by Forbes, approximately 60% of U.S. ecommerce shoppers said they’re now making either daily or weekly purchases using smart home voice assistants. And, per Statista, the global smart home speaker market is projected to reach 200 million units in 2023.

    How Does Voice-Based Commerce Work?

    Voice-based commerce shifts the digital buying process from hands and fingers to words and phrases.

    Say a customer wants to order garbage bags on Amazon. Using their mobile device or desktop, they head to Amazon’s website or mobile app, type in “garbage bags,” find the brand they want, and then place an order. If they’ve bought the same bags, they can search their order history and re-order.

    Voice commerce removes typing and replaces it with talking. Customers ask smart home speakers or mobile devices to purchase their preferred garbage bags from the brand of their choice. Using stored credit card and address data, voice-activated devices put items into digital carts, confirm relevant details, and place orders.

    To accomplish this goal, voice-activated devices use a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP). As noted by IBM, NLP is a specialized subset of AI that uses computational linguistics along with machine and deep learning to understand what people are saying and process the sentiment and intent behind it.

    In the garbage bag example, NLP makes it possible for devices to understand the basic meaning of the request — that a customer wants garbage bags — but also allows these devices to recognize context. 
    In practice, this means the device isn’t going to process an order for 1,000 garbage bags but instead use a combination of historical purchase data and perceived consumer intent to order a more reasonable amount.

    What Companies Are Seeing Success With Voice-Based Commerce?

    Google and Amazon top the list with their voice-activated assistants. Recent PWC research found that 80% of consumers who used these devices said they were satisfied with the experience, with 39% sharing their positive experiences with friends and family and the same percentage choosing to shop again with the same retailer.

    But the voice commerce market isn’t perfect. PWC notes that while 50% of shoppers have made purchases using a voice assistant, they’re typically buying items such as takeout meals or groceries Just 3% said they’ve purchased items like clothing due to concerns about fit and size, and there are also concerns around the ability of voice-activated devices to ensure the person speaking is authorized to make purchases.

    For example, if children in the home can simply ask voice assistants to buy toys or games, the resulting credit card bills could be substantial. As Insider points out, that’s exactly what happened to one Michigan woman when her kids ordered more than $700 worth of gifts using the family’s Amazon Alexa.  

    How Can Brands Build Their Own Voice-Based Commerce Strategy?

    Given the relative recency of voice-enabled purchasing, there’s no standard approach to building a voice-based commerce strategy. There are several best practices, however, that can help brands find their footing in a voice-first world.

    Optimize Your Site for Voice-Based Search

    The “voice” part of voice-based search is customers talking to their mobile devices or smart speakers. These technologies then translate this information into more traditional text-based searches, which are used to find products.

    In other words, customers aren’t talking to your site — they’re talking to AI algorithms that use voice data to find the best product match.

    As a result, brands must optimize product content for search. This includes clear product descriptions and pricing information, along with easy-to-find shipping, tax, and other data.

    Build Engaging Experiences

    Chances are the first purchase a customer makes from your site won’t be via voice commerce. Voice purchasing occurs after buyers are confident in your brand and what you sell. This means that seeing voice commerce success starts with engaging experiences that drive customers to your site and encourage them to buy.

    Create Omnichannel Options

    Voice commerce isn’t enough on its own. Social media shopping is on the rise, along with the overlap of online and in-store shopping. Customers may research products online before they make purchases at brick-and-mortar businesses, or may even compare the best prices while they’re in-store. To make the most of multiple approaches, brands need an omnichannel product presence that meets customers where they are. 

    Talking the Talk — And Walking the Walk

    Voice-based commerce is changing the way people shop online. But it’s one thing to talk the talk — any brand can say their site supports NLP-based purchasing — and it’s another to walk the walk.

    By taking the time to ensure that product pages are optimized for both type- and talk-based search, building engaging experiences that bring customers to your site and remember your brand when they use voice commerce, and creating an omnichannel purchase framework that lets customers buy what they want, when and how they want it, brands can effectively drive voice value. 

    Complete Guide to Building Winning Shopping Experiences

    Discover how to drive more value and stay ahead of the competition with Salsify’s “Complete Guide to Building Winning Shopping Experiences.”


    Written by: Doug Bonderud

    Doug Bonderud (he/him) is an award-winning writer with expertise in ecommerce, customer experience, and the human condition. His ability to create readable, relatable articles is second to none.

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