We live in the Digital Age, and new technologies surround us all the time and help us with everyday activities. One of the emerging solutions is voice search. It’s successfully gaining popularity, mainly in the most developed countries, and experts predict that this phenomenon will continue to grow.
Voice search is when a person speaks to the device instead of typing. It’s also seen as a digital assistant.
Nowadays 20% of mobile searches are preceded by the voice search, and it’s going to increase to 50% by 2020. This number crashes every sceptical opinion about the voice search revolution. It has already started in online shopping.
What is voice commerce?
In the e-commerce industry, the use of voice search is extraordinary. It’s already recognised as voice shopping. The main advantage for customers is better user experience (easier, more comfortable and faster purchasing, because it minimises the effort spent on searching for the desired products). It’s all about the convenience, and that’s what stores fight about, and the prize is their customer’s heart (loyalty). The more pleasant and quick shopping will be, the bigger the chance you have that a client will come back to your store in the future.
It also means more personalised shopping experience as the system uses information gathered about their customers, like previous orders and preferences. Thanks to that they’re able to assume future choices.
How does voice shopping work?
The technology behind voice search is based on Artificial Intelligence (AI). It turns the interaction with a device into more „human”. Neural networks are supposed to imitate the human brain. One of AI branches is Machine Learning, which enables a system to learn from the given information people so that the more data the device will gather, the more extensive knowledge it will have. It can learn how to think like you, to help you with your activities.
The critical aspect here is natural language processing which focuses on creating the interaction between a human and computer. Google’s system reads over 2,865 romance novels to improve its conversational skills. It creators highlight that they want Google’s responses to have „a more varied tone, or style, or register.”
Voice shopping has two phases. In the first one customers need to log in to the store and fill in essential information (personal data, including credit card number). In the next step, the consumer asks a system to make a purchase and gets answers based on his or her history. If he or she wants to, a system can change products collected in the cart.
Voice search in practice
To benefit from this technology you need a device equipped with a voice search feature, like a smartphone, smart speaker, computer, tablet. Google voice search or Apple’s Siri are already very advanced solutions and used by many people. You can ask your virtual assistant via a mobile phone where the nearest restaurant is etc. There’s also an aspect of voice control by which you can turn up the volume in the TV or change channels. Smart home allows controlling other devices and functions around the place. The Internet of Things makes everyday activities more convenient, like changing the temperature in the apartment or turning on the lights only with voice commands.
In e-commerce, you can use voice control for shopping. You can put your personal data, payment method, delivery address and preferences on the app. The system will remember it and automatically use it for the next purchasing. A smart speaker can recommend you products, add to your cart and finally pay for it with your credit card. Basically, a whole shopping path can proceed only by the usage of voice.
You enter your apartment and realise that your body lotion is out. You ask your search assistant to order it. Your device asks if you need the usual one you always get. You confirm. And that’s how you purchase the desired lotion. A system has already remembered your previous shopping preferences and payment methods.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Examples of voice search solutions on the global market.
The world’s pioneers in technology provide smart speakers and other voice search solutions that are supposed to accompany its users in everyday life. A smart speaker is now in 13% of households in the U.S. In more than 1/3 of those homes devices are used to make purchases regularly. For U.K. the percentage of smart speakers is a bit lower (10%), and much lower for purchasing usage (16%).
This new feature provides shopping through Google Assistant and Google Express in 50 stores now. You need to set up your account, put personal information, delivery address etc. and just ask Google to order something. From which shop? If you don’t specify a store, store results are based on your history. If you haven’t ordered the same product before, you’ll get results from stores that carry the item.
Its assistant is called Alexa. You can purchase physical and digital products. You need to activate your device in the Alexa app. You can disable purchasing by voice, then no one can proceed shopping, but it’s still possible to search for products, add them to the cart or track orders. Alexa will let you know when your order is at your door.
It’s a smart speaker developed by Alibaba Group, Chinese e-commerce. Its voice assistant is called AliGenie and has mainly the same functionalities that Amazon’s Echo has. Tmall Genie enables you to purchase from Tmall (Alibaba’s shopping site). To ensure that only authorised users can place orders, it has voiceprint recognition. On the Single’s Day, November 11 they sold 1 million devices for a discounted price – 15$.
Voice search, especially in e-commerce, will change the reality in the next few years.
* Experts predict that voice shopping will grow from today’s $2 billion to $40 billion-plus in 2022 across the U.S. and the U.K.
By the year 2020 Amazon will generate $10 to $11 billion in sales from Alexa devices – including device sales themselves and voice shopping.
What about the customers’ perspective? In 2017 they’ve been asked: Are you currently using embedded voice-enabled digital assistants? Among not interested in this technology was 50% of respondents above 55 years old. In the same age group, 35% don’t use it now but are interested. 8% have just started, and 7% use it regularly. These percentage gradually change depending on the age (33-55, 18-34 and 14-17 years old).
The youngest group characterises the most prominent usage of voice search – 51% (including 20% who has just started and 31% who use it regularly). 33% don’t use it but would like to in the future, and only 16% are not interested in this technology . If your target group is between Millennials and Generation Z, you should pay attention to the latest innovations and improve conversational search to your e-commerce soon.
On the other hand, voice commerce may not eliminate other searches and visuals. Miracle Wanzo, a longtime eCommerceFuel member, predicts that in the future we can witness the development of this technology, but it will still be hard to depend only on the virtual assistants. They can be useful for choosing the best options and filter products (for example, regarding price), but not for final decisions. A consumer should get recommendations on the screen of one of his or her devices to look through, read reviews etc.
Moreover, voice shopping is effective when it comes to easy-to-get information, like „Order the same pizza”. If you’d like to try a new one, there’s a high possibility the system won’t guess which one. That’s why voice shopping will probably be the future of the less complicated queries, but still extremely helpful in everyday use.
There’s no doubt that voice commerce is the future of online shopping. It’s very convenient and time-saving. The only question is how advanced artificial intelligence can get and if it’s going to fulfil our expectations of personal assistance when it comes to shopping decisions.