“Okay Google, turn on the lights.”
“Hey Siri, what’s the weather like today?”
“Hey Cortana, add butter to my grocery list.”
Let’s take the example of Amanda, the CEO of an online store selling automobile parts who has been using a smart voice assistant since 2015 (a year after the Amazon Echo Dot was launched). She’s now realizing that she can use the same voice assistant to help manage her online business. Read on to find out how.
Voice Assistants and eCommerce
Amazon Echo, Google Home, Siri, Cortana – these AI-powered tools have established themselves as voice assistants at home and in the workplace. Increasingly, people have begun using voice assistants to interact with and order from their favorite eCommerce websites.
Users can put in a query through a voice search, enabled by a voice assistant. This is usually one of the big four mentioned above. As voice searches are becoming more popular, we’re beginning to see more usage of voice commerce too.
What is voice commerce? Also known as conversational commerce, voice-assisted or voice-enabled commerce, voice commerce involves searching for, interacting with and ordering from an eCommerce website using only voice commands. These voice commands are usually undertaken through smart AI voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri or Cortana. These voice assistants use natural language processing to understand users’ voice commands and query the internet with these commands. They respond with a voice report of search results, and purchase can be made through a near-natural conversation with the voice assistant.
The priority is convenience in shopping. We’ve moved from in-store commerce to eCommerce to mobile commerce to social commerce and omnichannel commerce. Voice searches and voice commerce make shopping even more convenient as they can be performed hands-free. Voice commerce also offers the personalization and interactivity of the in-store retail experience.
With voice commerce users neither type in their search query nor interact with the website through point-and-click. Instead, they interact via voice recognition technology.
How can store owners leverage Voice Commerce?
Amanda’s heard of voice commerce, and Googled its uses. However, she’s only ever come across results discussing ways customers can use voice searches to interact with her online store. She has assumed that by and large, her Alexa can only help her buy. But can it also let her manage her store?
So how does a voice assistant help her as an eCommerce decision-maker? She can integrate a voice assistant such as Alexa into her online store to improve inventory management, customer service, speed of response and also to access other information quickly. Here are a few usecases:
- Faster repeat orders, thanks to AI voice assistants that can analyze and recognize buying patterns
- Business summaries covering revenue, orders, sales, average order value, etc
- Current inventory and expected period for which the inventory could last
- Unfulfilled orders in the pipeline, and timelines for delivery
- Best-selling products over the lifetime or any specific period
- Demographic, behavioral and other details of the primary audience
And what about the end customer?
When Amanda thinks of the benefits of a voice assistant in eCommerce, she thinks first of the customer. But how useful is it to her shoppers? Is it worth equipping her eCommerce store to handle voice commands?
It’s a valid question. Voice search is usually associated with product searches on Google or Bing. In addition to searches, “voice-based shopping is expected to reach USD 40 billion by 2022” (that’s a twenty-fold increase from 2018) and “62% of smart speaker owners have used their speakers for voice commerce”.
If Amanda’s customers are part of this growing majority of smart speaker owners, they can ask their voice assistant to help them interact with it. They can query specific product availability, request customer support, or ask if any new products are out. Meanwhile, since it allows her customers to talk to her store, she needs to put less effort into customer support. This also creates a more ‘real-world’ and more engaging customer support experience on the site.
As Amanda’s store sells automotive parts, her customers can ask questions like:
“I need an Air Flow Sensor.”
The store can respond with a list of cars for which the product is available.
“I have a 2014 Ford Explorer V6,” they might reply.
The smart assistant can query the site with this additional data, and the site can revert with a list of compatible products and rates from different brands. The customer can listen to the list, ask for specifications, place an order, and make payment with credit card information saved on file with Alexa.
Similarly, entertainment products like movies to view on OTT platforms are also easily ordered via voice commands, as you know exactly what you want and can confirm easily without checking a screen. Another great usecase is reordering previously selected products.
Which is the best Voice Assistant?
Amanda is on board. She wants to integrate a voice assistant into her online store. Her next question: Which should she use? Amazon is the “leading vendor in the global smart speaker market, having a market share of 26.4% in the third quarter of 2021”. (Google is the closest competitor, with a share of 20.5%.) However, a report by Insider Intelligence found that “in 2022, Google continues to lead in the number of voice assistant users, likely due to sales growth of Google Home, Nest Home, and Android devices.” That’s because 88.1% of smart assistant users don’t use a smart speaker – they interact with the smart assistant through their smartphones.
Google’s speech recognition technology has a 95% accuracy rate in understanding queries spoken in English. On the other hand, Alexa has better smart home capabilities and beats Google in location triggers, dynamic voice tones and senior safety features. However, it should be noted that as the industry matures, the differences between the various voice assistants are likely to reduce.
Which eCommerce platform integrates well with Voice Assistants?
As Alexa is developed by Amazon, the eCommerce giant, it’s probably designed with voice shopping in mind. Alexa offers easy third-party integration with almost all major eCommerce platforms to provide a conversational customer support experience and other AI-powered support for shop owners and customers. Google and Apple have some presence in the space, but not as much as Amazon.
While none of the eCommerce platforms offers out-of-the-box integration with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, it’s possible to buy or create an app to integrate the respective voice assistant. A customized voice assistant module can be created on any eCommerce platform, just like a mobile app. In addition, a number of third-party plugins and modules exist to make the integration easy. There are more third-party integrations available for Alexa, as compared to the others.
On a technological front, there is no reason to prefer one assistant or platform over the others as a custom module is the best way to integrate the voice assistant. Enterprises can consult Ziffity to discuss the best fit for their specific requirements.
However, if your website is published on Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Einstein Voice – Salesforce’s AI voice assistant – is the obvious choice. It offers all the voice functionalities of any other voice assistant, provides out-of-the-box integration, and includes AI features that claim to improve personalization.
Integrating a Voice Assistant with your eCommerce platform
Each eCommerce platform, of course, has its own plugins, templates and coding techniques. Amazon and Google have both provided SDKs using which the eCommerce platforms can integrate with their Voice Assistants. You can speak to our enterprise eCommerce team to discuss these integrations.
Let’s say Amanda had planned voice commerce before the launch of her website – that is, before deciding which eCommerce platform to use. Should voice commerce have been a factor when making that decision? Perhaps not. Alexa offers all the features that any enterprise might need, and integrates easily with any major eCommerce platform that she may have wanted to use. Once Alexa is integrated into your Adobe Commerce website, for example, you can allow your customers to use voice searches to filter products, get product details, add to cart and place order.
We’ve taken indicative screenshots of a marketplace module which offers such third-party integration, so you can see the kind of functionality on offer:
There are similar marketplace modules available to integrate Alexa with the other eCommerce platforms as well, including Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Shopify, CS-Cart and Opencart, among others.
So what’s next for Voice Commerce?
As smart speakers and smartphones see an increase in adoption, voice commerce is likely to see increased adoption as well. In addition to the benefits listed above, the greatest potential benefit is the personalization of the customer experience.
The biggest change that we expect to see in the voice commerce space is the improvement of NLP – Natural Language Processing – capabilities of the Voice Assistants. As conversations become more engaging, the experience on the site becomes more natural. Imagine a realistic, spoken conversation, at the end of which your customer has completed a purchase without ever touching a keypad or glancing at a screen.
This is very much within the scope of what is possible today, and as the tech advances, more complex purchases can also be completed! It’s only a matter of time before voice purchases from Amanda’s online auto store will be commonplace. It can also offer decision support, as based on the inputs shared verbally by your customers, Alexa can share the right options at the right time. The experience becomes something akin to in-store interaction with knowledgeable sales executives.
Another important trend you need to stay on top of is optimizing your website for voice search. It’s not exactly the same as simple search engine optimization (SEO). SEO focuses more on keyword-related searches. Voice searches on the other hand are typically in the form of a question. For example, your customer is more likely to ask “Hey Alexa, which is the best television under 500 dollars? I need it to work with Google Home”, rather than “best tv under 500 google home”. A voice search-optimized website, therefore, needs to answer questions that you think your customer is likely to ask, rather than optimize for specific keywords.
By 2023, there will be 8 billion voice assistants in use. Voice commerce is the next stage of convenience in eCommerce. Are you ready to cater to those interacting through this new marketing, sales and CX channel? Talk to Ziffity to discuss how to create a personalized experience that’s absolutely seamless for your customers. Get in touch today.