“We all have a voice. Some a whisper, some a roar.” When noted author M.L. Shanahan said these words, she probably wasn’t thinking about voice-enabled shopping, but she should have been.
After its birth as an unnamed voice recognition technology back in 1961, growing pains as Siri in 2011, and coming of age as Alexa in 2015, voice commerce is indeed beginning to roar and is here to stay.
Patrick Gauthier, one of the speakers at the National Retail Federation’s Annual Conference this January, advised attendees to prepare for voice commerce now if they hadn’t yet done so. To prove his point, Gauthier said 20% of consumers are prepared to make voice purchases now and reported that 39% said they would be shopping via voice within the next three years. He added that these early adopters are patient and understand that things aren’t yet perfect, so that now is the time for marketers to jump aboard before they miss the opportunity.
He encouraged conference attendees to jump on voice-enabled shopping sooner than later or lose an excellent opportunity. According to Gauthier, consumers already use hundreds of millions of devices every day, which amounts to tens of billions of conversations with voice assistants annually.
Being in the Moment
Because people talk faster than they can type, interaction is quicker and needs to be more engaging in order to foster good customer relationships. Brands preparing for voice should listen in on calls to their customer service center and other frontline offices to get an idea of not only what’s being asked, but how the questions and concerns are being framed.
According to Gauthier, 69% of consumers also purchase more from sellers they trust. What was discovered was that customers had questions both before and after their purchase – and by listening to customers’ pre-purchase concerns, the company came up with and created shopping lists and reminders. Delivery notifications were introduced in response to post-purchase questions.
‘“In the moment’ means when the customer thinks about it, you’re there for them,” said Gauthier. He added that that moment occurs when today’s consumer is seeking a product or service and marketers have to be able to meet those needs right that instant.
According to Juniper Research, there were already in excess of 574 million voice assistants in the U.S. at the end of last year. The majority was on smartphones. At last count, there were about 63 million smart speakers at the end of 2018, about 10% of whom used the speakers to make purchases. That number has increased since then, but no figures are presently available.
Adapting to Change
Keyword relevance was and still is critical to marketers in emails and ads but any focus on voice will require marketers to concentrate instead on contextual relevance. Marketers will not only need to understand what information customers are seeking , but also answer them clearly and concisely.
“If you have the relationship,” said Gauthier, “customers will come back.”