Like a noisy neighbor, the growth of voice commerce is getting hard to ignore.
The ability to order and buy products and services using only your voice and a smart device has caught on in a huge way, though particularly in the US, to the point where “Alexa, play…” has reached the point of memeification.
Alexa and other virtual assistant tech haven’t just got cultural clout though, as voice assistant eCommerce transaction value is expected to exceed US$19 billion worldwide by 2023. In addition, almost 40% of the US population is estimated to have used voice assistant tech monthly in 2020. It’s becoming more important than ever for eCommerce companies to provide customers with a satisfying voice commerce experience as adoption of the technology increases.
While voice commerce is part of eCommerce, the unique characteristics of the medium mean customers have different needs when using their voice. So how exactly do you go about satisfying voice commerce customers?
To find some answers, we’re going to take a look at a 2019 study from some German academics.
“How Voice Can Change Customer Satisfaction: A Comparative Analysis between E-Commerce and Voice Commerce” was published by three academics from the German Graduate School of Management and Law, Heilbronn, Germany. They started with a broad research question: “How do the influencing factors for customer satisfaction differ in voice and eCommerce?
The researchers started with four hypotheses (after running focus groups with eCommerce consultants) to test the comparable relationship between eCommerce and voice commerce. These hypotheses aimed to explore how four factors impacted on customer satisfaction in eCommerce and voice commerce, and essentially which factors were most important in which medium:
Product recommendation complexity
The efficiency of the transaction process
Next, they surveyed 178 US residents who had used both voice commerce and eCommerce systems in the prior three months, asking them questions designed to evaluate their experience when using the two mediums. While the researchers admit the study was limited by being restricted to US consumers (as they used the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform) and the internet savvy, the results still offer some fascinating insights.
Most strikingly, the researchers found that convenience has a larger impact on customer satisfaction in voice commerce than it does in eCommerce.
“Convenience significantly influences both eCommerce and voice commerce satisfaction, but clearly does so more in voice commerce,” they wrote.
You shouldn't need a set-up like this to perform an effective voice search on your website.
They also found that “transaction process efficiency also presents a more sizable effect for voice commerce,” however they ascribed this result to it being more relevant or valid to voice commerce, perhaps indicating that high transaction efficiency in eCommerce is taken as such a given that the respondents weren’t concerned about it.
In addition, the study indicated that users prefer to spend more time browsing when using eCommerce than voice commerce, which doesn’t come as a surprise given the media displays limitations of voice commerce. Finally, the researchers found that “complexity, extent, and degree of detail of recommendation presentation, as well as personalization of recommendations, do not have a significant effect on satisfaction.”
These results led the authors to make four recommendations for improving voice commerce technology, aimed at those designing and building the technology:
Aim for increased ease of use over comparable eCommerce
Make the process of searching and buying as quick as possible
Keep the number of steps in the process to a minimum
Think mobile-first where visual output could be added.
While the researchers seemed to aim their conclusions at companies like Amazon that are designing the technology we use for voice commerce, there’s no reason we can’t use the results to figure out the best way forward for eCommerce stores actually using the tech.
With convenience both the top USP and the best path to customer satisfaction for voice commerce, here are our top tips for maximizing the convenience of your voice commerce offering.
KISS isn’t just an aging rock band, it’s also a great acronym to remember when it comes to voice commerce. Keep it simple, stupid. If you only take one thing away from the research and this article, it should be that convenience is the name of the game when it comes to voice commerce. Convenience is indeed often cited as voice assistant tech’s greatest selling point as people can use it when doing any number of other things with their hands, like preparing dinner.
So when customers use your eCommerce store with a voice assistant, it should be just as easy to order a new pair of trousers or a laptop as it is to play the new Beyonce track. Limit voice search results to just a few options, direct customers towards items they’ve ordered previously, and never (under any circumstances) require them to provide an address or billing information via voice. This all should have been collected and saved previously via another channel as part of a solid omnichannel strategy, otherwise, customers will be totally turned off by voice commerce. Remember, while voice assistants are growing in popularity, they’re still new to a lot of people, so don’t force them to jump through hoops.
By developing some skills we don’t mean going back to university or taking up woodworking. That’s because “skills” in this context means a voice application that is specifically designed to carry out a specific task. In essence, you’ll be building apps for voice assistants, though keep in mind each voice assistant calls them different things (Alexa has Skills, Google Actions, and Cortana Skills), and building a skill for Alexa won’t translate to a Google device.
A prime example is the Starbucks Reorder skill with Alexa. Once the skill is enabled on a user’s Alexa device, they have to link their Starbucks account to it. A user can only make an order if they have previously made a mobile order with the Starbucks app on iOS or Android, then they can place an order at one of the last 10 Starbucks locations they’ve visited in person.
Starbucks Reorder ticks plenty of boxes as it keeps the amount of work a user has to do with their voice to the bare minimum, keeping it real simple. It’s also a great framework for any eCommerce business that deals with a lot of reorders.
Similar to keeping it simple, it’s important to curate the selection of products you offer via voice commerce. It’s tempting to have everything available on your site on offer via voice commerce, but doing so could overwhelm the customer with choice in a channel that doesn’t offer rich media to help them make a choice. It could also lead to the voice assistant launching into a confusing, wordy spiel as it attempts to convey the information overload that you’ve created.
Consider limiting voice commerce customers to products they repeatedly purchase via other channels or just your best-sellers. You can always slowly add more options and gather more data to see what’s working and what’s not, but starting off with too much all at once will be a turnoff.
How your customers should feel after trying out voice search on your website.
Voice assistant technology is only going to improve and therefore secure wider adoption rates, so eCommerce stores are going to need to put more resources into the channel going forward.
SmartOSC specializes in providing omnichannel solutions for your eCommerce needs, so get in touch now to find out how we can help.
And for more on voice commerce, check out our article on how to adapt to voice searches.