Business  |  September 6, 2017

How voice will impact retail marketing

Ryan MacInnis

Ryan MacInnis

Director of Marketing

With many of us inviting Google Home, Alexa and Amazon Echo into our lives, the dream of having a digitally connected world is not too far from reality. This is especially true in the retail space, where voice is becoming one of the main ways that consumers are interacting with their favorite companies. They’re not only searching with voice, they’re starting to make purchases via voice-enabled devices as well.

Retailers are used to assembling armies quickly, building strategies to experiment with new consumer trends. Just look at mobile. It first took the retail world by storm about 10 years ago, and for those that have continuously invested in it, they’re set up well for the over 60% of traffic that comes from mobile devices

. In-store experiences are now crossing over into their online experiences, and now, retailers have yet another channel to compete for sales through — voice.

But why should retailers, in particular, develop a voice strategy?

Retail and voice: a perfect marriage

Voice search helps retailers understand the intent behind a buyer’s purchase. With voice, search queries are becoming longer and more conversational than ever before. Because of this, your relationships with consumers deepen, giving you a better understanding of the intent of the search, rather than just a few keywords mangled together in a search bar.

Here’s an example from an apparel store:

User: “I’m looking for men’s basketball shoes for the upcoming season”
Site: “Here are some shoes I found. What size are you looking for?”
User: “Show me ones in size 12. Size 11.5 too.”
Site: “Here are men’s basketball shoes in those sizes.”
User: “Can you just show me the ones under $200?”
Site: “Here you go.”

In a matter of seconds, the user has conversationally refined their search based on what truly matters to them: sport, size and price. With mobile conversions being at less than 20%, voice will have a massive impact on that experience. As a retailer, you have a ton of search history and metadata from consumers and the products you sell. By enabling voice search, you can pull in all those things. Now, just because it’s not a filter on the sidebar doesn’t mean it’s not searchable. “Show me spring jackets” or “Show me pants that are slim fit” become searches that pull in descriptions of products, reviews and even recommendations.

Building your voice search strategy should begin in a similar way to your usual approach to keyword and keyword phrase research. As with any keyword research exercise, the desired end result is the same. You want an increase in conversions which, in turn, increases revenue. With your voice marketing research, you’re after the same results. You’re just getting the results by taking a different path.

Voice search increases engagement between the brand and the customer. It gives you the opportunity to remove a barrier to entry and a friction point, especially in mobile ecommerce experiences. And by adding voice, you’re enabling a native mode of conversation that personalizes any shopping experience.

What does a voice experience look like?

We recently wrote a post on that outline principles and best practices for designing for voice. We recommend you give that a read.

But above all else, you should spend some time thinking about how voice will compliment your investment in visual search. Too many retailers think their voice strategy starts and stops with an Alexa skill — but how will you buy shoes or find a new sweatshirt if you can’t see it?

You need to think like your customer. At this point in your strategy, it would be great to get your current customers involved. Ask them how they would use voice commands to find products like yours. This is an insightful way to understand the thought process your customers go through to find your products.

Voice search is only going to continue to increase in popularity so it’s important that you start developing your own strategy now.

Voice as part of your mobile strategy

You probably already have a good handle on your mobile search strategy, but now it’s time to crank it up a notch and build voice into it. With mobile search on its way to reach nearly 70%, retailers are doubling down on ways to increase conversions, with voice being a key avenue to tackle the challenge.

After all, roughly 30% of consumers have made at least one voice-enabled purchase in the last year.

What does this mean for you? It means that there are going to be a myriad of ways that people interact with, and purchase your products. And since mobile screen real estate is so limited, voice is going to be the next mode of interaction to help mobile realize its full potential.


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