While most of the world was fearing the unexpected fate of the new millennium in 1999, retailers were experimenting with a relatively new phenomenon called “e-commerce”. The concept that people could use the Internet to browse a digital store was still in evaluation mode, but analysts believed that e-commerce was the movement that would exponentially increase the impact and usage of the Internet.

They were right.

Today, e-commerce revenues are close to $2 trillion, which analysts say will surpass $4 trillion by 2020. Retailers are doubling down on mobile, as it is the primary method for search, and will be the main source of online revenue in the next three years.

But it doesn’t stop at mobile. It starts with voice.

Today, voice is the most native form of interaction and designers, engineers and brands alike are racing to figure out their voice strategy. Over 10 million voice-activated digital assistants have been sold already, and this figure is predicted to double by the end of 2017, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

But smart speakers are not the only application for voice. If you ask experts, in the coming years, they predict that nearly every application and every website will integrate voice technology in some way. Businesses and their relationships with their customers will be tested, with mobile being at the forefront of a new age of search and discovery — led by voice.

This is a huge deal for brands and their mobile strategies. Especially because most mobile search experiences are less than exceptional — and consumers are taking notice.

85% of consumers won’t forgive a bad mobile experience. In a world where it’s you vs. Amazon or you vs. your main competitors, this is enough to be put on notice. It’s much more difficult to filter and refine your search on mobile based on what you’re looking for, than one that is native.

If you search for “jackets” on one of the largest apparel brand’s sites from your phone, for example, you get a scroll of about 100 products, with the option to load more. But what if you said, “show me black jackets that are waterproof”, or “show me light colored winter jackets.”

With Amazon’s addition of Alexa to their mobile app earlier this year, retailers and brands like Overstock and The North Face are following suit — and seeing site conversion increase by upwards of 35%. With limited screen space on mobile and a large product catalog, voice enables consumers to use natural language to cut past the manual search and filtering process and find what they’re looking for much faster. Comcast had the same idea, bringing voice search to their remotes to allow Xfinity customers to quickly browse and find their favorite shows or the latest movies starring certain actors, etc.

Like the North Face, brands have the information and data about their products and how users are searching on their site. Mobile, the way it is today, will not be enough to support the way consumers will shop and explore. A report by BI Intelligence cites that nearly 50% of e-commerce transactions will be done via mobile by 2020. We’re far from that number according to a recent article by Business Insider.

Over 50% of search is being done via mobile, but less that 20% of payments come from a phone. In order to keep up with the rising demands from consumers, brands need to be focusing on a better mobile experience for consumers, starting with search, discovery and seamless transaction.

What’s the cost of not having a voice strategy? It will be just as impactful as not having a mobile one.

After all, 40% of shoppers say they won’t come back after a bad mobile experience.

By 2020, 50% of search will be done via voice or through image search. But voice will be bigger than just an Alexa skill or a transcription service — it will be the future of how brands interact with customers.

  • “Show me summer outfits”
  • “Make me a playlist for my run”
  • “Add eggs, paper towels and fruit snacks to my cart”

Voice has now established itself as the ultimate mobile optimization. Search and discovery has been difficult on mobile because the browsing experience has been built for desktop browsing. As we optimize for mobile, we optimize for sales and the ease at which consumers can find exactly what they’re looking for, as quickly as possible.

Voice is the tool that makes mobile that much more viable. It’s where our interactions are heading, and where the opportunities for deeper, much more conversational experiences with customers are heading.

This story, “Your Mobile Strategy Needs To Include Voice” was originally published by Forbes.

 

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