Voice Commerce Is the Next Commerce

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We humans love to predict the future. Especially in business, we spend a good chunk of time thinking about the future and trying to anticipate what’s around the corner. We believe it gives us an edge, a competitive advantage and an insurance policy against obsolescence.

When it comes to ecommerce trends, there’s no shortage of pundits and opinions – so many so that we may be left wondering “well then what?” We believe a good ecommerce prediction deserves its own form of preparation. We predict voice commerce along with utilization of voice assistant programs will continue to be a big trend this year. In this piece, we’ll go one step deeper into the significance of an ecommerce prediction to your business and practical ways to implement based on our partnerships with the leading ecommerce platforms including BigCommerce, Episerver, and Magento.

This year, a few things happened which suggest that momentum for voice commerce will only get stronger. 

Voice commerce Is the Next Commerce

Consumer behavior on smart speakers growing

eMarketer was bearish on smart speaker shopping and lowered their original  prediction--from 31% to 27%--of consumers using smart speakers to shop. At the time (end of 2019), their contention was that smart speakers would be used for basic functions: listening to music or podcasts, catching up on the news, getting the weather and traffic updates and asking general questions. But just last July, they raised their estimates, noting the acceleration of shopping behaviors occurring on voice devices. According to the most recent estimates, they expect 31 million people in the US will shop via a smart speaker in 2019, up 31.6% from 2018. By 2020, this figure climbed to 34.7 million and in 2021, this figure has climbed to 38 million as more than 4 in 10 US smart speaker users will look to these devices for their voice recognition technology and shopping capabilities. 

And that’s just the speaker side.

Consumer behavior on smartphone voice assistant programs are also on the rise

According to a recent study by Microsoft, the “age of touch” user interface is giving way to a new “age of voice” and digital voice assistants. In a nutshell: even at this early stage of adoption, the majority of users (57%) prefer to speak to their digital assistant, while 34% type and speak. So are consumers actually participating in voice shopping? Here are the results of their consumer study when consumers were asked the following:

 “Have you ever attempted to make a purchase using either a digital assistant or your smart home speaker?” 

34.9% Yes, I have and enjoyed the shopping experience 

27.4% No, I have not but would like to make a purchase this way in the future 

6.5% Yes, I have but did not enjoy the shopping experience 

31.2% No, I have not and do not plan to make a purchase this way

Vice Commerce is the Next Commerce

Companies are taking it seriously

With this uptick in consumer behavior and growth in voice commerce, companies have shown a clear intent to increase their voice investments. According to a new study by Adobe Analytics, 91% of 401 business decision-makers surveyed said they already are making significant investments in voice, and 94% said they plan to increase their investments in the next year. Brands see incredible potential, with 66% strongly agreeing that voice can help drive conversion and increase revenue, and 71% see it improving the customer experience.

How should your business be preparing for voice commerce?

1)Think user interface versus platform

While Amazon’s Alexa and Google are two of the most prominent voice platforms, keep in mind that voice shopping encompasses more than developing an Alexa shopping skill or a Google shopping action. According to Harvard Business Review, “voice represents the third key UI and technology platform of the past three decades, following the web in the 1990s and smartphones about 10 years ago.” New skills in VUI (Voice User Interface) design practices are emerging as designing for voice means designing for what we can’t see and touch but designing for how we naturally converse. And as an interface, voice won’t be restricted to any one device. It will be the intermediary across physical touchpoints, including brick and mortar stores, online stores, and any other touchpoint along your customer’s journey.

2)Evolve your customer journey maps and user research

Regardless of whether you are designing for web, mobile, or voice, great design should solve problems. So what frustrations and frictions do your users bump into during their customer journey? Now is the perfect time to update or create a customer journey map that includes voice to identify and contemplate where the user flow can be improved with voice interactions. From research to discovery to purchase and post-purchase, think about how voice can help your customers solve a problem, simplify a task or save time. For example, with post-purchase, imagine the possibilities for customer loyalty when leveraging voice to track the delivery status of a purchase, automate the return process or interact with customer service.

3)Integrate voice technologies into your ecommerce platform

The leading ecommerce platforms, including Episerver, are taking voice seriously: 

“Voice commerce is the interaction with a device and an eCommerce site, where there is no screen to engage with. If you think about Amazon Echo or Google Home, we are getting more and more comfortable speaking to voice enabled devices and performing certain tasks. I think it will transform certain parts of eCommerce such as repetitive orders, or things you have already put on your shopping list and having them sent home or reordered. There is still a need for traditional eCommerce experiences, but the way that voice commerce will augment how we shop and provide convenience is where you are going to see a lot of growth this year.” 

- Ed Kennedy, Commerce Strategist at Episerver

Episerver’s recently announced partnership with Voicify allows clients to take advantage of the emerging voice channel. Episerver clients can now leverage all the content already within their Episerver instance, as conversational elements through end points like Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, Bixby, and a slew of chatbots. By blending response content from Episerver with content stored in Voicify, Voicify will automatically optimize text and media response for the user's device and situational context. The new Voicify connector for Episerver is now available in the Epi Marketplace. Guidance is here to help you with your voice strategy and integration.

Like the web in the 1990s and mobile in the 2000s, voice represents a vast unknown of possibilities. Making voice an integral part of your business won’t happen overnight, but what matters right now is to not sit on the sidelines to see what happens but to start making things happen. As voice adoption rates continue to climb and the technology continues to improve, forward thinking retailers are proactively looking at voice as a way to improve customer experience by meeting customers where they are – which increasingly includes voice. Make sure voice is on your ecommerce roadmap.

Written by Guidance
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