Growing sales of Amazon Echo and Google Home suggest voice assistants aren’t a novelty item or fad. Currently, 32% of consumers own one of these devices, and that number is expected to grow by the end of the year, given 79% of smart-speaker sales occur in the fourth quarter, according to a survey by Adobe Analytics.
Shopping via a voice assistant hasn’t taken off quite yet. However, just 3% of owners have used their devices to make a purchase, according to consulting firm Capgemini. But that’s expected to change.
Three years from now, 40% of consumers will shop with the help of these devices, spending 18% of their total shopping budgets in the process, Capgemini predicts.
Household goods, restaurant meals, groceries, and personal care products are among the items most likely to be purchased through voice assistants, according to MediaVillage.com, but all stores can and should get ahead of the trend.
Currently, Echo users can shop Amazon, while Google Home has formed partnerships for customers to shop large retailers like Walmart, Target, Ulta, and Walgreens. As voice technology becomes more popular, however, it’s likely Amazon and Google will open their doors to smaller retailers as well.
Get ready for the voice-shopping trend by doing these six things today:
Start with Customer Service
Enabling customer service chat solutions could be the gateway to voice shopping for your store. A growing number of retailers are enabling features through artificial intelligence (AI) platforms like Linc.
Home goods retailer Lamps Plus, for example, linked chatbots to voice-assistant technology, allowing customers to ask product questions, track orders, and start returns by speaking into their devices, reports BusinessWire.
FURTHER READING: Learn how retailers can use chatbots to provide customer service and spark sales.
Leverage Customer Data
The data you collect on your customers will be important for voice shopping, especially when it comes to repeat purchases and birthdays. Many consumers like to look around and compare features — a task that’s easier on a screened device — which is one reason for the slow adoption of voice-assistant shopping.
However, reordering consumable items like cosmetics, food, or household cleaners is a natural use for voice purchases. Currently, retailers like Walmart and Target use Google Home to remind customers when it might be time to reorder products like laundry detergent or shampoo. Predictive retailing can also be used to include reminders for ordering gifts.
FURTHER READING: Learn how to use customer data from your point-of-sale system to boost your business.
Use Conversational Keywords
When assigning keywords to your products, consider how a consumer would search by voice. Unlike text searches, voice queries run six to 10 words in length and usually start with “who,” “how,” “what,” “where,” “why,” and “when.”
For example, instead of entering a text query like “spas in Seattle,” a voice-assistant user might say, “Where can I get a pedicure in Seattle?” Voice queries are considered long tail and more action-oriented, so optimize your keywords to reflect how people talk.
FURTHER READING: Increase your physical store's online and offline traffic with Google's "near me" results.
Improve Your Product Content
A voice shopper can ask their device to tell them more about a product. If your content is too wordy, the device will select bullets that can be read within a limited timeframe, typically 16-20 seconds. Content that isn’t organized well in short, conversational text could create a poor shopping experience.
In fact, 60% of device owners said the results they get from spoken queries are often inaccurate, according to Digital Commerce 360.
Remember, voice shoppers can’t rely on visual elements to answer their questions, so ensure that your copy is descriptive and informative, emphasizing product features.
Optimize for Amazon Echo
Currently, consumers who search for products are given results based on Google search engine algorithms. Voice devices don’t yet have the same rankings. When shoppers use Echo to make a purchase, the device suggests an Amazon’s Choice item 54% of the time, according to research by Bain & Company.
If you sell products on Amazon, this designation could help you rank higher in a search. While Amazon doesn’t disclose how it selects items for Amazon’s Choice, they’re usually products that are highly rated, well priced, and eligible for Amazon Prime shipping.
And for Google Home
Since Amazon Echo isn’t an unbiased device, Google Home may offer more opportunities for smaller retailers, especially those with a physical location, says Paul Mandeville of MultiChannel Merchant. Mandeville predicts Google’s voice-activated shopping application will be similar to its search algorithms.
“When someone tells Google they need rice, or a new jacket, or a set of flatware, the Google assistant will be programmed to suggest ordering from the local retailer who rises to the top of search results for that category,” he writes.
The Future of Shopping
Amazon Echo and Google Home devices are just the beginning when it comes to voice-assistant shopping. Vehicles have built-in voice-assistant options for finding restaurants, stores, or hotels, and high-tech refrigerators are equipped with voice assistants that enable owners to order groceries.
All of these devices are designed to be personal assistants that make consumers’ lives easier. Leverage the technology by focusing on your customer and delivering a high level of service. You’ll become a trusted resource for the future of shopping.