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Why should eCommerces keep their eye on voice shopping?

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Just 2 months after Domino’s, released their Alexa Skill, 20% of orders that normally came through their mobile app moved to voice. Customers loved the seamless experience of voice commerce in which they simply ask Alexa to have their favourite pizza delivered to their door without even looking at their phone or computer. Frictionless purchasing changed consumers behaviour, making other companies look at smart speakers as a new channel for reaching clients.


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Why should eCommerces care about voice at all?

Smart speakers, with two big players on top – Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, have taken the world by storm. Only in 2017, there were more than 30 million devices sold on the market, with 6.5 million sold just in Europe. According to VoiceBot.ai, in March 2018, over 20% of Americans owned a smartspeaker and the numbers are still rising as the devices’ capabilities grow and the technology behind them gets more sophisticated.

What’s more, both Amazon and Google want to go even further. Google announced that by the end of 2018, their flagship voice product, Google Assistant, will be available in 30 languages. Amazon, on the other hand, is about to enter huge markets in South America and Asia.

So what about companies that want to enter voice platforms?

Alexa speaker

Amazon Alexa speaker (source)

The first one takes it all

Companies who are already on voice platforms are experimenting with best ways to reach customers – with great results. With the command “Alexa, tell Starbucks to start my usual order” Starbucks has enabled clients to place an order for coffee while getting ready to leave the house. All that to skip waiting in line and just pick the order up instead. Big brands like P&G support clients by enabling smart speakers to cover customer requests like “Alexa, ask PGShop where my order is?“. With the number of voice assistant user cases growing, ordering via voice has become a reality. Therefore, it’s important for eCommerces to raise customers’ awareness of their presence there as soon as possible.

Starbucks voice order

Starbucks voice ordering (source)

Is Voice Shopping for every eCommerce?

Yes. However, the key lies in understanding what the possibilities and constraints of voice purchasing are. There is already a known formula for great voice shopping – small, repetitive products that are sent to the same location. Like Dominos did with pizza. Customers most likely have their favourite selection, they usually order to the same location and pay with the same credit card.

Other great examples of using voice in eCommerce cover reordering (when customers just need to ask Alexa to reorder their usual items e.g. dog treats) and updates on package status (when it’s easier to ask Alexa where the package is rather than looking for an e-mail with the tracking link). What’s also great about voice is that it opens up new a marketing channel for eCommerces.


The power of mixed experience

What seems to be capturing the interest of eCommerce owners right now is how to leverage marketing position via new channels. Smart speakers are a new – but proven – way to do so. Customers can simple ask their Alexa or Google Assistant about recommended products, new deals and set price alerts. B&H Photo Video, the largest non-chain photo and video equipment store in the US, already did so!

What voice assistants are also great at is kicking off order placement that can be finalized in a mobile app or in the browser. Many brands allow users to add items to their cart or shopping list via Alexa, allowing customers to quickly add items on the go and review them on their mobile when they have time.

Alexa spreaker in use

Amazons’ Alexa in use (source)


The game has just begun!

Voice technology is still unknown territory for many. When looking for a good example to compare, we need to look back. Remember those early days of mobile apps, about 10 years ago? Companies didn’t know how to really make use of them, but that was also the time when mobile giants rose. Voice and smart speakers are currently in a similar phase of development. – with lots of experiments and rapid growth. And it seems like the best moment to invest in voice is NOW.


How to make the first step with voice in eCommerce

The first and most fundamental step is to think how a certain store can benefit from entering a smart speaker platform. It might be voice purchasing, voice marketing or even customer support.

The best examples of successful voice purchasing are, among others, the already mentioned Domino’s, Audible – one of the biggest services for audiobooks – and Ocado – the online supermarket.

Voice works really well when combined with lists. One of the biggest use cases of Alexa is quickly adding items to shopping lists. Once the item is there, it’s possible to recommend certain products that complement it via e.g. mobile or web app. That way, customers can get personalized recommendations of items available in our store. This is exactly what Ocado did by enabling adding items to a shopping list by voice, giving customers a chance to review the order on a different device before they make the final purchase.

Ocado shoping list integrated with Alexa

Adding items to Ocado shopping list with Alexa (source)


What’s also worth discovering is voice marketing. Tide, a laundry detergent producer, created an Alexa app that helps to guide users through the stain removal process with their products. Customers can simply ask Alexa how to remove a grass stain and the application can guide them through the steps. The same goes for voice-based customer support where lots of brands are experimenting with e.g. package tracker, FAQ section or handling customer requests via voice.

Unfortunately, getting started with voice apps can be challenging for many developers. There’s a whole new ecosystem of tools around it. However, there’s a great solution that makes it easy for them to take their first steps in no time.

VoiceCommerce.js is a tool for developers to easily start building a voice app that integrates with Vue Storefront eCommerce. It enables developers to bring eCommerce to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant with ease and full control. To make it easy to get started, it covers common scenarios, like reordering or checking order status, out-of-the-box. Starting up with voice shopping has never been easier. What’s more, VoiceCommerce.js is open-source and available on GitHub.


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Keep your eye on voice

Voice technologies are rapidly evolving, bringing new possibilities to business and eCommerce and we know it. As with every innovation, it has the potential to change customers’ behaviors (like mobile phones did). In combination with evolving image search, VR and AR, it might disrupt the online shopping experience. But in contrast to other new technologies, voice is something we’re experiencing for real, right now.

Voice Commerce

Published August 30, 2018