Remember the first time a technology geek in your life demonstrated Siri on an iPhone to you? Well, I do. Jaw on the floor. And in the grand scheme of things, that really wasn’t all that long ago.
Now, it’s predicted that 50% of all online searches could be voice-activated by next year – a statistic that retailers are all too familiar with hearing at this stage. So how exactly can brands win customers with voice search?
Well, as with most things in eCommerce, voice search isn’t that simple. While customer expectations are on the rise, consumer behaviour leads us to believe that shoppers are still quite conservative when it comes to purchasing products through the medium of voice.
So, what are the current voice search trends?
Take the Amazon Dot or Echo, for example. Wildly popular voice assistants, with our trusty friend Alexa at the helm to make any of your wishes her command. Amazon reported that it sold tens of millions of Echo devices in 2018, and that the number of people who are using Alexa on a daily basis has doubled in the space of the year.
Undeniably impressive stats, there. But when you scratch beneath the surface, the figures aren’t exactly music to a retailer’s ears….
- The most popular Alexa command is setting a timer.
- The second more popular command is playing music
Turning on and off the lights in your house. Playing a quiz. Finding your phone. Storytime for kids. These are the types of commands that dominated the Top 25 most popular Alexa skills list last year.
Voice shopping, on the other hand? Well, only 2% of Alexa users actually made a purchase in 2018. And when they did, it was typically on run of the mill household items, or small ticket repurchases – think less furniture and more AA batteries.
Furthermore, as Alexa is powered by Amazon, it’s fair to say that it’s not exactly a walk in the park trying to ensure that your products wind up in the coveted ‘Amazon Choice’ list ahead of Amazon products themselves. The age-old ‘competing with Amazon challenge’ rears its ugly head yet again.
However, while the temptation for merchants to scream into their pillows (or Amazon Echos, as the case may be) is real, there absolutely is an opportunity to make a splash when it comes to the use of voice search in retail.
The real sweet spot of voice search is in the discovery phase of the purchasing cycle.
Essentially, voice is the new frontier of the ‘research online, buy offline’ model. Now it’s more like ‘Research through voice, buy online, collect in-store (or any of the omnichannel variations that could potentially be applied here).
It may still be a touch unrealistic to think that customers are willing to start and complete an entire transaction via voice, but the impact that retailers can make at the starting line (aka – getting their products and stores found in the first place) has the power hugely impact the rest of the customer journey, whatever form that may take.
A closer look at SEO for eCommerce voice search
So, here’s looking at you, SEO. Getting your content in Google’s coveted ‘Featured Snippet’ position will drastically increase your business’ success with voice search.
Here’s how voice search actually works:
- A user speaks directly into their phone, virtual assistant or voice-controlled speaker of choice
- The audio from that search query is recorded, sent to voice recognition APIs and converted into text
- Voilà! A search takes place
The role of voice search is ultimately no different to that of the role of traditional SEO, i.e. getting the right audience to your website. So if you’re doing SEO well, and your strategy is water-tight, optimising for voice search really shouldn’t have to be a huge leap.
In a truly practical sense, when working with content from an SEO perspective, your team just needs to ask ‘how would someone perform this search using their voice?’
Optimise your online store for voice search to stay in the game.
This means using long-tail keywords, optimising content for questions about your business and/or the products you sell, and incorporating more ‘trigger words’ (such as ‘how’, ‘why’, ‘where’, ‘is’) into your web content to significantly improve your ‘Featured Snippet’ chances.
Just keep in mind that Google has yet to separate voice queries within its search console analytics, so retailers need to rely on cues to weed out the types of searches that could be performed by voice – similar to the early days of mobile search and the simultaneous rise of ‘near me’ location-based search queries.
Optimising your site for voice search should be something that slots nicely into your current SEO strategy, if your current strategy is yielding results, that is.
The future of voice search is a tough one to call. Perhaps, over time, consumers will become more comfortable with purchasing goods using their voices alone. Or maybe, with privacy and data now taking more of a front seat in shoppers’ minds, (48% of RetailMeNot survey respondents recently saying that they won’t shop via a smart speaker because they are concerned about the security of their data), voice search may never reach the heights that retailers have been led to believe.
If only Alexa has a crystal ball command, right?!