A Guide to Voice Commerce In 2021
Voice search and voice enabled eCommerce is on the rise.
The convenience provided by technologies like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and others speak for themselves. Let’s look at some statistics, shall we:
- Google reports that 27% of all online searches are made through voice search.
- According to eMarketer, over a third of the population used a voice assisted program in 2019.
- ComScore states that voice search technology usage has jumped by more than half in 2020.
These statistics should give you a rough idea of which direction voice searching is going. Gone are the days when textual search was a point of competition for companies. Now, it’s a competition on who is providing better voice search functionalities.
We’ve written this guide to give you an idea on what voice commerce is, what it’s all about, and where it’s heading for the future.
So, let’s begin!
What is Voice Commerce?
Voice commerce is voice enabled eCommerce that allows users to make purchases directly from voice commands made from their phone, voice-assistants, or any other voice powered device. Voice search varies from traditional commerce in that the users are not required to depend on hardware like mouse or keyboard.
Voice Commerce: A Short History
You might think that voice commerce is a recent phenomenon, but it’s actually way older. You’d be surprised to find that voice enabled technologies were present even before the internet.
In 1961, IBM engineer William C. Dersch developed the first ever voice recognition device called “Shoebox”. The device understood sixteen spoken words. While innovative for its time, Shoebox was only limited to solving math problems.
This was the point where voice-recognition moved from science fiction to reality. It was the first step in a journey that gave us Amazon Echo, Alexa, Google Home and other voice powered devices.
It’s partly thanks to William Dersch, and these technologies that voice commerce became something to write home about. You see, they’ve been around for decades, but it’s only just in the past five years that voice powered eCommerce became a reality.
Consumers nowadays find it more convenient to purchase through voice commands rather than manually typing in search queries. It’s because of this fact that eCommerce stores owners are now moving towards optimizing their store for voice search. As the years go by, this trend is expected to gain more momentum.
What Does Voice Commerce Look Like Today?
If it wasn’t already clear, all the major eCommerce giants are investing heavily in voice commerce to make it convenient for their customers to purchase products.
Voice commerce adoption practices used by these businesses show the direction in which the medium is heading.
As digitization and IoT become a major part of people’s lives, the future of eCommerce is predicted to take the shape of “one stop shops” where customers can order products through voice commands, and then check out.
The trend of voice assisted shopping isn’t limited to tech giants within the United States. In China, you guessed it, AliBaba is also making serious headways into voice commerce.
Chinese consumers with the Tmall Genie Speaker that’s created in association with AliBaba allows them to order Starbucks directly from their location and have it delivered. Moreover, they can also stream Starbucks music in their locations.
Now that’s convenience!
How Does Voice Enabled eCommerce Work?
The answer to this question is pretty simple from the standpoint of a consumer. All you need is your voice and the technology that processes your voice commands.
To give you a run down, here’s how voice commerce works.
- You need to have a voice assisted device present. It could either be your smartphone, Amazon Echo, or any other voice assistant.
- You need to wake the assistant up with a voice command. If you’re using an iPhone, for example, you need to say “Hey Siri”. If you’re using Android, it’s “Ok Google”.
- You then need to prompt the assistant to perform some action. If you’re using Alexa, then it could be “Alexa, order product ABC”. On an android phone, you can just state, “Order product ABC”, after saying, “Okay Google”.
- While it shouldn’t be the case, your spoken words should reflect your tone and your original voice patterns so that the assistant analyzes your voice perfectly.
What Are the Benefits of Voice Commerce?
From playing music, to hearing the latest news, searching for information online, ordering food, and purchasing products online – there are plenty of applications of voice commerce in everyday life.
Voice search plays a vital role in ecommerce. Because of its limitless potential, it presents the right investment opportunity for businesses. Ecommerce businesses, as already discussed, have invested significantly in the medium and are taking advantage of the medium.
There are plenty of benefits for users who want to purchase products through voice commerce. Let’s give you a run-down of some of them, shall we:
A major benefit of using voice commerce is the ease of use that it provides to the customers. If they’re looking to purchase a certain product, all they have to do is use a voice command and voila, the order is processed, and ready to be shipped to the user.
It matters not if you’re cooking, cleaning, or even driving, you can concentrate while simultaneously ordering products through your voice.
All the major eCommerce stores are now operating 24/7, and are ready to ship products whenever you order them. Voice commerce adds a layer of convenience to the ordering process by cutting out the manual browsing, selection, and checkout processes.
Speed of Purchase
This follows along from the previous point. With voice search, a customer doesn’t have to type in their login details and other credentials to go forward with the purchase. They can perform all of them through voice commands (except entering password, of course). All this leads to saving valuable time and maximizing ease during the purchase.
Personalizing the Buying Experience
When people make more interactions with their voice assistants, it also leads to more data gathered on users’ preferences, likes, and dislikes. All of this data can, in turn, be used to customize the user experience at a much granular level than ever before.
The data can be utilized by companies to provide a stellar customer experience, keeping in mind the preferences of the user in mind.
The Major Challenges Associated with Voice Commerce
While the medium is innovating and becoming better as the days progress, there are still challenges associated with the platform that makes its adoption more difficult. As of this writing, the following challenges, while present, are slowly being resolved.
Let’s look at them, shall we:
Limitations in Languages
While voice assistants perform a really good job of understanding human voice commands, there are several challenges associated with understanding human accents and intonations.
Besides the accents, there is the issue of languages. There are only a few languages being used in voice assistants with English providing the most accurate of results. Companies innovating this medium must understand the intricacies of modern languages in order to expand their product reach to other countries.
Seamless Human-AI Conversations
As of this writing, voice search and voice commerce have not reached near human levels. For these mediums’ AI, there are still gaps in understanding the intricacies of human conversation. Companies should resolve this to make voice interactions as human as possible.
Besides their popularity, there exists a lack of awareness on the actions a voice enabled assistant can perform or not. To really sell these products at every household, there needs to be an earnest effort by companies to create awareness of the capabilities provided by these assistants.
Lack of Trust towards the Medium
The majority of eCommerce consumers use voice assistants for reordering purposes. As of yet, they aren’t fully aware of the potential these devices have. As a result, they fail to understand how beneficial they are to a consumers’ daily life. Overall, there is a lack of trust in using the platform for ordering large and complex products. A prime example of this being B2B purchases.
Privacy and Security Concerns
This is by far the biggest challenge faced by modern voice assistants.
Data regulations like GDPR have been in effect in the European Union for a couple of years now, with many countries following up in their footsteps. Privacy concerns and awareness about cybersecurity is also increasing all throughout the world.
With voice assisted technologies comes the stigma of them getting compromised by hackers and foreign governments. In addition to that, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal hasn’t done much to rebuild consumers’ trust in these technologies.
Ecommerce customers, regardless of whether they’re B2B or B2C, want some level of privacy within their homes and in their workplaces. Considering all these factors, there are several privacy concerns associated with using voice assistants for daily purposes.
Though people are going to keep using them for their daily purposes, voice assistants won’t go mainstream unless the companies convince the customer that their product promises protection.
The Future of Voice Commerce
Voice enabled eCommerce is here to stay. It has established itself in the mainstream of eCommerce with expectations for further improvements in the future.
AI companies are constantly developing new ways to ensure that AI-human interactions are as seamless as possible.
A groundbreaking advancement in this field has been the creation of natural language processing or NLP.
There is a real need to improve such interactions. Survey’s state that 95% of users get frustrated when their voice assistant misunderstands them. It’s statistics like these that companies are developing new ways to improve these technologies.
Speaking purely from the perspective of Amazon, the company has been making leaps in improving their flagship voice assistant products, Alexa and Echo. Through NLP, they are now making Alexa a lot smarter and more responsive in human communication.
Amazon is not alone in innovating voice commerce technology. Google, for its part, has been developing its AI and states that it’s making significant progress in voice recognition and improving their search functionalities to aid that search.
Distrust of Voice Assistants Will Cease To Exist
The primary reason behind slow adoption of voice commerce is the trust factor. As discussed above, there are privacy and data usage concerns prevalent with using voice assisted technologies.
The distrust factor, however, is changing as the younger generation is now growing up with these technologies. Their familiarity with such technologies enables them to make purchases with little aversion.
Voice Assistants for Everything
In one form or another, AI is now a major part of our daily lives. From our phones and our homes, there are plenty of places where we see AI in action. They’ve made our lives better and are changing the way we interact with technology.
Voice search is not just restricted to eCommerce. Amazon Echo, in fact, launched its Amazon Echo Auto that talks to you in your car. Car companies have partnered with Amazon to increase the usage of this product in modern cars.
Amazon has also partnered with Marriott Hotel to provide an Alexa for customer services in every room.
The point is that voice commerce is here to stay for a while now and fits plenty of use cases for a variety of different customers.
What Does the Future of Voice Commerce Look Like?
Voice commerce is innovating rapidly and regardless of what critics say, it’s here to stay.
For B2B and B2C eCommerce stores, once the barriers we discussed are broken off, voice search is going to be a game changer. Google estimates that voice search contributes to 20% of the searches made online.
With all these statistics present, it should be clear that voice search and voice commerce can provide a massive opportunity for eCommerce stores as well as brick-and-mortar establishments.
The Opportunity for B2B Companies
Voice commerce provides a huge opportunity for B2B operations. Equipped with this technology, you can reach out to customers at a better level and provide them with a memorable customer experience throughout their eCommerce journey.
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