Voice search: how is product search evolving in e-commerce?

Kinga Edwards
Voice search: how is product search evolving in e-commerce?

In recent years, voice command has dominated search engines. Not only does it enable users to search for products by simply speaking to their devices, but also to receive the desired answers without typing keywords manually. Due to this, voice search is often widely perceived as faster and more convenient than relying on a keyboard.

According to PwC, 65% of people aged 25-49 talk to voice-enabled devices at least once a day. In addition, 55% of households are expected to have smart devices (such as voice assistants) by the end of 2022.

However, why has voice search only recently become so popular? How will it change the way we find and buy products? We are going to investigate all these questions in the following article.

What is voice search, and how does it work?

Voice search means exactly what you think it means. It’s using your own voice to ask questions and give commands to devices such as smartphones or smart speakers, which subsequently follow the user’s command or answer the user’s question.

For example, if you ask the Google Assistant on an Android smartphone: “Hey, Google, what’s the weather like today?”, the device will retrieve data from the Internet and give you today’s weather forecast in that location.

How does voice search work? Virtual voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa use speech recognition technology to process and transcribe your voice into text. They then analyze this transcript in search of questions or commands.

By saying the assistant’s name (e.g., “Hey, Siri”), the user can “wake it up” and make it responsive. Moreover, such a virtual assistant is susceptible to constant learning – the more you talk to it, the better it will understand your preferences and provide better, customized answers.

While smart speakers such as Alexa aren’t exactly common since yesterday, voice search has only been gaining momentum since introducing this feature in smartphones, tablets and other wearable technologies.

Today, almost all modern wearables, such as smartwatches, have a voice search function that allows users to retrieve information via voice search whenever they want.

The numbers speak for themselves

  • ⅓ of people in the US use the voice search feature.
  • 71% of consumers prefer to search via voice search instead of typing the text into a search engine.
  • ¾ of US households own at least one smart speaker.
  • More than half of all smart speaker owners use their devices on a daily basis.
  • By the end of 2022, 70% of consumers will use their voice to shop instead of visiting stationary stores.
  • 71% of consumers who carry their devices with them every day declare they will be using voice search in the future.
  • By 2023, about 8 billion devices will be equipped with a voice assistant.

Voice search is attractive not only for potential Internet users. The widespread e-commerce market is also interested in the technology.

The rise in popularity of voice search could change the rules of the game on the market – and those who have not yet taken an interest in the subject in terms of their own business could quickly fall behind the competition.

There are several ways online stores can take advantage of voice search – from allowing customers to find the product they are looking for no matter where they are, to providing more options for personalizing the shopping experience. Even if your audience isn’t yet using voice search to make regular purchases (only 10% use voice search every day), that doesn’t mean you can ignore its potential.

According to BrightLocal, 58% of customers have used voice commands to find information about a local business, such as opening hours or directions. A study conducted by Narvar also found that 51% of users use voice search to check products before buying. That’s why it’s important for your brand to share and customize some information about the company and its products for this search method.

Many companies don’t yet support this feature, making voice command fans more likely to choose services and products from stores that support their voice. So to gently encourage customers to discover (and buy) your products instead of your competitors’ goods, it’s worth investing in developing your site in this regard.

How will voice search change the way people buy products online?

Using voice is one of the most natural and fastest methods of communication, so voice search is poised to become one of the most popular ways to place orders and gather information.

While voice technology continues to have some problems — with understanding accents or mishearing commands — the situation is constantly improving.

There is one major difference between conducting a search using voice assistants and a regular Internet query — it’s the number of results a user will receive.

Suppose you type in “warm wool blanket” into Google, and it will display 277,000 relevant results. Meanwhile, a voice search will bring up a few results at most. So if you are not in the top rankings for a given query, your chances of being noticed drop significantly.

However, if you rank first in the search results for a given search phrase, you have a much better chance of attracting voice search fans and converting them into your loyal customers.

Benefits of voice search for online stores

  1. A more personalized shopping experience

    Using voice search can provide an unprecedented level of personalization to a customer’s shopping experience. Sure, personalized recommendations and shopping cart reminder emails are pretty much already a standard – but how about having a virtual assistant search and order groceries from online supermarkets? If a customer regularly buys using voice commands, Siri or Alexa could order the given items in an incredibly short time.

    Such voice assistants could also remind the customer that something is missing (based on the date of the last purchase) or suggest additional services that match a particular preference. As a result, customers would be willing to order the products they need within seconds, which in turn would encourage them to shop more often or buy more items.

  2. Collecting reviews made easier

    Customer reviews and comments are a goldmine of information for the e-commerce industry, provided that… buyers actually leave a review. While customers usually find time to share negative comments, they are not so eager to write positive ones.

    However, recipients might be much more willing to share their opinion if they could simply dictate it instead of typing it. Given the speed and ease of giving feedback, customers might be more inclined to write longer and more insightful comments.

    Voice assistants could also be used to ask for purchase or service ratings — and that means access to a wealth of information about what customers think of services and what needs to be improved.

  3. Faster service

    One of the main reasons for the popularity of voice search is its speed. The average person types 38 to 40 words per minute, which corresponds to 190-200 characters. However, when it comes to spoken language, they speak about 100-150 words per minute. Can you see the difference?

    For this reason, many users find voice search extremely convenient — it allows them to communicate faster and find what they need. In addition, everyone can use voice search while doing something else — for example, you can ask Alexa to order additional ingredients while preparing dinner.

    This feature can also be useful for disabled, elderly or non-tech-savvy people who have trouble using a regular keyboard and search engine. Instead of typing a query, they can simply ask Siri or Google to check the weather, dial a given phone number or order groceries.
  4. To enable smart shopping

    The real power of voice search doesn’t just derive from its speech recognition capabilities. Virtual assistants use artificial intelligence and machine learning, making them smart enough to understand users’ behavior and shopping habits.

    Let’s go back to the grocery shopping example: suppose someone regularly buys a certain coffee from an online store. Since the voice assistant is aware of this, it can inform about a sale of this particular brand and ask the customer if they wish to place an order.

    This will benefit not only the customers (who will immediately find out about the offer), but also the stores, as they will be able to reach their audience with the latest special offers in no time.

  5. Increase traffic

    Google’s unique algorithm guarantees that users ultimately receive the best-fit results in voice search results.

    What if the information or recommendation comes directly from your website? Then recipients will pay attention to your company and return. So if you optimize your site in terms of voice search, you will make your business reach a wider audience!

    In addition, adding a voice search function to your site can increase traffic, further enhancing your brand’s reputation and credibility.

  6. Improved customer satisfaction

    In conclusion, implementing voice search in your business can tremendously improve your buyers’ experience. You are more likely to gain not only customers, but also true brand followers.

    If you let the market know that you offer voice-based shopping, people who use it frequently might be persuaded to try your offer — and the other remaining customers and potential customers might just become interested. People who didn’t know about voice search previously may be happy to try out this method at your store. If they like it, they will come back and recommend your app or online store to others, and this will result in an even larger audience.

Voice search is not a passing fad

Given how advanced voice assistants have become, we can only expect the popularity of voice search to grow more rapidly in the coming years.

Since the voice search market is likely to be much more competitive than the SEO market, companies of all sizes should adapt to this trend before voice search becomes the standard.

Those who procrastinate or ignore the trend may find it much harder to catch up later, especially if competitors are the first to change their digital marketing processes and introduce voice search on a large scale.

#1 Make searching easy

In terms of SEO, companies usually compete for the most searched, short and general keywords. Those using voice search, however, operate in a slightly different way. They tend to use phrases starting with “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why” and “How” to quickly find answers to their questions.

One of the best ways to make your website visible to these users is to create an FAQ section that provides answers to the most common questions Internet users ask, and written in a conversational tone. This will make it easier for customers to find answers to each of their queries.

For example, if they are looking for a nearby pizzeria using their smartwatch, and your website provides directions on how to find your establishment, there is a greater chance that the virtual assistant inside their watch will just point to your business as the place they should go.

#2 Simplify the purchasing process

Internet users are increasingly looking for an easy and convenient experience when browsing the Internet or online stores — especially when using mobile devices. Therefore, hidden fees, several payment steps, requests for too many details, lack of information about shipping options or forcing shoppers to create an account before finalizing a purchase can quickly cause them to abandon their desire to buy.

In order to make the transaction process as short and pleasant as possible, it is advisable to simplify the completion of the shopping cart to just these three pages:

  • product information,
  • billing (with available payment options and shipping costs),
  • payment and order confirmation.

It’s also a good idea to provide the option to order without registration and simply as a guest. This not only shortens the purchase path, but also speeds up the whole transaction process and doesn’t require too much effort at the start for your potential customers.

#3 Configuring product categories and tags

In the past, it used to be enough to insert simple tags (“T-shirt,” “sporty” or “with a v-neck”) into an online store’s site, and the product variants took into account everything else, such as color or size. For customers searching for products on your website or mobile app, this is fine, but what about those using Amazon Echo?

To make matters easier for users to quickly find the information they need on your site, make sure product descriptions, titles and category tags include all the relevant details.

Artificial intelligence is now able to distinguish between male and female voices, so make sure that any “gender-specific” items are labeled appropriately. For example, “Blue sports shirt with V-neck, for women, size 36” would be a perfectly viable description for voice search.

#4 Take advantage of the voice assistant feature

Adding some Alexa plug-ins to your e-commerce site is also a good way to prepare your site for voice search. Alexa’s skills will propel its voice capabilities.

Features can be turned on and off via the app or web browser in the same way you install and uninstall apps on a smartphone or tablet. All you have to do is give clear commands and the device will perform the specified action.

For example, online grocer Ocado has a feature on Amazon that allows the user to say, “Alexa, ask Ocado to add an onion to my order.” Customers can shop at any other online store – or make the process easier and issue a quick command to Alexa.

#5 Test and optimize

Like any new technology, voice search needs to be tested in order to make sure it works as smoothly as possible. A good tip is to encourage different people to try ordering products, returning a shipment or navigating through your store by only using their voice.

The testers will have different voices and will likely pronounce things in slightly different ways, however, this will give you an idea of how voice search works for your brand, what you need to improve, and finally what is configured perfectly.

Voice Search x Luigi’s Box

The first step is …the hardest.

Do you want to start acquiring customers through voice search — so they always receive the most relevant results to their voice queries? How do you go about it? Luigi’s Box can help you out.

The tool will ensure that mobile users in particular obtain the most accurate results from the list of your available products without ever touching the screen. Moreover, it’s very easy to connect the software to your existing store, and the search engine integration doesn’t have to require any coding.

Intuitive and precise search can truly improve the conversion of your online store. Don’t make me have to persuade you any longer.

Summary

Digital marketers understand that the searching process is constantly evolving, and the new era of local and voice-controlled search is once again changing the face of marketing. Now is the time to adapt your digital marketing efforts to voice commands, regardless of the size of your company.

By ensuring that each of your sites is optimized for local, mobile and voice search, you will increase your chances of staying ahead of the competition, attract new customers, and your store will be called innovative and cutting-edge.

Using voice search apps such as Luigi’s Box can give you an edge in this market, so… what are you waiting for? 🙂

Kinga Edwards
Creative Owner | Brainy Bees
Creative Owner at Brainy Bees – in the content marketing & PR team, executing projects for SaaS, B2B and IT companies from more than 15 countries around the world. She is involved in both building strategy and execution of activities. Country Leader of SaaStock Poland.