5 things consumer brands must consider to be ready for voice commerce

Objective of this blog

With the rising use of voice on Google Assistants and Alexa devices, consumers are getting used to doing a lot of things just by speaking – all the way from playing music, news, asking questions, setting reminders, and even interacting with brands.

So what does this mean for you as a consumer brand?

How do you capitalize on this wave and ensure that you are not left behind?

The top 5 things to consider to become voice-ready

There are many things you can do to be “voice-ready”, so here is a list you can use and prioritize based on what makes sense to you. I have also included examples of vendors and real use cases of voice.

  1. Increase your chances of appearing in voice searches
  2. Be present on Alexa & Google voice platforms as a 3rd party skill or command
  3. Offer voice based navigation on your digital properties like your website & app
  4. Use voice powered kiosks in your store to offer expert information and a rich in-store experience
  5. Use voice/chat bots with automated personalized help to reduce customer support costs

This write-up attempts to talk about each of the above possibilities. and I hope this helps you decide your voice road map. While each of the topics deserves in depth treatment, the objective here is to get you familiar with each of them so you know what’s important for you and where you should spend your time.

Voice Searches

Should I worry about figuring in voice searches, and how easy is it?

As per  Comscore, 50% of all mobile searches will be via voice by 2020. As per Google, 41% of adults and 55% of teens use voice search daily today!

For a voice search, the bar is high because you cant just be in the top 10, but have to rank first in order to be used by Google, Alexa or Siri as a response. Getting an early mover advantage can certainly help.

If you rank for some keywords today on the web, you must definitely put in the effort to be there for voice searches. There are some common elements between the two, and you have a good chance to dominate the voice search space.  If you do not rank today, maybe you have a fresh chance at a voice first opportunity.  More and more people are searching for products, places and content via voice using conversation style language. Start your SEO strategy fresh with this in the mind.

Also while there are many voice platforms like Google, Alexa, Siri, Cortana, let us for a moment focus more on your brand strategy with respect to Google, the largest one. Here are some key guidelines about figuring in a voice search so that you get a picture:

a) Optimize your site to load in less than 5 seconds. (Site loading speed is critical because a voice conversation is delay sensitive, and Google picks only the ones that are super fast)

b) Use long tail conversational style keywords in your content, especially ones with questions.

c) Create an FAQ section on your site with answers that have approximately 29 words

d) Focus on increasing your domain authority for specific topics, and on appearing in the “Featured Snippets”. Long form content, greater that 2250 words is still considered better, but it should be scattered with short Q&A or voice friendly conversational snippets.

e) Use structured data (schema markup) and “speakable” tags to boost your content visibility

An in depth article on this can be found here if you want to dive deeper into the topic at a practical level: https://backlinko.com/optimize-for-voice-search

Third party apps on Google & Alexa

Is it important to create a presence on a Google Assistant and Alexa? Can this be a starting point for offering a voice experience for my customers?

There are 100 Mn + Alexa devices and <> devices with Google Assistant. This number is growing exponentially, and people are evolving beyond the music, news and reminders, to use it for shopping. (Alexa was anyway meant to be a shopping interface eventually).

Should you focus on presence on Alexa or Google?

My favorite is Google Assistant, for two reasons. 1) The “Buy” keyword is reserved for purchases on Amazon and hence having an Alexa skill is super interesting for  smaller businesses that mainly thrive on Amazon sales. However, Google being the largest search engine, and one of the largest ad networks, seems to be a better choice for consumer facing spaces.

If you create a Google app,  your customers can access your brand directly from their phone or speaker without opening your app or website. Already with the featured snippets, people are getting used to getting information in search results.

A Google Assistant app contributes to your performance on a voice search and helps you get an early advantage to build your presence on Google voice search.

Based on our experience, Google Assistant language translation experiences are very quick and involve a very short training time compared to Alexa.

See a demo of  a simple Google Assistant app that takes a customer survey here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMhGGIAc0f0&amp;feature=youtu.be

Is the visual experience too limiting?

A Google Assistant or an Alexa skill offer a limited  visual experience compared to a full fledged mobile app. But if the purpose is to make voice the primary channel, with the screen as a supporting medium, this works well. Google Assistant offers a carousal view. This is quite sufficient for the use cases that voice is used for today. This challenges you to solve the problem of building a truly conversational experience by understanding the user context and giving an accurate response. Solving this problem on your website or app using real time personalized recommendations and search can extend into voice as well.

See an example of an entire customer journey, enabled by YFret on a Google Assistant on the phone. You will see that it is also connected to a real time personalized interaction on the website: See here.

With the right personalized interactions on voice, consumers can:

  1. Search for products
  2. Subscribe to notifications about orders
  3. Create wish lists on the move
  4. Check new product releases and availability
  5. Check loyalty points and get recommendations

See my blog to read about this in detail.

Voice based Navigation

Can I use voice to simplify  navigation on my website & app?

You can use voice to simplify navigation within your app or website, or to enable easy multi-lingual access. In this case, the main objective is to reduce the number of clicks to do things on the website.

See an app powered by Slang labs that considerably reduces the number of clicks, and focused mainly on non-English speaking users. Interestingly. in India, there is a very large user base that understands English but do not speak, so they actually have a multi-language conversation. See a demo here.

The next set of internet users are going to be non-English speaking users in India, and many other countries. Brands are keen to address these users with simple navigation, and many of them will be voice-first users.

The big question is – will users expect the brands to be present on Google, or will they still prefer brand-specific apps with good visual navigation supported by voice? The answer is both, so as a brand, you must prioritize whatever makes sense for you to do first. My personal opinion is that you should first build a presence on a Google assistant, learn the questions that are asked, and then build custom navigation coupled with voice on your site as well.

Interactive Experiences in store

Can a voice channel enrich my physical store experience?

You can bring the power of AI and digital to your store. Voice driven kiosks are starting to get popular for in-store displays where it is cumbersome to type,  and for reducing the overhead of manning drive-through experiences.

There is a huge opportunity to create interactive spaces anywhere to enrich the physical experience with digital information, personalized to each customer.

Some examples of these are drive thru kiosks by Sonic here.

Other examples of in-store interactive experiences are smart carts like the ones by Invento robotics, that have a screen that you can speak to, attached to the shopping cart in the store.

Enhanced customer support

Can I reduce customer support costs using voice?

A chat (or voice) bot can automate some of the frequent customer interactions on your site, CRM or social media. In the early days of chatbots, only basic interactions were automated.  Now with the advancements in AI and personalization engines, much more sophisticated interactions can take place using them. For example, see the personal shopping assistant from Blueroo which helps people find products. They have integrations with CRM sot that in the case that the conversation requires a real human, it can be handed over. See a demo here.

Now which of these is a priority for you? Do you want to be present and dominating Google voice search and the Google third party apps, create a custom voice experience on the phone, at home, in your store, improve your website/app navigation, or reduce your customer support costs while enhancing the experience?

How does this fit with your road map?

One thing is very clear. You cannot ignore the fact that customers are getting used to getting things done via voice. Do not miss opportunities by ignoring this new channel. Also note  that with real time interactive channels like voice,  understanding the user context in real time and personalizing their experience is critical.

Take our survey here: and share your views with us. What comes in the way of experimenting with voice in your company? Is it the cost or time of implementation, or are you just not certain if your specific customers would use voice to interact with your brand? Talk to us to run some quick experiments that do not involve much time or cost at your end.

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