What you need to know about voice-activated shopping

Photo illustration depicting voice-activated shopping

By the end of 2017, there will be over 33 million voice-controlled devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo in the hands of your customers. Even if you do not own one of these devices yourself, you’re probably already familiar with how these devices are revolutionizing the online shopping experience.

As an online retailer, you understand how important the omnichannel shopping experience is for your consumers. But have you ever considered that voice-controlled devices would become one of those channels you had to account for when creating content for your site?

Here’s what you need to know about voice-activated shopping as the popularity of these voice-activated devices grows.

The Current State of Voice-Activated Shopping

A Walker Sands survey reports that 19 percent of respondents made a purchase using a voice-controlled device in the past year and another 33 percent plan to do so in the coming one.

In addition, the NPD Group found that Amazon Echo owners spent 10 percent more and made 6 percent more purchases than they did before owning the device.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they made those purchases using voice functionality. What it does signal, however, is a greater reliance on more convenient methods for online shopping. In this case, Echo users likely use their devices to quickly research products and, potentially, then buy them.

As of now, consumers can only purchase products found on Amazon through the Amazon Echo device. Google Home, on the other hand, offers customers the opportunity to shop with larger retail partners like Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, Walmart, and Whole Foods. But that doesn’t mean Amazon and Google won’t eventually open their doors to smaller retail stores, too.

With voice-controlled device usage growing, what can you do now to prepare your e-commerce website’s content for the growing trend of voice-activated shopping?

1. Create more accurate content

In general, your online store’s product pages should be up-to-date and full of robust information to simplify your customers’ decision-making process. If that is not the case, then this should be priority number one.

This means ensuring that each product page has the right structured data. Currently, only 60 percent of users say they get an accurate response when using voice-activated devices. Imagine the sort of problems that could arise if 40 percent of shoppers order the wrong thing and don’t verify the order details before telling Alexa to make the purchase? Not only will you have frustrated customers looking for someone to blame, but you will have more returns to process.

2. Make your keywords conversational

This one goes beyond just voice-activated shopping as more consumers also use voice to conduct online searches. By creating keywords that are structured more in the way we naturally speak rather than in the formal terms we assign to product names, you will improve the chances of your products being found by voice users.

3. Write more descriptive content

For visitors to your online store, it might make sense to structure your website in a way that capitalizes on strong visual elements. However, for customers using voice, they do not have the benefit of your site’s product imagery and visual cues to guide them through your content or to sell your product.

Instead, they need access to product information that doesn’t depend on the context of a nearby photo. This means that, as the number of voice shoppers on your site grows, you will want to develop robust product descriptions. These should put more emphasis on features and functionality, so visitors don’t need to worry about logging on to their computers or smartphones to get a better sense of what your product looks like or how it works.

Even though voice-activated devices still trail behind smartphones, tablets, TV, and other home automation systems, does that mean you should disregard this segment of your consumer audience? No, probably not. With consumers getting used to buying things like entertainment, household items, and apparel through these devices, you can bet they will be thrilled to see your e-commerce business offer them the same convenience for your related products.

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