Rising adoption of voice assistants brought a new hype - Voice Commerce.
"Wouldn’t it be great if customers could purchase our products by using their speech only?"
"What if we could offer them one step checkout, where they can simply say what they need instead of having to navigate through multiple cart pages and filling forms?"
"Given that they have Alexa-enabled devices in their living rooms, would they be more engaged with our brands?"
Everyone working with conversational agents had a chance to come across the topic of voice commerce. It was certainly the future.
Voice Commerce - The Land of Broken Promises?
When in October 2018 the results of multiple independent studies on voice commerce were published. According to discoveries, only 2% of smartspeaker users made a purchase via voice, through early August 2018. Whatever the number is, it’s not yet what retailers are dreaming of.
source: Report for retailers by The Information, Voicebot, May survey 2018
Should we then consider the idea of voice commerce as a failure?
Why Customers Are Still Reluctant to Voice Purchasing?
In their reports, researchers identified reasons why customers are reluctant to voice purchasing. The four major ones were the following:
"I need to see the product before purchasing."
If we can see something, it means it exists. That’s how our brains are wired and it’s hard to work around it. We rely on visuals a lot when making purchases, not only for selecting the right product but also to get confidence that we’ll get what we bought.
"Will Alexa send me the product that I wanted?"
Some customers have bad past experiences with previous generation of speech recognition systems. A lot of them don’t trust in their accuracy and won’t be confident enough to use voice to make purchases.
"I can't learn about all available options."
It’s difficult to use voice-only interface to present a variety of options - at most, we can suggest 2 to 3 possibilities. Customers don’t want to listen to longer lists, as it’s really ineffective. In some cases, this limitation turns out to be a major problem.
"I always buy on my smartphone."
Habits are a very important factor in our decision-making process. With strong purchasing habits that customer have already, it's hard to expect most of them to spontaneously experiment with voice purchasing.
But we've already been there!
When Amazon started one of the first e-commerces in the world, they had to deal with similar objections from their customers. Back then, when internet was still a new thing, you could often hear “I won’t buy a product I can’t see before in real life”, “I won’t provide my credit card information online” or “I always go to a store to buy things”.
Despite these problems, they've managed to adapt to changing reality and build a solid business on top of the internet.
3 Stages That Every Consumer Technology Goes Through
If you look at how we shift between different shopping mediums, we can highlight 3 stages that differ in the way customers use it:
Entertainment - the initial phase in technology adoption. Customers play with new technology to learn how to use it. It’s fun, but it also lets them become more comfortable with the technology. Not only brings it fun, but also lets the customers to get comfortable with the technology and drives its adoption.
Do you remember Angry Birds? For a long time, this game drove sale of smartphones and also helped them get familiar with swipe gestures.
Informational actions - when a certain technology becomes widely adopted, customers start using it for convenience. Mostly for simple, safe tasks like checking weather to checking bank account balance. These actions don’t involve any transactions that bring financial risk.
Transactional actions - this is the last step in technology adoption. When it wins customers’ trust, they start using it for actions that involve financial commitment.
Looking at this landscape, we’re still in the early days of voice adoption. We’ll have to wait a few more years, before voice transactions become widespread.
However, modern commerce is not only about transactions. Modern commerce is about designing and delivering customer journey.
Voice Interactions as a Part of Customer Journey
If we look at how customers interact with brands, there are four major stages where voice interactions can bring better customer experience.
Let’s see how different brands incorporate voice in their customer journeys.
With huge competition in mediums like TV or social media, voice assistants bring a lot of great opportunities to capture customer’s attention. With huge adoption, both on smart speakers and smartphones, we can build engaging campaigns that stand out amongst competition.
The simplest ones start with quizes, that are getting huge traction amongst smartspeaker users. Quizes branded with brand’s IP are more and more often used as a part of marketing campaigns.
More sophisticated ones engage customers in different ways.
One of the most acclaimed campaigns that involve voice interactions is “Send me a sample”.
There are some brands like Bacardi used the voice-powered devices for the sample campaign in May and Reebok offered free sneakers through a voice assistant campaign with Svarovski. Fans can win the shoes decorated with Swarovski crystals by saying "Open Reebok Sneaker Drop" to theirs Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
Brands like Coca Cola allowed their customers to order a free sample using Alexa during a TV commercial. This way, they were able to build customer engagement in a space that used to be single direction.
While brand awareness is important, it’s as important to make sure that customers pick us our brand when making a purchasing decision.
A great example of brands making use of voice assistants are shopping lists for online delivery grocery stores.
Customers used to get to the consideration phase at a certain time during the week, when they were adding needed products to a cart in a mobile or desktop app.
The smartest grocery stores noticed the potential in smartspeakers, as a mean of building a cart on the go. By enabling their customers to build shopping list during the week, as they notice missing products in their fridge, they no longer have to compete with other stores when the customer decides to finalize a weekly order.
Since the products are already in the cart, at the end of the week a customer only has to confirm the order in a mobile app or make small adjustments (which is easier to do using a smartphone).
Such stores win by offering convenience.
Transactional actions are the most difficult ones to achieve. They require customers to trust both the brand and the technology.
Currently, there are two great uses of voice in such situations:
Small, repetitive purchases
It wasn’t an accident that Jeff Bezos started his e-commerce with selling books. With average value of $10, customers took little risk, while taking advantage of huge product catalog.
The same rule works for voice purchasing, with one difference: rather than offering wide variety, brands need to offer additional convenience.
A great example in this space is Dominos, that started selling pizza via Alexa very early.
It’s a perfect purchase for voice - customers often order the same type of pizza, to the same address and pay with the same credit card. There are no major drawbacks of voice for such orders compared to smartphones. There’s also a huge benefit: customers don’t have to take out their smartphones to order a pizza.
By leveraging the new interface, Dominos was able to deliver the most frictionless ordering process possible.
With the right tools, it’s also possible to sell products of higher value. Nike proved that recently.
A few months ago, they ran a campaign of their new shoes - each pair worth over $300. The drop ended within 6 minutes, as they ran out of stock (some sources claim 15,000 pairs).
How did they do that?
Nike ran this campaign during a basketball match. Across the whole match they showcased a new model of their shoes. Players of one team played wearing exactly the same type of shoes that Nike was selling.
During a commercial break, they gave testimonials describing their experience. Nike also included close-ups that showed these shoes in detail.
The commercial ended with a prompt saying that if you liked the shoes,you can ask you voice assistant to order them for you.
By moving beyond voice-only interactions and running campaign that involved other mediums, they were able to address major concerns that customers have - the need to see a product before purchasing.
Selling such expensive products is still a rare case that requires proper preparation. Brands that do this right get huge wins.
When thinking about customer journey in e-commerce, it’s also important to think about what happens to customers after they purchase a product. Some of them may require further assistance.
Delivering customer support also brings a few areas where we can embrace voice technologies.
The low-hanging fruit is package-tracking. Every time when customer is left without information what happened to the product that they’ve ordered is a moment when they’re left with a bad impression about the brand. Making this easily accessible is a huge win for both parties.
By delivering this information via voice assistant, we can reduce the uncertainty around ordering.
Handling phone calls
The other aspect is handling phone calls, especially in large e-commerces. Some customers still prefer to call a company rather than ask for support online. They end up waiting in long queues to get connected to an agent or redirected multiple times between various departments.
A lot of them call with repetitive requests, that could be easily handled automatically. Others spend a lot of time waiting just to provide information that agents handle offline.
This is the are where voicebots connected to a phone line can deliver a huge value - by becoming a frontend to human agents, they can let customers self-service in a quick way. For more complex requests, they can gather all required information (for example type of request, authenticate customer) and pass the conversation to a human agent who’s able to solve such issues.
Voice commerce is still a new area, with a lot of potential, but also with a lot of things that need to happen before our customers become more open to voice purchasing.
There are some areas that yield effects right now, but even if voice purchasing isn’t a direct fit for your brand, keep in mind that commerce isn’t only about transactions.
There are plenty of opportunities along the whole customer journey, where you can include voice interactions to make customer experience better.
If you’re looking for more ideas or are interested in learning how to enable voice in your brand, don’t hesitate to contact us.