Trending in E-commerce: Voice Search

  • Technology
  • April 27, 2022
  • by Dan Sutherland & Freyja Wedderkop

Over the last few years, we’ve seen users treated to increasingly diverse ways of interacting with tech, and none with greater potential than voice search. While traditional online searches are certainly not a thing of the past, the exciting development of voice search serves a unique purpose. From accessibility to pure convenience, let’s see how Voice Search took the world by storm and crept into e-commerce.

What is Voice Search?

Voice Search is as it sounds - consumers use their voice to search the web. Voice Search allows users to interact with AI using technology and systems to find products or gain information like “what’s the weather today?”. 

With the rise of e-commerce and the move away from brick-and-mortar, consumers have lost a human-to-human purchasing experience. Of course, you might have an FAQs section to help, but, as we’ll explore throughout this article, people find it a lot easier and convenient to speak to someone human or AI. And therein lies the pull of Voice Search.

It all started with Smart assistants. From Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, Google’s, well, Google, and of course, Amazon’s Alexa - these tools are everywhere, including on your phones, laptops, watches, cars, and TVs, to name a few. And they’re showing no signs of slowing down -  Algolia states that “digital voice assistants expect to rise to 8 billion active units by 2023”.

What makes them popular? The reality is convenience. Users can make the exact searches they used to, except this time, they can do it and other tasks simultaneously. The instant results of Voice Search mean users consume the returned data differently from previous type queries. And, the immediacy of Voice Search provides instant gratification making submitting a search query more impulsive. These factors result in Voice Search becoming the number one way consumers interact with entertainment, news, services, retailers, and other technology.

How has voice search changed the playing field?

As we said, convenience is the key to Voice Search’s success - consumers can now get straight to the point single results rather than pages (some of which aren’t relevant).

Don’t get us wrong, users will still turn to traditional search, and with the right solution, you can create a truly delightful experience - you can read up on this in our article on Site Search Optimization. However, often with traditional search, users have to construct and refine searches based on their needs, refine as they increase their understanding of the potential solutions, and digest a website to achieve a successful conclusion - requiring a lot of consideration and effort on their behalf. Equally, website owners have to produce content relevant to well-researched search terms, craft engaging search schema to communicate value propositions, encourage user interaction, and then execute on-site User Experience.

In contrast, with Voice Search, the effort/reward ratio favors the user, but if you’re a merchant, you have to be a little savvier with your SEO. Via voice search, users expect a return of one website in response to their inquiry - the right website. As the site owner, you want that to be you. 

You’ll have to change how you write content to get there. For example, with voice search, search queries are less structured, more informal, and more colloquial than typed searches - in fact, in 2020, most voice searches were verbal questions.

For example: 

  • Traditional: ‘Buy sports equipment.’

  • Voice: ‘Where is best to buy sports equipment?’

In this case, longer-term search strings, hub-and-spoke content, FAQs, and blogs are important and valuable ways to ensure your website is the one returned for a voice search. 

Voice search and e-commerce

What does all this mean for e-commerce? Lucky for brands, according to Klevu“Consumers are becoming more reliant on voice search, and 22% of smart homeowners have actually made a purchase using their device.” and “support voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%” 

Encouraging stats, right? However, this shift in e-com purchasing behaviors will mean merchants need to adapt their strategies. For example, without the support of visual content, video, and visible call-to-actions, brands need to think of creative and effective ways to convert voice search queries - we’ll get to this later on! Plus, it’s not just desktop you have to account for,  20% of all mobile searches on Google are currently voice-based so honing in on your mobile site or app is key. 

But don’t let that put you off. Recent stats from eMarketer show that compared to 8.9% in 2018, in 2022 14.1% of digital shoppers will use a smart speaker to research products or add products to a shopping cart with voice search. In addition to new revenue stream opportunities, some companies are witnessing savings such as up to 20% on customer support costs. It’s also actively increasing the available e-commerce market size: Gap Gemini found over two-thirds of merchants surveyed indicated they would replace in-person shopping experiences with a smart-assistant alternative in the coming years. With these promising figures, e-commerce stores can be confident that voice search, conversational assistants, and smart assistants are here to stay as a mode of customer interaction. So if you’re not already looking at voice search - now’s the time.

Some of the big players in the search game, Klevu and Algolia, have already created ways for e-com brands to integrate Voice Search into their stores. Klevu’s new voice feature works by transcribing voice search into text which is processed by their regular search engine - allowing retailers to continue creating seamless shopping experiences whilst meeting the needs of all their customers, not just type searchers. Moreover, Algolia has multiple integrations for Voice Search available to suit business needs including Natural Language Processing, contextual understanding capabilities and AI.  

Nilay Oza, CEO and Co-Founder of Klevu shares his take on the Voice Search trend and its place in e-commerce:

Do you remember “Ask Jeeves”? Way back in 1996, the search engine encouraged users to phrase their queries in the form of a question. The concept was ahead of its time. Twenty years, in fact. It wasn’t until 2015 that Google launched its truly conversational updates to enable conversational searching, allowing users to get more relevant results when using natural language.

However, Conversational queries are complex and can also include words which denote sentiment, such as ‘best women’s top on sale’. As voice search becomes more and more prevalent in shopper behaviour, natural language queries such as this will require relevant results. And retailers not able to offer that will suffer. A sophisticated discovery engine is able to not only handle misspellings, process natural language and interpret intent, but also augment product catalogues with synonyms and sentiment and learn over time from shopper behaviour.

Nilay Oza
CEO and Co-Founder of Klevu

How can you optimize your e-commerce site’s SEO for voice search?

Content is king! From product descriptions to specifications and titles, adding and increasing descriptive product content means smart assistants are more likely to return your website to the user. If you want to get more specific, make sure your descriptions are related to a product’s core functions, pain points, and ecosystem. 

Other content on your e-com store to update is: 

FAQs

FAQs provide an excellent content opportunity for Voice Search. You’ll relate to voice searchers' more common question-based search terms by presenting structured question and answer content.

Use ‘stop’ words sparingly

Refine existing and new content to use ‘stop’ words sparingly. Previously, search engines disregarded: ‘the, ‘in’ or ‘on’ as they took valuable space in areas such as page meta titles. However, as voice search terms are more conversational, search engines are starting to pay more attention to stop words. Therefore, add them in select areas without going overboard and prejudicing current SEO.

Structure your product collections

As we mentioned earlier, product descriptors are a great way to get your website ‘heard’ through voice search. Therefore it’s a good idea to work with an e-commerce agency to help you structure, categorize and filter your product collections. While this will help with Voice Search, it should be considered that this can impact the User Experience of your traditional e-com shoppers - you want to find the right balance of both. 

This takes skill and knowledge, so make sure you partner with an e-com agency with Design and UX capability. If you want to chat with our Design team, you can find us here.

Consider a screen-less user journey

Think about a screen-less customer journey - make sure you provide appropriate conclusions for the users landing on your e-commerce store via a voice search who are eager to take that next step without using a screen.

Chatbots and conversational assistants

Chatbots and conversational assistants such as those used by Heyday or Gorgias within mechanisms like live chat can also provide an avenue for voice search customers to seek quick answers to queries or additional product recommendations. Building these features and functionality into the e-commerce experience you provide, among many others, ensures you are at a good starting point to entertain your more vocal customers. 

Conclusion

In the short term, merchants have to plan before incorporating Voice Search into their e-commerce store and consider whether it suits their business and customer requirements. But, for some it won’t be long before Voice Search is as regular as updating product pages. And the long-term benefits for both users and merchants are worth the additional planning - with Voice Search, merchants can tap into a completely new customer base, improve their accessibility and grow with their loyal customers. However, as with most trends, not all your customers will want to adopt Voice Search, so it’s equally important to maintain your current success with traditional search, perhaps adopting a hybrid approach. 

If you want to chat more about search on your e-commerce store reach out to our team.


Authors

Dan Sutherland

Dan has been a web designer & developer since 2013, working at agency level for the last four years with local, regional & international clients including Ride Scotland, Nestle, Diageo & Duncan and Todd.

Freyja Wedderkop

Freyja joined We Make Websites in 2021 and brought over two years of B2B marketing experience with her. She has an MSc in Marketing and specializes in digital marketing, social media and content marketing. She also has a passion for design, events and, outside of marketing, loves cooking up a storm.


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