What is Voice Commerce, and what might prevent its growth.
‘Voice Commerce: Is it the next best thing of eCommerce?’
‘Is vCommerce the future of eCommerce?’
‘How important is Voice Commerce for your Online Store?’
These are only a couple of the questions that pop up when we type Voice Commerce on Google.
So, before we dive right in, first things first…
What exactly is Voice Commerce?
Well, Voice Commerce (or vCommerce) is a type of eCommerce in which the consumer shops using voice recognition software. Normally in eCommerce, buyers use a screen, whether it’s a smartphone or a computer, to see the items and click on them to purchase. In vCommerce, the user speaks into a microphone and selects items using words and phrases.
But where did this start?
Many believe that the ‘voice trend’ began in 1962, with IBM’s “Shoebox”. However, the general public only started to use this technology when Apple introduced its Siri system. After that, some of the biggest technological players of the market started developing their own voice software, like Microsoft’s Cortana and Alphabet’s Google Now. But it was Amazon that really stepped up the game for voice activated software in 2014, with the launch of its smart speakers Echo and its assistant, Alexa.
Since then, voice activated devices – in particular, smart speakers – blew up. Other companies, such as Google and Apple, have developed their own devices, and Amazon alone has sold more than 100 million Alexa devices.
Why is voice recognition software so popular right now?
Firstly, this software offers exceptional convenience. By just using a vocal command, the software can carry out tasks or answer questions. No friction, no need to tap a screen and look for that specific answer or feature, because you just need to vocalize it and that’s it.
When it comes to smart devices, either a speaker or a phone, it’s not only about convenience. This type of software can also automate your life. It can be programmed beforehand for certain tasks, like, for example, waking you up or reminding you of events and appointments.
These are also some of the main advantages of Voice Commerce. It’s frictionless, convenient and it can also automate your life, just by asking you if you want to reorder a product. And according to a study by VoiceBot, consumers like that Voice Shopping is hands free, that it enables multitasking and that it’s faster to get answers and results than other mediums.
With all these advantages, Voice Commerce must be taking off, right?
Well… Not exactly.
According to The Information, only about 2% of the people using Alexa have made a purchase with their voices in 2018 – and of the people that did shop, 90% didn’t do it more than once.
So what’s up? Is there anything stopping vCommerce’s growth?
Or, in other words…
What are Voice Commerce main challenges?
For starters, there is the language processing.
The way we speak differs from the way we type. So when we communicate verbally with a virtual assistant, it will mostly likely resemble the way we would communicate with a real person. So the software must be prepared and built around that natural speech, especially for eCommerce. Let’s say, if a customer wants to return a product, they won’t specify the model or the exact product name – and the software should be ready for that.
And the fact that consumers communicate orally with virtual assistants means that sellers need to adapt their SEO strategies to a more natural and human search, because the different words and terms used will influence the search results.
In addition to the language used, comes some lack of trust when buying verbally.
When consumers want new products, most of them want to see them before making any decisions, so they turn to screens via traditional online shopping.
So, in order for companies to convince consumers to shop via voice, they need to provide an exhaustive and compelling product description, to ‘convince’ customers to buy it even without that visual crutch – you know, a normal product description, but on steroids.
And finally, one of the main Voice Commerce challenges comes from the use of voice recognition software. We’re talking about that “tiny” privacy issue.
Voice activated devices bring up the issue of privacy. We won’t get that much into it – you have this great article here about the subject – but long story short, since these devices are waiting for voice commands, they are listening to everything that’s being said. All the time. Which means that, in theory, they can collect a lot (and we mean, a lot) user data. Which, needless to say, can make people very uncomfortable and uneasy.
So, if it affects voice recognition as a whole, it will definitely affect the shopping side of voice software.
What is the future of Voice Commerce?
Although Voice recognition software is a recent(ish) technology, it’s infiltrating slowly but steadily in the lives of millions, whether it is by smartphone, smart speakers, or anything in between.
So, as the technology becomes more developed and as the market matures, voice software will become more normal and mainstream. Which probably means that its features, such as voice shopping, will be used more, up until a point when it’s seen as something normal and mainstream as well.
How long will it take until we’re at that point? We can’t tell.
As with most new, emerging, technology, it still has some kinks to solve – like the ones mentioned above. But in an ever-developing technological world, we believe it will happen before we know it. Which makes us very excited for all the possibilities that it brings for eCommerce.