The Voice Shopping Future

According to Keith Anderson, SVP Strategy and Insight, Profitero, “Over the last 15 years… there've been at least a dozen technologies described as potential game changers, but… voice has clearly emerged as a truly game-changing technology… you now increasingly hear retailers, and especially brands, talk about mobile first, voice second.”

The report says that study after study points to the phenomenal growth of voice-activated devices like the Amazon Echo or Google Home, driven by the rapid change in how shoppers are searching for information online. 20% of mobile queries were made by voice in 2016, with ComScore predicting that 50% of all searches will be voice within the next three years. Amazon reported that the Echo Dot was the best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category across Amazon globally on Cyber Monday 2017.

US Voice-Enabled Speaker User Share in 2017 (Individuals of any age who use a voice-enabled speaker at least once a month.)

Amazon Echo


Google Home




Source: eMarketer, April 2017

In The Future of eCommerce, Kantar Retail says  “Voice commerce is yet another technological vehicle that… allows consumers to make real-time purchasing decisions, creating a shopping environment that is both ad-hoc and spontaneous.”

So what should brands be doing now to get ready for the voice shelf?

It’s clear that voice-activated shopping is big and only set to get bigger, but many companies are unsure about where to even start with their voice strategy.

The report outlines key tactics to consider focusing on now, noting that basic eCommerce optimization, (e.g a good search ranking, accurate and complete product content, as well as highly-rated and well priced products) is the foundation to a successful voice strategy.

Aim for an Amazon’s Choice designation

  • Unlike traditional web-based shopping today, there is no notion of search rankings and, currently, there’s no way to sponsor search results on voice devices like the Echo. Consultancy Bain & Co. has found that if a shopper is making a first-time purchase of a given item without specifying a brand, Alexa frequently recommends "Amazon's Choice" products before the top search result.
  • When shoppers use Echo to make a purchase, Amazon will first look for Prime-eligible products in their order history and offer those for purchase. If a matching item isn’t found there, Alexa will look for “Amazon’s Choice” items next and then search through all Prime-eligible products.
  • An Amazon’s Choice designation has the potential to establish individual products as the first or only option presented when unbranded queries are submitted by shoppers. While Amazon hasn’t disclosed how products are included in Amazon’s Choice list, products tend to be highly rated, well- priced items eligible for Prime shipping.

Embrace voice-search optimization (If Alexa cannot find an Amazon’s Choice product, Alexa will then look for products that are most relevant to keywords given by the shopper.

  • Here it’s important to know that voice search or spoken queries tend to be more ‘long tail’ than text queries. For example, says the report, a typical text-based search query may be: ‘Restaurants in Boston’. Contrast this with a voice-led, action- oriented search query which might ask: ‘Which restaurants are now open for lunch in Boston?’ Because of this, it's important to optimize around phrases that mimic how people actually talk.
  • Dirk Ploss,Head of Global eCommerce Multichannel, Beiersdorf says
  • “I believe that voice search will become a new standard in search… it will be absolutely inevitable to do a very good job on voice search optimization (VSEO), the algorithm must be among the top three search results, as nobody will listen to more than three suggestions.”

Get your product content in order

  • When an Amazon shopper asks Alexa to “tell me more” about a product, they’ll hear one or more feature bullets before being asked if they want to buy it, says the report. When faced with wordy sentences, Alexa selects the bullets that can be read within a limited timeframe (typically 16-20 seconds).
  • Products with short, concise, and conversational product-detail page content fare best on voice-enabled devices, according to Trinity Hartman | Director of Content, Content26. “Brands that want to create a great shopping experience on Alexa need to pay attention to content. One garbled bullet will make your content unlistenable, says Hartman.” 

Consider promoting products via Alexa Deals, (special offers on items such as everyday essentials, available exclusively on Alexa devices.)

  • Promoting your products as an Alexa Deal will help to train shoppers to buy your products, as they will appear in the shopper’s purchase history and therefore jump to the top of the list when they search for a similar item in the future, using their Alexa device. Profitero analytics show that a Mentos Gumproduct rose from a negligible share of the Gum category to a 35% share in the course of a few days, just by using an Alexa promotion.

Think about experimenting with an Alexa Skill

  • Amazon has developed more than 15,000 skills or ‘apps’ for use with the Echo, and it’s an area many brands are dabbling in as they begin to experiment with voice technology.

Campbell became one of the earliest CPG brands to launch an Echo ‘skill’ or app in 2015, enabling Echo users to ask for recipes from “Campbell’s Kitchen,” the company’s portal for cooking-related content, as they’re in the process of adding items to their grocery lists, says the report.

Concluding, the report says that the growing popularity of voice devices serves as a powerful reminder of just how quickly voice technology is making its way into shoppers' households. More and more shoppers will use voice search to actually ask for the products they’re looking for, and it’s going to be increasingly important that your products are well optimized for the ‘invisible’ shelf.

For additional information, please visit Profitero here.


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