Ashwin Ramesh, CEO at Synup, believes voice search and services are increasingly and rapidly becoming an important part of selecting a local retailer. This is based on data that company analyzed.
Search Insider highlighted some of the numbers in The State of Retail 2019 report earlier this week, but I wanted to know more about how voice contributes to the consumer's relationship with local retailers and businesses.
Search Insider: Why do you think 35% say voice search is an important part of selecting a local retailer?
Ramesh: Voice search is growing considerably as an important source of information about local retailers due to a few reasons. First, it’s increasingly a part of our lives as voice-enabled digital assistants and their corresponding devices are becoming commonplace in U.S. households. Fifty-five percent of U.S. households will own a smart speaker, with a digital assistant, by 2022.
As the report makes clear, smart device saturation is really driving a lot of this growth, and most smart devices are now equipped with a digital assistant -- from Siri to Alexa, Cortana to Google Assistant. The availability of voice search is becoming ubiquitous.
While smartphones are the most critical device for finding and choosing local retailers, about 25% of people think smartwatches, 31% of smart TVs, 34% of smart speakers, and 37% of connected cars are highly important to store selection. All of these are largely dependent on voice search.
Respondents also made it clear that they expect fast, accurate and relevant information about a business in their immediate vicinity. This information often needs to be delivered in a hands-free environment such as when a person is walking, taking a train, multitasking or driving.
The AI powering these voice-search results has significantly improved in the last few years, which makes the use of this service more reliable. Reliability of voice search results is building trust and driving greater usage among consumers. And with AI, the more you use it, the smarter it gets, so we expected adoption of voice search to increase dramatically in the new couple of years.
SI: Despite the growth of ecommerce, 56% of consumers still report they frequently shop at local retailers. Why is this important?
Ramesh: It’s important for multi-location retail brands to understand there are ways to counter the growing influence and market share of ecommerce. It’s a real threat backed by some of the most powerful organizations in the world. Retail brands need to adapt to how people find, learn about and choose retailers at the local level.
People require instant gratification with relevant and engaging business information and content across a wide range of devices and media channels. They treat retail business selection like they treat social media profiles. They judge and choose retailers based on their local digital identity. That digital identity increasingly defined by digital profiles across search engines, voice search, social media, as well as review, travel and map apps.
If local retailers can more effectively curate, optimize and deliver the local business content they are showing people when they are found across these channels, they’re much more likely to get them to come into their stores, coming the local business rather than ecommerce retailers. Some 85% prefer to shop at physical stores vs. online, according to the study’s findings.
Local brick-and-mortar retailers need to engage with consumers, then convert them immediately. That requires becoming much more sophisticated in how the retailer delivers a relevant experience to shoppers. The report shows real-time feeds of available products in-store, along with a host of other content like photos, reviews and coupons, are critical to customer acquisition.
Do this and retailers will be able to more effectively compete with Amazon.
SI: About 77% of consumers say they place significant weight on retailers’ visibility and accuracy across search media channels. What does this say about the way consumers search online to find local retailers?
Ramesh: If you aren’t visible, as a retailer, across these media with accurate, relevant and engaging business content, consumers are going to look the other way.
You need to provide increasingly personalized information based on people’s search behavior, the ultimate indicator of intent and purchase consideration, to compete in this new retail environment.
Retailers must do this whether or not they are an ecommerce retailer or a multi-location brick-and-mortar brand.