Famed battle for customer experience is now being waged on all levels of interaction imaginable. For retailers, reaching customers’ hearts (and wallets) is preceded by the need to firmly establish your foothold in their eyes and minds first. Yet, what about their speech and hearing senses? Voice search technology and chatbots sell themselves as a game changing element of the future customer experience and the final piece of the mosaic that shows us that retailing can & will take the form of what is imagined in the world of Star Trek or any other futuristic sci-fi show. Let us find out if the future is already beating down the door of your e-retailing business and whether you should welcome it or not.
Decoding the User Intent
Voice search technology makes a pledge to retailers that it will become the best “decoder” of user intent across the board. There has been a lot of talk about the concept of user intent, as a way of approaching customers as persons on a shopping “mission” which you want to help accomplish in the most convenient and fastest manner. As their intent is based around queries ranging from more complex “what dress should I wear for tonight’s gala?” to simpler “what is the best beer to get plastered on Friday night?”, voice search promises to do away with the traditional way to approach these online queries.
For starters, voice search technology promises to better understand the customer intent i.e. what they actually look for behind words entered into search engines. The key role played here is the one of artificial intelligence (AI) which enriches the basic search parameters and informs them with analytical data at its disposal. Considering that nearly 1 in 3 customers plan to make a purchase while using this technology, with 43% of millennials already leading the charge, you will do best to listen to the voices of your customers (literally) for now.
Fashioning Shopper Persona Out of Words
Amazon Echo, Cortana, Apple, Siri and Google Now are some of the most popular digital assistants in the market sharing a common feature – they employ the AI technology to make any voice-based search smarter for customers and richer in data for marketers and retailers to the extent that many American households utilize Alexa on a daily basis whether to listen to music, set reminders or add items to their Amazon shopping cart, having the items delivered to their doorstep the very next day (and groceries within 2 hours!).
The effects of the Amazon Echo on the retail industry will be profound. Just this year alone, Amazon is expected to ship more than 10 million Echo devices. The number of search queries made through voice is rising year-on-year. It is safe to assume that in a few years’ time, voice search will be one of the most popular and most convenient ways to search the internet, not just for information, but also with the intent to purchase.
Using voice search, the customers can speak naturally effortlessly. A question such as “[generic voice assistant] where can I purchase Adidas Stan Smith size 7”?” can help the shopper purchase what they have their mind set on buying, at a futuristic ease.
This simulated conversational style of this query makes it easier for retailers to better develop their shopper persona model depending on the stage of their customer journey. Based on this, they will be better equipped with information needed to fine tune their marketing campaigns in accordance with the user intent. This can involve messaging practices and the design of landing pages, as well as refining entire retail offer based on specific or most popular queries made by users.
The other side of the coin, however, is that customer experience is the new retail battlefield. Both online search and online marketing will need a fresh approach. Planet Retail’s head of global technology Miya Knights explains it perfectly: “We know that shoppers will not go past the second or third page of a Google search result – voice will be like that on steroids,” she says.
Convenience of Voice-Based Shopping
Going back to the second “banal” question about the choice of beer, the AI-powered voice search will still approach it with the seriousness and dedication of HAL 9000 and the retailers will surely know how to utilize its diligence. First of all, voice search platforms constantly gather huge amount of information about its users’ shopping preferences, ranging from their fashion choices to favorite weekend “poisons”. In case of fashion, for example, these digital assistants will diligently hoard information about the preferred brands and the customers’ pricing preferences and integrate them with a retailer’s application, helping the customer come up with the best possible assortment of products to choose from.
This goes in line with the findings of a report on internet trends which shows that retailers will want to pay attention to the context and convenience as the benefits offered by voice-based search technology. This involves the situations in which the shoppers have harder time making a purchase, such as when they are driving, making it necessary for retailers to offer them the assistance of the software-based front capable of understanding human speech. This voice recognition technology will allow for the conversation between the customer and the retailer’s AI-powered shopping assistants. These will act like your virtual personnel capable of understanding user’s requests and meeting them in the fastest and most convenient manner.
Visual Search Still Rules Supreme
Yet, the success of voice search technology will largely depend on its uptake and the ability to offer advantages over other technologies in pinpointing the user intent. And, when it comes to the latter, the visual search technology still rules supreme. Since the apparel customers are predominantly visually oriented, you’ll best serve their user intent if you approach it with intuitive and visually appealing design paired with advanced AI capabilities.
Consider an example of Fashion Lover as a fashion retailer utilizing Syte’s proprietary technology. Its visualized merchandise offer allows the shoppers to search for pieces of clothing which are similar to those they are observing at any given moment. Syte’s visual search engine is based on deep learning tech, allowing the buyers to simply hover over an image of an item in order and receive an offer of a whole range of similar products in their color, design, fabric or price range.
Syte’s technology goes beyond the convenience of offering customers the products which are compatible with their initial choice. To the benefit of both the customers and retailers, it spells death for the issues relating to currently unavailable sizes or out-of-stock items, as the Syte’s visual search engine offers the shoppers the closest matching alternative products for the look they shop for, as shown on the image below.
With Syte, unavailable sizes or out of stock items are no longer a problem for online retailers [Credit: Screenshot]
Voice search technology is already making a splash among the retailers, despite its relative novelty and slower uptake. The rationale behind its adoption relies heavily on your readiness to accept it as an equally important branch of the omnichannel, the same one you use to engage your customers and cover all bases when it comes to meeting their demands for convenience and personalization. Voice search has a role to play in making shopping a faster and smarter endeavor and your choice in the matter will depend on whether you want to play safe and wait on its breakthrough or take shortcuts to meet the inevitable future.