7 Components of a Voice Commerce Strategy Today

Smart speakers are now used by more than 60 million U.S. adults with a 40% annual growth rate and there are twice as many monthly active users of voice assistants on smartphones. The adoption rate of voice is actually faster in many countries that have more recently gained access to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Voice assistants quickly transitioned from a novelty to a robust and active consumer engagement channel.

While most of the early brand activity related to voice assistants has focused on engagement, commerce is increasingly rising on the priority list. A recent Juniper Research forecast estimates that consumers will spend $80 billion in annual purchases through voice assistants by 2023. Walmart, Best Buy, Kroger, and others are now implementing voice commerce strategies because the trends suggest it will soon be an important channel for consumer purchases.

After years of optimizing web and mobile properties for shopping, voice assistants represent the next channel where brands will reach consumers for low-friction product sales. However, voice is different. Sometimes with no visual component, almost always with a dependence on voice assistant intermediaries, and a new shopping model, many brands are just starting to grapple with the implications and how to approach the opportunity. XAPPmedia is working with global brands on their voice commerce strategies and enablement and we focus on seven key components to get started:

1. Enable Purchases
2. Connect Consumers Directly to Brand
3. In-app Product Search & Selection
4. Fulfillment
5. Customer Data
6. Voice SEO
7. Promotion

1. Enable Purchases

It may not seem obvious that you need to enable purchasing in your voice app, but it is a necessary first step. Alexa skills and Google Actions are not voice commerce ready out-of-the-box. If you are not going to use their native purchasing through Amazon.com or Google Express, you need to add purchasing capabilities such as Amazon Pay or implement an account linking step so consumers can buy from your brand directly. These are strategic decisions about how to approach the purchase process and some brands opt for multiple options.

2. Connect Consumers Directly to the Brand

Brands already on Amazon.com or Google Express can steer consumers toward executing transactions through Alexa and Google Assistant respectively. However, those services enable purchases from a wide variety of brands, retailers, and product categories. The assistants also completely control the user experience. If you are going to steer your consumers toward voice shopping, the best approach is to have them land in a voice app you control. This enables you to customize the experience, create unique promotions, and optimize product search in a way you cannot when the assistant is answering user queries.

3. In-app Product Search & Selection

Optimizing product search within an app is a function of the design, content management, and natural language understanding (NLU) optimization. From a design standpoint the idea is to make it easy for users to find products, tailor the information they need for a voice interaction, and complete a purchase decision. Voice user experience design is a different discipline than visual design and poor choices can lead to consumers abandoning the shopping process right at the beginning.

You also need to employ a content management approach that makes your products easily discoverable, provides product information that is optimized for voice only communication, and is easy to maintain. These are often overlooked nuances of voice app design that can have a big impact on success. Finally, the natural language understanding (NLU) design for the voice app involves understanding how the voice assistants interpret consumer requests and also how best to tune the solution over time based on user interactions. Post-launch NLU tuning is a key activity that XAPP incorporates into all voice app projects.

4. Fulfillment

As mentioned, brands who are already connected to Amazon Alexa or Google Express can use these platforms for both transactions and fulfillment. The key here is to work with whomever your fulfillment partner is to ensure that the product is ready and available for shipment. In instances where your brand team is considering a “bundled” or promotional program where multiple products are shipped together, the complexity of fulfillment is elevated and more consideration needs to go into the upfront planning process.

5. Customer Data

Depending on what you’re hoping to achieve from engaging in a voice commerce program, the data required to validate ROI can vary. Some brands are looking to better understand how accepting consumers are of purchasing a combination of varying products as part of a total solution such as a party pack of soft drinks and snacks for a pregame party. Other brands are more interested in getting consumers accustomed to using voice to specify their brands as opposed to allowing a platform to use its algorithm to make those choices for the consumer. Still others just want to begin to understand what role consumers want their brand to play in voice and how they can become a bigger part of a consumer’s life. So, what’s key in the data collection process is to be clear about your goals so you’re collecting data that allows you to understand performance and to optimize the experience.   

6. Voice SEO

The shopping process is preceded by voice app discovery. Voice SEO involves different strategies than traditional web SEO. Securing position zero in web search can provide benefits when consumers search through Alexa and Google Assistant, but there are also techniques that can help Alexa skill and Google Action discovery with direct referral traffic. Nameless invocation  (CanFulfillIntentRequest) in the Alexa ecosystem and Implicit Invocations for Google Assistant  are tools that can raise your voice app’s visibility when general queries are asked which you can successfully address.

7. Promotion

Brands learned early in both the web and mobile eras that promotion was critical to raise awareness among consumers about digital properties and their key features. This is also true for voice apps. Every voice commerce strategy should include promotion. A core advantage of voice apps is the opportunity to form consumer habits, particularly around reordering. The low friction for reorder when all you need to do is speak, can be a long-term advantage in maintaining existing customers and can even lead to higher purchase frequency. However, the first step is getting consumers to try your voice app and promotion is the best path to start the entire process.

Benefits of Being Early

Voice commerce represents the beginning of a new consumer shopping channel. It will mature over several years, but there are several advantages available to early movers. First, consumers are beginning to expect a voice presence from brands and having it today helps ensure shopper expectations are met. Second, the earlier a brand is able to engage with voice shoppers, the sooner it can optimize the voice app NLU based on user activity. Those efforts will lead to more successful voice shopping experiences. Third, a strong voice shopping presence will also help brands establish voice SEO ranking before competitors become entrenched.

Many consumer brands and retailers are focused on being wherever the consumer is when ready to start a shopping process. True omnichannel strategies today increasingly demand that voice commerce readiness is part of that strategy. To learn more about how you can become voice commerce ready, click the button below to connect with a XAPPmedia voice strategist.