Marketers say that in order to anticipate what the customer wants, you have to know what they’re thinking. With voice apps becoming more and more commonplace — now the customer can actually tell you.
Perhaps the biggest evidence that shows a marked shift in how customers search is found within the biggest movers and shakers in both e-commerce and search — Amazon and Google.
Within 2016 alone, voice-based search went from zero to 10% of all search volume. Today, 20% of all searches have voice-based intent, and by 2020, ComScore estimates that half of all searches will be done by voice. But there are a few notable stumbling blocks.
Back in 2013, Google’s spoken word accuracy was below 80%. A few years later, it has improved to above 90%. Chinese search engine Baidu’s voice recognition accuracy rate is above 95%. This sounds great on paper, but 99% accuracy is what everyone is striving for. The difference can be profound — as in the old joke of Jeff Bezos asking the Echo to buy olives at Whole Foods when instead, it understood that he wanted it to buy “all of Whole Foods”.
We’re not there yet, but we will be soon — and when that happens, you can expect voice-enabled search adoption to explode.
Beyond the accuracy of the spoken word, however, there are also significant differences in how we speak to search versus how we type. While you may search for “pizza places near (your city)”, you’re much more likely to be conversational with a voice-enabled device. Amazon Echo understands that you want a “pepperoni pizza with extra cheese” from Dominos, and can have it delivered to your door. No typing necessary.
You can see how this would blow right by competing ads — both paid and organic — and instead skew the playing field in favor of those companies that want to invest a sizeable amount in being the preferred provider for that product or service. Service providers like Uber, Kayak and Dominos have already made huge gains in setting themselves up for such a voice-based brand domination windfall.
In the meantime, there’s a rush from both Amazon and Google to dominate the automated home assistant market. With the release of the Amazon Echo and Google Home, there’s a definite face-off between the leader in e-commerce and the leader in search. What remains to be seen, however, is just how much of a role these apps actually play in promoting a purchase.
With the Amazon Echo, voice-based commands are denoted into specific categories called “skills”. Although Amazon won’t reveal how many categories there are or how many of their voice-based skills are branded, some estimates believe the number currently hovers around 25,000.
Using skills, you can, for example, have Tide help you get stains out, or question Nestle for a good dinner recipe. Patron launched it’s voice skill last July as part of a larger marketing campaign known as the Cocktail Lab. With the Cocktail Lab, fifty different bartenders from around the world shared their tequila-infused drink recipes. Over 350,000 users tried the Cocktail Lab, and 10% of those users came from using the Alexa (Echo)-based skill.
Traffic to the company’s website was up over 4% as well, and the research revealed that Echo users spent more time on site browsing and saving recipes as well. Worth the investment? Only time will tell.
Not surprisingly, much of what can be done with voice-based search is centered around analytics. GoodNes, the Nestle app that uses Amazon Echo skills, lets you search recipes, see (or tell) what ingredients are needed, email you the recipe or show you nutritional information, among other things.
Determining how the user searches and what they search for using voice could very well shed light on potential new products or combinations. It’s the kind of one-on-one insight that traditional focus groups simply can’t compare to.
Much like how the early versions of web pages were simple brochures, the beginnings of voice apps are more gimmicky than practical. In addition to its selection of branded skills, Amazon also carries apps that start a “psychopath test” or “open a box of cats” (the app will meow or make an animal sound).
However, as these devices continue to gain more traction in voice accuracy and more proliferation in homes, you’ll start to see a marked trend toward asking them to help with nearly anything. Much in the same way that today’s websites go well beyond their brochure-based forebears, to be accessed and interacted with from smartphones and other devices, so too will voice-based search make it easier to quickly browse and order the products and services you use most.
Although it seems like only big brands will be able to take advantage of the shift in voice-based searches and purchases, we’re only truly scratching the surface of the full potential of these types of apps. Both Amazon and Google know that it’s not in their best interest to simply become a herd pen for branded apps — and that relevancy is the name of the game.
For business owners, the push is on to keep doing what we’re doing — cultivating customer engagement, open discussion, problem-solving and an overall helpful experience. No matter what the underlying technology driving a customer’s inquiry, excelling at these skills will set you far ahead of your competition.
Even though we’re in the infancy of voice-driven e-commerce now, the breakneck pace with which new devices are made, coupled with the increase in voice-based accuracy, are going to create more and more opportunities for apps to transform the e-commerce marketplace.
In a year or two, it’s possible we’ll look at text-based search the way we look at our old MySpace page — with a twinge of nostalgia and an overwhelming sense of relief over how much better, faster and more intuitive things are today.
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About the Authors: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!
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