The Future of Voice-Powered Commerce

December 5, 2018 | Chris Caputo


“Alexa, can you add paper towels to my shopping cart?” Voice search, which once seemed like science-fiction, is increasingly becoming a common way not only to access information, but also to shop online. For over 15 percent of Americans, a small countertop item—Alexa, Google Home, Cortana—has deftly managed to bestow an incredible feeling of purchasing power. Voicebot’s infographic history of “smart speakers” shows these assistants have surged well beyond early IBM and Microsoft voice recognition software or the 2011 launch of handheld Siri: We speak, and our wish arrives at our doorstep.

But if you’re looking at smart devices from a business standpoint, it’s a slightly different story. How can you leverage voice-powered commerce, specifically for optimizing your product pages for voice search?

Voice Engine Optimization Tip List

Lengthen Those Phrases.

Shopper Pattern: Voice-activated shopping involves more natural language than was previously typed into Google searches. Most of us are in the habit of searching with very little written text—we know that a few words will land us the best and fastest results. But when consumers talk to their smart speakers, they tend to use more elaborate shopping questions and full sentences.

Company Strategy: For the seller, this means product listings can’t rely on short, one-word bits only. Item descriptions now need to match consumers’ typical browsing queries.

“The user asking their voice device a question is likely using a fairly conversational tone, and your site needs to respond in a similar fashion.”—Hussein Ebied, Pacific, Senior Director of Strategy

Use site language that is human and as non-robotic as possible. Research the long-tail keywords used in your industry. Write your website’s content like people talk.

More is Better.

Shopper Pattern: Historically, multi-taskers are using voice-powered smart speakers to shop for items they can’t see.  Many smartphone users still rely on Siri for digital quick search, but more shoppers are sending their queries to a smart speaker. So, they depend on the voice assistant to give them a good explanation of the product’s appearance and function.

Smart displays, however, are the next hot thing—Amazon’s Echo Show and the Google Home Hub are advancing in popularity—adding a small screen to the power of voice search. Shoppers ask their question, and the device pops up a picture and an answer. Smart displays are the marriage of mobile phone mini-screens and smart speaker convenience.

Company Strategy: So, basic voice commerce SEO means more web info, additional descriptive phrases. Isabella Andersen of RevLocal suggests, “Provide valuable content around those keywords so that the consumers who find [your product] through those keywords get exactly what they’re looking for.” The search engine results page (SERP) is still a priority.

But to optimize for smart screens—which, says analyst Derek Hawkins, “retrieve one answer and display that one alone without the option to explore other options,” achieving top-of-SERP placement depends largely on keyword snippets (Keep reading!) and on a holistic approach to site development—including metadata, video content, and brand-specific images.

Consider Snippets.

Shopper Pattern: Over time, consumer requests to their voice assistants or smart displays start to sound the same. The device learns these questions and optimizes based on typical shopper needs.

Company Strategy: The name of the game is still customer engagement. In the voice-powered marketing world, you can increase engagement by creating a Google “snippet” based on the experience your product or service provides to users. A snippet is the answer box at the top of the SERP that features keywords. Once this capability is in place, the device starts to learn and use that paragraph (or list or table)—displaying your snippet and product on the smart screen or sending consumers to your site when that particular query is voiced to the smart device.

Keep it Simple.

Shopper Pattern: Consumer queries may have gotten longer, but they’re still trusting that their verbal questions will land the right items in their site carts. They’re buying straight from the smart speaker or smart display because they want a simple and streamlined experience.

Company Strategy: Simplify the number of product options. TechRepublic’s Matt Asay advises, “Offer less choice in order to sell more.” So, yes, within each product listing, detail is very important for smart device shoppers. (See prior point.) But, keep the total number of options small. Capitalize on making those few targeted, precise, and clear.

Questions Need Answers.

Shopper Pattern: Shopping via voice assistant depends on a Q&A experience—finding out everything via the device. As a result, people ask their smart speaker many more questions about products before any final transaction happens.

Company Strategy: FAQ site sections are significant. Adding a list of common queries, plus a brief, helpful answer to each, better optimizes each product for search. Search Engine Journal suggests examining your reviews to discover potential questions—then creating a matching list of answers using natural language.

Create an Experience.

Shopper Pattern: With a hands-free, talk-across-the-room shopping device at their beck and call, consumers tend to enjoy a longer consideration of each item before transacting. Clicking through to other pages is replaced by a fuller, more in-depth interest in the voice-assistant-suggested product.

Company Strategy: Convert your site experience by adding related value and lengthening customer engagement. Recode mentions Campbell’s soup recipes, Patron Spirits’ cocktail education, and Tide fabric-specific detergent advice as good examples of increasing recognition by adding utility to the brand.

Forward Thinking

Voice assistants are no longer a wave of the future, but are increasing daily to become a very real part of American life. Smart speakers are now in use by over 47 million Americans — and that transformation happened within just two years, a startlingly fast pace of tech adoption. Businesses’ efforts to optimize their online experience for voice-powered commerce are catching up quickly. Following experts’ advice to develop keyword snippets, rich media content, and conversational language will position companies to better reach their goals in this era defined by digital assistants.

Topics: SEO e-Commerce AI

About the Author
Chris Caputo

Chris Caputo is a strategic marketing technologist with over 20 years of BtoB, BtoC and agency experience. An accomplished strategic marketing leader, Chris has extensive experience architecting marketing communication plans, digital marketing roadmaps, user experience planning, and developing digital customer acquisition, conversion and retention strategies. Having led BtoB marketing departments for a variety of companies and digital agencies, Chris has developed a rounded set of skills that include a depth of multiple marketing disciplines (PR, Advertising & Direct Marketing) overlapped with Digital, Print and Broadcast channels.

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