The fastest-growing consumer technology since the smartphone is the smart speaker. Are you ready for the next retail revolution?

Liz Fogerty, chief strategy officer, Edge Marketing

Though nowhere near what mobile shopping is today, smart brands and retailers know voice-enabled commerce is influencing the way consumers behave, and they are starting to figure out how to best ‘speak’ to shoppers.

Consider what Nike accomplished earlier this year when it supplemented its voice campaign with traditional television ads and product sponsorship tactics for the launch of its Adapt BB basketball shoe with power-lacing technology. Collaborating with Google Assistant, TV ads during NBA games encouraged consumers to “Ask Google” for details about the shoe. Responses were then video recorded by basketball stars.

The result was Nike selling out its pre-release inventory in six minutes. Great for them, of course, but the industry as a whole learned a valuable lesson: The emerging v-commerce space requires a unique, multichannel approaches to entice consumers to use voice devices to shop.

Can you imagine a future when a network of devices can detect anomalies in voice, sentiment or environment and make intelligent recommendations that lead to transactions?

Voice-enabled commerce can’t do it alone though. At this point in its evolution it’s better served as a growing piece of the digital ecosystem that enables consumers and shoppers to rapidly expand their knowledge, access and overall connectivity into the digital landscape. But that is changing quickly.

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What’s ahead for voice commerce

Consider the patent filed by Amazon recently that will potentially enable Alexa to sense changes in a person’s voice to infer an underlying need state and make recommendations preemptively. Can you imagine a future when a network of devices can detect anomalies in voice, sentiment or environment and make intelligent recommendations that lead to transactions?

Or even more striking, imagine a time when smart speaker technology can give context to moments and events that link products to shoppers. You ask, “Where’s the closest pizza restaurant?” and in addition to some local restaurant options you also hear: “Target has Newman’s Own Thin & Crispy pizza on sale for $5 and can deliver via Shipt in one hour. If you order two, you can add a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola products for 1 cent.”

Four voice commerce tips

That will indeed be a sea-change moment for voice-enabled commerce, and it’s not that far away. So how do retailers and brands best leverage the potential of v-commerce?

  1. Find your “voice”: Brands need to stay ahead of the curve and get on the top of the voice list today. With limited voice search results available, being the chosen item within a category will be essential for placement in a voice cart and voice ordering. But the power of voice won’t be limited to just getting on the list, but actually being the answer/solution to the question being asked. Brands that can imbed in a relevant, organic way have the best chance of winning the purchase.
  2. Turn interest into purchase: Brands need to work their search engine optimization insights, product recommendations and research previously purchased orders in their voice marketing campaigns for higher conversion to purchase rates.
  3. Prioritize voice technology: Like all marketing tactics, voice commerce will require attention and patience. Think strategically across all your marketing touch points. Big brands like Nike and Disney have successfully delivered voice technology promotions as part of holistic campaigns that drive consumers to voice for conversion.
  4. Don’t neglect replenishment opportunities: Sure, it’s the low-hanging fruit of voice commerce, but the fact is consumers are more confident using voice for replenishment orders because they can use a simple command to reorder that product. Use the data from your digital platforms and compare it to top-selling categories in voice shopping to create new opportunities for sales and ROI in the voice space.

The future of voice commerce is growing louder—this technology is becoming part of homes across the country and will continue to grow and become an integral part of the path to purchase. The question that remains is simply are you ready to listen?

Edge Marketing offers services in such areas as ecommerce, brand development, media planning, shopper marketing and social media management.

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