March 21, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Is eCommerce in the midst of a voice search revolution? Maybe.
But so far there’s little evidence to show that voice has had a dramatic effect on the way shoppers are buying things online.
Consider the following: an August 2018 survey from Social Lens Research found that just 10% of shoppers had purchased a new product using a voice command.1
And even though smart speakers like the Amazon Alexa have seen rapid adoption rates2, they have yet to move the needle in purchasing behaviors in any substantial way. Last year, tech news site The Information reported that only 2% of Alexa owners had ever used the smart speaker to make a purchase.3
Why Hasn’t Voice Commerce Taken Off?
Alexa, what’s the holdup?
Voice is well-suited for shoppers reordering regular purchases who already know what they want to buy—things like paper towels and laundry detergent. In those instances, voice is saving customers the trouble of typing, tapping, or clicking their repeat orders.
But voice isn’t always as good at helping shoppers on the path of discovery, those who might not know exactly what they want. These customers are likely to read product details, compare prices, and scan product Ratings & Reviews. That kind of browsing can become kludgy—if not downright impossible—for shoppers using a voice-only interface.
In one survey, RetailMeNot found that more than half of customers didn’t want to shop using a smart speaker because they wanted to see an item before they bought it, even if it was just an online picture.4
The takeaway? eCommerce sites can’t ignore the old way of doing things, even as voice search looms on the horizon. Traditional product detail pages that include visuals are still valuable.
And Customer-Generated Content—not just written reviews, but also rich media like shopper-submitted photos and videos you’d find in Visual Reviews—can help serve customer needs and guide them towards a purchase.
Voice Search Isn’t Just About Smart Speakers
Also, the conversation around voice tends to miss a key point: voice search isn’t just about smart speakers. eMarketer estimates that there will be 74.2 million smart speaker users in the US this year.5 But the company also projects that US smartphone users will number 232.2 million in 2019.6
In other words, there will be more than three times as many smartphone users as smart speaker users this year. And nearly everyone with a smartphone can access a voice assistant like Google Assistant, Siri, or even Amazon’s Alexa app. In fact, the Social Lens Research study found that 91% of voice commands are made on smartphones.
The New User Experience is Voice
Unlike shoppers using smart speakers, smartphone users who start their search with a voice query are likely to migrate from the voice interface to review results on their device’s screen. For these customers, voice is just another touchpoint on their path to purchase. Research, browsing, and even conversion can still take place on a more traditional interface: a screen.
As a result, search engine optimization (SEO) strategies that worked well in a pre-voice search world should also deliver results today, and in the near future. But there are still a few unique factors to voice SEO that ecommerce sites should keep in mind.
How to Optimize Your eCommerce Site for Voice SEO
- Speed matters. This is a fundamental pillar of all SEO. Search engines just like websites that are optimized for fast load times. There are a host of tools out there, such as Google’s Page Speed Insights, that can help you make your pages faster.
- Embrace natural language. In the world of voice search, queries are getting longer and more closely resemble how we talk, rather than how we type. TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews and Community Q&A products can help by populating your product detail pages with “conversational content” written by real people—your customers—that delivers better search results for voice users.
- Support snippets. Google’s “rich snippets” are the details placed between the URL and description of a search result. As we pointed out in our last blog post, TurnTo’s widget platform is fully indexable by Google. That means that Google searches will return the average star rating and number of reviews of your product pages right on the search engine results page. And that usually means better conversions.
- Answer questions. Voice searchers are more likely to phrase their queries in the form of a question. Bolstering your site’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) page can help with voice SEO because FAQ pages include both a question and an answer, something that’s irresistible to search engines. Just make sure the answers you supply are accurate and succinct.
Want to learn more about how TurnTo can help?
1 Voice Commands: Current State; Social Lens Research, October 2018
2 Smart Speakers Hit Critical Mass in 2018; TechCrunch, December 2018
3 The Reality Behind Voice Shopping Hype; The Information, August 2018
4 The 2019 Retailer Playbook; RetailMeNot, November 2018
5 Global Smart Speaker Users 2019; eMarketer, January 2019
6 eMarketer: US Smartphone Usage Will Grow 3% to 232.8M People This Year; March 2019