Voice commerce image by Thomas Kolnowski
8th Feb 2021

Voice commerce: the pros and cons for your ecommerce business

Voice commerce allows customers to purchase products or services through a voice-enabled smart device, such as Google Home or Amazon Echo. Using this technology, ecommerce businesses can provide their customers with a unique purchasing experience.

The more developed AI becomes, the easier it’ll be for search engines and smart technology to understand and interpret increasingly complex voice commands. For this reason, there are exciting predictions for the future of voice search and commerce, which is why it’s important to learn about its benefits now. In this article, we’ll detail the advantages and disadvantages of voice commerce for your ecommerce business. If you’re unsure whether to take the leap and invest in voice, you’ve come to the right place!

Advantages of voice commerce for business

Purchasing convenience

Your customers no longer need to journey through a website checkout process. Instead, they can purchase your products or services with just a few spoken words. Purchasing convenience is a major advantage for customers, allowing them to bypass a lengthy checkout process. It’s estimated that 13.5 billion smart home devices will be actively used by 2025. Whilst voice commerce will be a hit on smart speakers, it won’t be long until your customers will be offered even more convenience. Purchases will be widely made from a car’s dashboard interface, buying products from a smartwatch and many other mediums. With technological developments, the purchasing process is only going to get easier.

Review convenience

In a 2018 report, Bazaarvoice reported that 64% of surveyed shoppers considered ratings and reviews important in their purchasing decision, along with other user generated content. However, getting your customers to leave reviews can be difficult. With voice based commerce, the process is simplified. You can prompt your customers to leave a review, and all they have to do is say a few words to log it. This convenience makes it easier for customers to provide a detailed review. As a result, you’ll have more reviews to use as social proof and more feedback to help improve your products or services in the future.

Customer data

With relevant customer data you can personalise marketing, discounts and up-sell related products in order to increase conversions. Item choice, regularity of purchase and add-on items can provide real insight into what your customers want and when they want it. An Accenture report found that a staggering 91% of consumers were more likely to shop with brands who provided relevant offers and recommendations. The more individualised your customers feel their experience is, the more they’ll want to shop. In turn, the more purchasing data you have, and the more personalised you can make their brand experience. Voice commerce provides the window to that information, making it quicker and easier to obtain.

Opportunities for growth

In 2025, it’s estimated that smart home devices will carry out around £145 billion worth of transactions. Currently, the voice commerce market is dominated by companies like Amazon, but there are opportunities for new businesses to tap into that market due to its infancy. To embrace voice commerce, you’ll need to create a ‘skill’ (used for Amazon devices) or an ‘action’ (for Google devices). At Versantus, we created an Amazon skill for Badminton Horse Trials, which shows how far you can tailor an experience for your customers. Using skills and actions, you can create fresh customer experiences which are synonymous with your brand. Starbucks paved the way when they teamed up with Alibaba and their smart speaker, Tmall Genie. Customers can order coffee for delivery and receive personalised purchase recommendations through a smart speaker. They even enabled streaming of Starbuck’s in-store playlist on Tmall Genie for a realistic coffee shop experience. Whilst this is currently only available to customers in China, Starbucks have proved it’s possible to harness voice commerce’s technology whilst immersing customers in a brand experience.

Disadvantages of voice commerce for business

Lack of visuals

Visuals help build connection. They create attachment between your brand and your customers. So what happens when those visuals are taken away?

It’s a lot harder for customers to trust you if they can’t see your products. This puts pressure on brands to connect with their customers through a website or app first. However, solutions that integrate the power of both voice commerce and visuals, like Amazon’s Echo Show, will inevitably provide customers with a richer experience.

Privacy and security concerns

When it was revealed conversations with smart home assistants had been recorded and listened to, people became distrusting of the technology. It’s taken a lot of clarification and explanation for users to put their trust back in these devices, and many still aren’t convinced. With this in mind, you should be transparent about what data your skill or action collects, how it’s used and how it’s obtained. Your openness will give your customers peace of mind that their purchases and conversations will stay private.

Another key security concern for users is how easy it is to make unauthorised purchases with voice commerce. For example, with a few words your children could unknowingly purchase anything they want, in any quantity. In a 2019 study, 81% of customers said they felt most comfortable when a password was required in the purchasing process. Adding security features like voice codes before purchases are completed will protect your customer’s privacy, security and trust. Regardless of what security measures you put in place, they shouldn’t be an afterthought. If your customer’s privacy is breached, they won’t forget it in a hurry!

Pre-existing connection is required

Whether your customers are shopping from their smart home assistant, smart watch or AI fridge, they need to know who you are before they purchase from you. Voice search and commerce are designed for specific queries and specific products. If users don’t know about your business, it’s unlikely they’ll find you. For this reason, voice commerce is currently best suited to brands who have a pre-existing customer base. In this case, your customers are more likely to download your skill or action in order to purchase your products specifically. If you’re in the process of building your customer base, taking time to create a bespoke action or skill will reap rewards in the long run. As long as your customers find value in the experience you provide through voice commerce, they’ll continue using it as a convenient method of shopping.

Specific items for specific queries

Convenience is the main selling point of voice commerce, but that comes at a cost for businesses. Shopping through a voice-enabled device means your customers can’t scroll through your products before purchasing. For example, when an item is bought through a smart home assistant, the customer would have queried a singular, specific product to find it. Browsing isn’t a step in the process because the customer knows exactly what they want. For this reason, Argos created a Google action that allows customers to reserve a specific item and collect it in-store. This works well for Argos because it mirrors their in-store experience. Their customer base knows what they’re looking for, so with the Argos Google action they can bypass flicking through the catalogue and go straight to the purchase.

However, not all businesses follow Argos’ model. The challenge is to increase conversion value, even when your customers can’t browse your products. Make sure you provide recommendations and discounts on related products to get the most out of each voice commerce transaction. When in doubt, look at what the big brands are doing to entice customers to spend more. The more fluid the voice commerce experience feels, the more likely you’ll get repeat business.

Voice commerce for your ecommerce business

Voice commerce is in its infancy, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of commercial opportunities. Whilst it has notable disadvantages, the inevitable technological developments and advantages make it a viable tool for growth. Voice commerce is done best when it’s integrated with websites or apps, providing customers with a robust brand experience. At Versantus, we specialise in making complex solutions simple for businesses, which includes Alexa skills and Google actions. If you’ve got an upcoming voice technology project you’d like guidance on, or you’re interested in how we can help your business’ digital growth, drop us a message

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