Voice commerce – say what you want to buy 

04.10.2023 Katarzyna Zajchowska

Nowadays, e-commerce is, in fact, a set of different forms and techniques enabling customers to get products. One of those forms is based on voice. Voice commerce is a technique that uses voice assistants to take customer orders. In other words – you can literally say what you want to buy and then buy it. What should you know about this technology? 

When you take a look at available data, you can come to the conclusion that the prime time for voice commerce has not yet come. In fact, back in 2021, it was just a minor trend. Today, though, e-commerce transactions value via voice assistants has already exceeded $19 billion: 

Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1256695/ecommerce-voice-assistant-transactions/  

As you can see, the popularity of this form of online trade is on the rise. Perhaps it’s a good idea for your online store to give it a shot. If so, you surely need to know more about this technology. Let’s see what voice commerce is about. 

How does voice commerce work? 

Generally speaking, voice commerce is based on voicebots or virtual assistants (that, by the way, are an integral part of the omnichannel experience). Voicebots can understand what the customer is saying and respond to a specific request, e.g., by placing a selected product in the cart and completing the purchasing process without the need to type or click anything on the screen. 

In order to work effectively, voicebots need several technologies to enable them to work. First off, we need NLU and NLP – natural language understanding and processing. NLU is what makes voicebots actually understand what the customer is saying. Just like humans, virtual assistants must first understand the command and then process it in order to act on it. 

The next technology we need is ASR. This acronym stands for automated speech recognition. It’s a technology that converts spoken language into written text, which is easier for virtual assistants to process. ASR systems use algorithms and machine learning to analyze audio input and transcribe it into a textual form. 

And lastly, we need our voicebot to respond to user queries and commands, e.g., by saying, “order has been processed”. The technology enabling just that is called TTS – text-to-speech. It’s a technology that converts written text into spoken language. TTS systems use synthesized speech to reproduce (say) the text audibly. 

Of course, it’s not all colorful. We are nowhere near super-advanced virtual assistants that can communicate almost like humans. The problem is complex, but a big part of it lies with ASR. You see, modern ASR algorithms cannot comprehend non-verbal aspects of voice communication. Every grunt, every chuckle, different tone of voice – all of that is beyond the possibilities of ASR-based programs. We could say that they understand human speech in its very raw form.  

How can you use voice commerce? 

Of course, if you run an online store, you’ll need a voicebot or a virtual assistant capable of understanding and acting on voice commands. There are several such assistants out there, including Amazon Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.  

Imagine a simple scenario: We have a customer who’s currently cleaning their house. They are cleaning windows, and they’ve just noticed that the window cleaner is almost out. Such a customer can use the voice assistant device and say the command to add window cleaner to the shopping list in their favorite online store. The list now contains six different products, so the voicebot places the order – all without stopping work or firing up the computer. The convenience is indisputable. 

Surely, there are some limitations. For instance, you wouldn’t use this technology to order shoes or any other non-standard product. You still want the opportunity to browse different options and think about what you want to order. But with simple or less important products, this could work, correct? 

Voice commerce: Example 

Let’s go back to Amazon Alexa. This voice assistant is connected to Amazon, one of the biggest marketplaces out there. Alexa can give recommendations based on real customer ratings and let you know of great deals on Amazon.com. You can say several commands that Alexa will understand and process. Here are a few examples: 

  • Say: “Add laundry detergent to my cart.” 
  • Ask: “What’s the most popular dog food?” 
  • Ask: “What are my deals?” 

Take a look at this short video to see how voice shopping via Alexa works:  

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Jr37Zt5y2VY%3Fsi%3De09OM-qNvvQkRQcG

Predictions about the future 

As this technology continues to advance, we can expect voice commerce to become a bigger part of our shopping habits and maybe even daily lives. For example, we can expect that voice assistants will become increasingly personalized and predictive.  

Most likely, shortly, voicebots will learn from users’ preferences, behaviors, and past interactions to offer tailored product recommendations and anticipate users’ needs. This will, naturally, enhance the shopping experience, making it more convenient and efficient. For instance, a voice assistant might suggest replenishing household items (like the aforementioned window cleaner) when it senses they are running low (e.g., because they were purchased a few months ago), thus simplifying the shopping process. 

E-commerce is growing rapidly. If you’re thinking about starting or upgrading an online store, now is the best time to act. Reach out to our team, and tell us something more about your ideas. We will gladly help you put them to work! 

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