Smart speaker adoption and voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri from Apple are changing the content we consume via voice, the way we shop and search for products and services. Voice is fundamentally reprogramming the way we interact with computing today. Voice assisted technology and Voice Commerce is the latest trend gathering more momentum and proving to be very pervasive, with the potential to reshape entire industry landscapes.
In the latest voice search report by Global Web Index:
- 27% of the global online population is using voice search on mobile
- 17% of internet users currently own a voice controlled smart assistant and 34% say they are interested in purchasing one
- With between 40 to 60% of consumers planning to purchase a new mobile or upgrade their existing handset in the next 12 months, the majority of their new phones will have integrated voice assistants.
Voice tech is having a serious impact on e-commerce- so, let’s call it Voice Commerce. It enables users to order through speech commands and allows brands to provide contextual content. This represents massive opportunities for distribution and communication. Through voice interactions, brands can establish unique relationships with their consumers. It opens new doors for marketing practices and will allow FMCG brands to connect with their audience in a way that would fit with the digital consumer expectations. Deeper customer engagement means an opportunity to strengthen one’s competitive advantage in such a saturated but relentlessly growing industry.
Voice Commerce has two major advantages compared to traditional e-commerce. First of all , product decision-making is almost instantaneous. As consumers are increasingly time poor, Voice commerce is undoubtedly an effective solution.
The current main use cases for Voice Search are:
- Consumer knows the product’s brand and explicitly asks for the right product.
- Consumer knows the category but not the brand; the algorithm then makes the selection for the consumer. The selection process varies with each tech company but major variables involve buying behaviour, price, ratings, reviews and discounts.
- Consumer asks to re-order a brand for a specific category, based on last purchase history.
- Consumer has set automatic re-ordering on the platform and will receive the same product at a given time period.
The second significant advantage of Voice Commerce is the possibility to talk directly to brands via creative interactions designed by brands for the platform. Alexa “Skills” or Google “Voice Actions” allow brands to respond to consumer questions to the smart-speaker, for a certain fee on the brand’s side.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 59% of consumers believe that what a brand says in direct communication with you is more trusted. Brand communication via conversation, rather than through direct advertising, therefore, presents a huge opportunity for brands to be part of this sea change towards an empathetic and values-driven future.
For instance, Nestle has recently created a “Skill” called GoodNes which pairs voice cooking instructions to an online guide, enhancing the customer experience. Pairing “Skills” to brands will become a key source of advertising revenues for Amazon
Voice Commerce represents a new direction for brands with radical changes to our approach towards shopping and latest trends show a significant adoption by the public.
In order to thrive in a digital- first world, brands need to devise a voice strategy- more importantly they need to understand what marketing framework best defines the connection of voice technology with today’s consumer.
Let’s have a look at FMCG. The big FMCG brands have become comfortable over the years with deep pockets, global coverage, diversified products and access to top talent. In a world without e-commerce, social media and with no change in mentalities, these firms would do exceptionally well using the traditional 4Ps: Product, Place, Price and Promotion.
However, things have moved on and whilst the 4P’s are still important, the marketing game has turned upside down and its important to recognise the limitations from an outdated approach to marketing that struggles to understand and communicate with a new generational demographic and psychographic.
4 E’s and Voice Commerce – The New Experience Enabler
What this evolution in marketing is telling us is that marketing now goes beyond simply trying to sell a product, it should sell an idea, a way of life that people can relate to. We have seen a shift from product-centric to experience-centric business-models. The move away from 4P’s to 4E’s. Voice Commerce is a new experience provider.
So , what are the ‘4 E’s’?
Experience: Purchasing via Voice is both simple and enjoyable. It is much less mentally draining than using touch or typing devices; it even engages twice the amount of emotional brain activity when asking a brand instead of typing it. In the meantime, brands’ interactive “Skills” are unique experiences designed to promote brand personality. Both senses and experiences lived by consumers through brands are key for affecting perception, judgement and behaviour.
Engagement: Relationship building, enabled by technology, is now key part of the purchasing process, before, during and after the purchasing action. More brands are learning how to listen to consumers and establish trust by providing relevant and engaging content that will maximise chances to gain customer loyalty. Millennials are especially sensitive to educative and fun content provided by “Skills” and 73% of them are willing to pay more for sustainable brands . Sustainable brand communication is defined by relevance; valuable interactions that consumers will remember.
Everywhere: #AlwaysOn Consumers can now shop anytime anywhere at their own convenience, go to physical stores or get on-demand home delivery. Voice Commerce means access to an infinite online store but allows for brands and consumers to have that direct contact anytime anywhere, either through smart-speakers or smart-phones. In the meantime, brands can choose to partner with tech companies directly or continue to partner with retailers who will then partner with tech initiatives like with the Google Express program .
Equation: Consumers’ willingness to pay has now changed criteria. The digital consumer now alters its price sensitivity based on ease, speed, effectiveness, support. Grocery shopping is a low involvement decision, hence the faster the better: from a decision and execution perspective. Through Voice, the shopping process ownership shifts to the AI which will optimise complex shopping decisions based on personal preferences. Consumers won’t have to worry about getting the best deals or the best products considering their preferences. Their bargaining power has increased.
So, Voice Commerce clearly represents an opportunity for gaining an early entrant competitive advantage in the FMCG industry as a marketer.
How to build a Voice for your Brand
Engagement and Experience, from a content and audio perspective. Voice technology is the first communication channel where brands and consumers can talk. Brands must understand the relationship between their products and the need of their customers that their products can satisfy from an experience perspective. For instance, a herbal tea brand could be associated with well-being, relaxation and sleep. Brands must therefore create their own voice to enhance the association so an interactive “Skill” that could be offered via Voice may offer advice on sleep, bedtime stories or calming sounds. The brand voice should match the brand personality and have the right tone, gender, etc. To stand out, such experiences must be simple, convenient and engaging as well as differentiated from competitors.
It is the creativity and relevance of such experiences that develops brand awareness and knowledge in the consumers’ mind; leading to trust and loyalty, which will influence purchase decision-making.
A strategic decision must be made whether outsourcing or developing voice experiences in-house, and how many “Skills” to purchase on voice platforms. Outsourcing to experts may be the most favourable option to focus your resources and capabilities on core competencies.
Simplify and Adapt your Voice Offering
For brands’ products to be available Everywhere optimally online and offline, product selection must be adapted to the sales channel. Even though a voice platform has an unlimited virtual shop, brands must carefully select the products to sell on it; because consumers will be unlikely to remember wide selections of products without visual help. AI will help consumers choose brands of course; even more reasons for brands to opt for simplicity of selection within a category to maximise chances to be thought of by consumers. Brands should hence consider discontinuing too specific products if necessary. In addition, simplicity should impact products names. They should be shorter and visual to boost brand recollection. For instance, instead of Jordan’s Organic Muesli No Sugar Added Nuts & Raisins, switch for Jordan’s Healthy Muesli. The goal here is to bypass the AI and trigger automatic re-ordering with your product.
It would make sense that the product offering between web e-commerce, traditional retail and voice e- commerce complement each other. Voice products may remain a marketplace for simple routine products whilst other channels may reinforce the diversity of their product offering. That would satisfy two complimentary shopping behaviours. That being said, the AI will recommend products based on past shopping history, like Spotify does for music. This hyper personalised feature contrasts with the call for simplicity on voice platforms. A sound strategy may lie in balancing portfolio reduction with products offering that fit with target consumers using voice technology.
Taming the AI’s
AI has become the new gatekeeper between consumers and brands. Marketers must understand the equation that lies behind the AI decision-making process for each voice platform. Here, the goal is to appear at the top of the search that a consumer makes when asking for a category. For instance, if a consumer asks for butter, the AI will come up with a brand; that brand must be yours. Identical to Search Engine Optimisation, Algorithm Engine Optimisation requires marketers to understand all key variables that will impact the AI’s decision. These variables will include product search keyword, price, discounts, product rating, reviews.
This is a continuous digital strategy. Firms should form expert marketers for the task and establish a long- term strategy for dynamically adjust products’ price and discounts based on competitors. Voice platforms may in the future allow some extent of sponsoring for products to appear on top of the choice. A variable budget may thus have to be allocated by marketers to optimise their products visibility.
Monitoring Voice Success
All in all, ongoing strategies must be monitored to be deemed successful or in need of readjustments. Marketers should consider the following Key Performance Indicators:
- Engagement: Amount of time customers spend on experiences
- Conversion: Successful searches
- –From consumers directly
- -From AI recommendation s
- Retention: number of customers setting up re-ordering
- Active re-orderings for a product or Time until deactivation
Having a Voice matters
It is part of the digital revolution that has deeply influenced the recent changes in marketing frameworks. FMCG marketers must understand that the experience is now the product and that the product is the experience. Voice fits with the new 4E’s and satisfies the needs of the digital consumer.
Marketers have one major battle on voice platforms: being visible. They must stand out by the experience they can offer, simplify their product offering to ease the brand recollection, optimise the AI as well as monitor key metrics for success.
As voice is still one channel among many others, marketers should think of an integrated strategy linking other emerging and established innovations in a way that would fit their brand equity. Marketers must lead the way to diversity of thought and innovation, they have a creative responsibility.
As Voice fits with the new 4E’s (Experience, Engagement, Everywhere, Equation), marketers will have to re-kindle creativity to stand out and bring their brands to the top of both consumers’ and AI’s minds. Integrating a new voice strategy to the existing brand strategy and source necessary capabilities strategically will contribute to brands’ success for the time to come.
Calling Team VISU.AL
We offer three core services to help brands and organisations get started or go deeper with voice and conversational technologies;
- Help devise your voice strategy, map out channels, content and creative
- Build first-class Voice User Experience (VUX) and Voice User Interactions (VUI) for all major Voice services as well as integrations for internal use
- Devise, plan and deploy marketing strategies to ensure your voice experiences are found, loved and used
If this appeals to you, click here to get in touch with us and lets make your brand heard, and not part of the herd.