In Part 3 of this series, we explored the early voice shopping that has actually been deployed and their capabilities. And, we looked at what consumers are saying they want. (If you would like to start with Part 1, it can be found here).

In this final Part 4, we change from looking at projections and data to a discussion of how retailers and brands can start designing and prototyping their voice shopping systems that will lead to successful enterprise-scale deployments that deliver great experiences to their shoppers.

Creating a Brand-Centric Shopping Experience Is Not Quick or Easy

Is developing a voice shopping app as easy as some voice-app toolkit vendors are saying? Just hook up your store to their API and your customers will be voice shopping? 

Frankly, I do not think so. Consider that web technology and e-commerce platforms are reasonably mature and, yet, you know that every time you make a major change to your website, it takes real time, effort, and investment. Design, implementation, testing. and deployment. 

Remember the initial creation of your mobile website and apps. The paradigm shift in how your shoppers interact with your brand took extensive planning and investment. 

And now voice shopping. Introducing an entire new modality that is at least as challenging as mobile was. It will take major effort and investment.

But as we saw from Adobe’s CMO.com survey of CMOs, the driver for voice commerce is its ability to drive conversion and revenues. The companies who have deployed voice shopping report that voice is a differentiator and can be a strategic competitive advantage.

Brand Preparation for Voice Shopping

The time to start is now. The projections for consumer adoption are quite aggressive and, even if they are off by a few years, now is the time to start. 

As we have noted, consumers will use voice shopping for more and more parts of the shopping journey. As they switch between channels, the voice shopping experience should be consistent with all the ways of interacting with your brand and aligned with your omni-channel strategy. 

With your long experience with your website, you have a good understanding of the user experience and what changes would mean. For voice, though, you have to gain that experience.  Prototype a first version with simple capabilities, get consumer feedback, and iterate. Add more capabilities, get feedback, and iterate again. Deploy a small pilot for real-world customer feedback, and iterate. 

Quick Experience & Technology Checklist

The team should combine voice experience, e-commerce experience, and enterprise system experience. Some of the critical capabilities for your team are below.

Brand experience:

Essential to developing a shopping experience that delivers your brand image to every shopper is understanding your brand image and how that brand image is delivered in each channel of the omni-channel shopping experience your now provide 

Voice experience:

Interactive voice system development combines the engineering of voice systems with the human factors of user interfaces and understanding of speech recognition and natural language understanding. Great speech recognition and natural language tools exist, but configuration and customization to your brand, product categories and store are still required. Experience in developing an interactive voice UI and deploying at enterprise scale will accelerate development.

E-commerce experience:

The voice shopping system is much more than accepting voice input and doing a voice search. Understanding the retail environment and shopping experience is essential to being able to understand shopper intent in the “language of the shopper” and translating that to the language of the catalog and website. This semantic understanding enables listening to each user utterance and then, based on knowledge of the shopper and knowledge of the store, find the most relevant products to offer to the shopper. And, then, offer guidance on how to narrow the set of items by filtering, for example, by color or style, or sorting by price, rating or popularity.

System experience:

In the end, the system must be deployed to accommodate large numbers of concurrent users nationally or globally. Experience developing and deploying enterprise-scale cloud-based mobile apps, web apps, and virtual assistants will ensure that scalability, security, privacy and other concerns are addressed from the beginning and do not delay later enterprise deployment.

And, in Conclusion, Voice Shopping IS the Future

Projections for voice shopping are aggressive and, like most projections, may be significantly off. Looking back to the growth of mobile, though, the projections for adoption ten years ago seemed too fast, but the reality was even faster.

Hastily building and deploying your brand’s voice shopping app, though, is not a good idea. But, yes, start now to define and prototype the voice shopping experience that builds your brand and is consistent with your other channels. Build a cross functional team with experience and prototype, get user feedback, and iterate. When it is time to deploy to all your customers, you will be ready.

Vioby Voice Shopping

Vioby has been working with retailers to develop branded voice shopping that deliver great shopping experiences for their customers. We leverage our long experience in enterprise-scale voice-interactive systems coupled with our e-commerce marketing automation technology. Our video of voice shopping shows how a shopper can browse large retailer catalogs to find and purchase the items they want.

Are you a retailer or agency working with retailers? We’d be glad to explore partnering with you and your team to define, create and deploy a great brand-centric voice shopping experience for your customers.

Mike Krasner is a co-founder of Vioby, a Boston-area developer of AI-based marketing automation tools for e-commerce retailers and their agencies. Leveraging their extensive background in creating and deploying enterprise-scale voice-interactive systems, Vioby is now developing voice shopping for retailers and brands.  Click here to learn more about Vioby.