Voice shopping with voice enabled mobile devices
Jun 08, 2021
7 MIN READ

Retail is Buying into Voice Assistants for Omnichannel Experiences

Online shoppers who used voice spent $136 more on average than those who shopped solely online, according to a study by Coupon Follow—evidence that voice shopping’s faster, easier experiences lead to increased revenue. Closely tied to the expansion of e-commerce and the shift away from physical stores and toward a more convenient and accessible way of shopping, voice assistants are already populating mobile apps and customer support channels in retail. The pandemic and the desire for a safer, contactless shopping experience has fueled the rise of e-commerce and further accelerated the shift toward omnichannel voice experiences in retail.

Online shoppers who used voice spent $136 more on average than those who shopped solely online.

Coupon Follow

According to Statista, retail e-commerce sales worldwide were $4.89 trillion in 2021 and are expected to grow to $6.38 trillion by 2024, showing that customers are increasingly using e-commerce as a way to purchase their favorite items and prompting the retail industry to look toward voice technology as a means for quick, convenient, hands-free shopping experiences to better suit customers’ needs.

While voice assistants in retail began with voice shopping on mobile devices, they are quickly making their way into omnichannel experiences. According to the Opus Research Survey, while mobile apps are the most popular device to implement voice assistants, retailers also voice-enabled kiosks and contact centers. In fact, retail leaders in the study stated that an increased number of voice-enabled channels is the future of voice AI. 

As an industry, retail is maturing in its adoption of voice assistants and is now looking for omnichannel voice experiences that increase their control over brand identity, create better customer experiences, boost revenue, and decrease operational costs. Beyond increased customer satisfaction, retailers are turning to voice assistants to improve operational efficiency and employee experiences. 

Voice-enabled mobile apps for retail

Retail was one of the first industries to develop and implement voice assistants for their customers, largely because they had already developed mobile apps in response to the e-commerce boom. Adding a voice user interface is a natural evolution to mobile shopping experiences, which are already generating 45% of e-commerce sales, according to Oberlo.

Mobile shopping experiences generate 45% of e-commerce sales.

Oberlo

Mobile devices are the low-hanging fruit of voice technology as they come equipped with voice capabilities and no physical equipment needs to be constructed for mobile app voice assistant implementation. Mobile devices also come with a large user base already familiar with voice interaction, currently with 8.9 million mobile apps in existence, according to Forbes. The combination of physical technology and experienced users makes mobile devices the perfect launching point for voice assistants.  

Voice shopping, which is the greatest business value of voice assistants according to retail leaders in the Opus Research Survey, was the initial use of voice-enabled mobile devices in the retail industry. Voice shopping has become more popular as customers experience the benefits of improved accuracy, speed, and easier navigation of complex menu trees.

Early adopters of voice-enabled mobile apps in the retail industry soon realized the superior filtering functionalities of voice search that allowed customers to more easily find the exact product they’re looking for without getting lost in a sea of unrelated suggestions and buried products. According to the Opus Research Survey, 73% of leaders in the retail industry considered faster search via voice to be a top end-user benefit of voice assistants. With voice-enabled search, customers can set filters naturally and conversationally instead of through a long series of types and swipes.

73% of leaders in the retail industry considered faster search via voice to be a top end-user benefit of voice assistants.

Opus Research Survey

Here are some examples of queries a user can ask with voice: 

“Find white and tan shoes, size 9, with no heel that are sandals under $50.” 

“Look for men’s jackets that are filled with synthetic material, the color red, in a medium or a large, that go to the knees, have a hood, and are under $100.” 

By using advanced voice technology, such as Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Automatic Speech Recognition Software (ASR), voice AI can understand complex and compound queries for better search results and conversational interactions. The voice assistant becomes elevated from a robotic interaction where the user has to memorize preset phrases into natural conversations that mirror talking to another human.

Voice shopping increases convenience and customer loyalty

Houndify Retail Infographic

While voice-enabled mobile devices were initially created for voice shopping and improving the customer experience, they can also be used by employees in the retail industry. Mobile devices can be integrated with voice assistants to help staff perform their jobs in a variety of ways, such as checking on inventory status, finding locations of items in the store, and suggesting alternate products for customers when making returns. When working in customer service positions, time and efficiency are essential factors, and having an accessible, hands-free experience can help employees get information to customers faster and more accurately. 

Whether the voice-enabled mobile app is being used for voice shopping or to assist employees, voice assistants improve the retail industry through a better customer experiences and increased revenue. 

Voice assistants on retail websites

After the success of voice-enabled mobile apps, the retail industry began looking for other devices to integrate with voice assistants, and naturally progressed to the most popular form of e-commerce—websites. According to Statista, over 2 billion people shopped online in 2020, showing that e-commerce is an immense generator of revenue and an integral part of the way consumers shop for their favorite items. Retailers integrate voice assistants on their websites for purchasing opportunities, improved customer experiences, and customer service. 

According to a study by Gartner, brands that redesign their websites to support voice-search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%. When shopping online, convenience and speed are key factors that contribute to the popularity of online shopping versus physical stores. Voice technology increases these factors by offering improved navigation, filtering functionalities, and ease of use, so customers are more likely to find what they are looking for and have a positive shopping experience.

Brands that redesign their websites to support voice-search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.

Gartner

In fact, a study by PwC discovered that 71% of users prefer to use a voice assistant to search for something online rather than physically type out the query. Consumers are increasingly demanding the accessibility and speed of voice technology when shopping, and integrating voice assistants into online shopping experiences will only grow the user base and popularity. 

Websites can also use voice assistants for improved customer service experiences. According to Zendesk, 84% of consumers consider customer service to be a key factor when deciding whether to purchase, showing that customer service is directly tied to revenue generation. Instead of navigating through pages of FAQs, help guides, and account information, customers can easily ask their questions and get answers via voice assistants.

84% of consumers consider customer service to be a key factor when deciding whether to purchase.

Zendesk

In the customer service center, voice assistants can quickly process returns, access shipping information, and answer queries about everything from sizing to product information. They can also suggest an alternate product if the one the customer is looking for is out of stock or isn’t available in their size. Available 24/7, voice-enabled customer centers deliver real-time responses and the convenience for customers to get the answers they need anytime they need them. 

The implementation of voice assistants across channels can greatly improve the customer experience by simplifying site navigation and providing anytime, anywhere service while freeing up call center staff to handle those calls that require the creativity of a human agent. For retailers, the benefits of voice assistants include greater sales opportunities, increased revenue, improved customer experiences, better customer support, and increased efficiencies. 

Voice AI kiosks in retail stores

With the success of voice assistants on mobile phones and websites, retailers began looking at ways to create greater efficiencies and customer experiences in-store. Voice-enabled self-service kiosks have become a popular avenue for exploration as more of these devices are being implemented in retail and quick service restaurant operations. According to Statista, the global interactive kiosk revenue was $28.34 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow to $45.32 billion by 2028.

The global interactive kiosk revenue was $28.34 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow to $45.32 billion by 2028.

Statista

Voice-enabling kiosks is a natural evolution for many in the retail industry who are already using interactive kiosks for a variety of customer service purposes, such as price checking. Adding voice AI technology would further extend the usefulness of these devices by allowing customers to locate items or shop for additional sizes, colors, and products that may not be available in-store and order them, compare product features, and determine product availability. 

In a post-pandemic world, voice-enabled self-service kiosks provide a level of comfort and a sense of safety for in-store shoppers by removing the need to touch the surface of the kiosk and providing a contactless shopping experience. Voice-enabled kiosks built with advanced voice AI technology improve accessibility and convenience by allowing customers to ask questions naturally, just like they would when talking to an employee. It can also answer questions even if the customer doesn’t know exactly where to find the service on the kiosk—removing the need for an endless series of types and swipes.

Here are some examples of queries customers can ask a voice-enabled self-service kiosk:

“Do you have these shoes in size 7?”

“Where is Tupperware located?”

“What’s the difference between these two types of vacuums?” 

“Do you have this dress in blue at any of your other locations within 25 miles?” 

When shopping, customers can find getting help with locating items or making a purchase difficult and frustrating if they have to wait in line or search for help. With voice-enabled kiosks, customers can get their questions answered anytime without having to hunt for a sales associate, stand in long lines, or wait while the correct person is located to get the answers to otherwise simple questions. By incorporating voice AI into self-service kiosks and hand-held devices for employees, retailers can ensure their customers get the service they need without having to wait.

Retailers are discovering the power of voice AI for their mobile apps, websites, and self-service kiosks and experiencing improved customer experience, greater operational efficiency, employee satisfaction, increased revenue, and decreased operational costs. As the variety of ways in which voice AI can be enabled in retail expands, retailers will continue to find ways to innovate and discover the endless possibilities of what can be achieved through voice technology. 

By using a custom voice assistant and a custom wake word, retailers can personalize and differentiate their shopping experiences. From sonic branding to custom domains, all of the elements of a custom voice assistant work to increase brand recognition and better serve the customer. Retailers looking to add voice AI to their roadmaps should evaluate the benefits of voice assistants and consider which voice-enabled devices would best serve their customers, employees, and company before their customers turn to voice-enabled competitors for better shopping experiences. 

Interested in learning more about voice assistants in retail? Check out our infographic, Voice Shopping Increases Convenience and Customer Loyalty

Recently, Opus Research published a research report based on a global survey of 320 business leaders in 8 industries conducted to get the pulse of the state of voice assistant implementation and the trends toward custom voice AI solutions. You can read the report in its entirety and see the on-demand webinar to learn, “The Business Value of Customized Voice Assistants”.

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore Houndify’s independent voice AI platform at Houndify.com and register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

Kristen is a content writer with a passion for storytelling and marketing. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking, reading, and spending time with her nieces and nephew.

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