Voice search in online shopping: what’s happening today and what can we expect in the future?
User Experience Opinion Business

Voice search in online shopping: what’s happening today and what can we expect in the future?

Picture the scene: it’s a hot afternoon in July 2001, you turn the knob to your front door and lug your groceries into the apartment. You speed over to the kitchen counter and dump the bags of laundry detergent, canned food, and bottled water packs in a disorderly fashion.

Then you grab the mail out from under your arm, wipe your brow, and read through the TV listings to see what shows are on tonight. You sit down at your desktop to shoot off a quick email to your best friend, press play on some tunes via Windows Media Player, and return to the kitchen to unpack your spoils while waiting for their reply.

And somewhere, in the midst of it all, you reflect on how futuristic modern life has become…

… yet you have absolutely no idea what’s coming in tech.

The world is changing

While the scene above could be called cutting-edge at the time, it feels nostalgic today. Every facet of it is a window into the past — and that’s important because looking back gives us an idea of what to expect moving forward.

It’s hard not to notice that everything your 2001-past-self was doing can now be done without lifting a finger. Well, everything apart from putting the groceries away.

Today, you would have ordered most of your shop online. And you could do so with your voice, having the goods delivered to your doorstep overnight. After ordering these goods, you’d ask your phone to send a text to your friend. Then, without even needing to look at a screen during this whole process, you could then tell a device to stream your favorite album of that week.

Voice search is poised to have a huge impact on online shopping and digital transactions, and what we’re seeing already is really just the beginning.

How is voice search being used in 2021?

Before we look too far into the future, it’s important to understand where voice search is in 2021.

Did you know that 48% of all web searches in 2019 were voice searches? That means around half of your traffic or more will now come through the voice search channel.

To capitalize on this, you’ll need to look at how and why people are switching to voice search. For example:

Buy shopping list items in a flash

The best way to understand the current state of voice search is to see it in action. So, let’s say you’re at home and you’ve decided to make a fun recipe for dinner.

You call to your voice assistant of choice (Amazon’s Alexa for most people) and have it pull up a recipe for homemade dumplings. You go through your cabinet to see if you have the ingredients you need.

That’s when you discover you have baking soda, but not baking powder. You call up your voice assistant again and have it order baking powder from your local grocer. And with the advent and boom of grocery delivery services, you may be able to have that baking powder in your hand only minutes later.

Find answers to your questions without reaching for your phone

But let’s say you aren’t able to get the baking powder on time. Next, you start to wonder whether switching baking powder for baking soda could be a feasible option. So you ask your voice assistant.

Instantly, you’re shown a tutorial on how to turn baking soda into baking powder with cream of tartar. Dinner is saved as quickly as it was jeopardized!

(Don’t have cream of tartar? Repeat step 1 and try again!)

Order dessert while preparing dinner

Once you’ve recovered your dumplings and are about to start cooking them, you realize that you’re not going to have any dessert ready! Instead of panicking, you simply ask your voice assistant for the best dessert stores near you.

A list of options is read to you, along with their respective reviews. You pick the one that sounds tastiest and order it to be delivered to your front door within the hour.

Everything is seamless, working right when you need it to, without needing to leave the moment. The flow is never interrupted. And the whole while, you’re engaging with local businesses right from your kitchen.

The benefits of voice search for consumers and brands

Although we’ve so far been looking at voice search from a consumer-centric perspective, this tech is just as important for brands. After all, consumers are now using voice search to interact with and buy from companies in a totally new way.

Below are just some of the ways that businesses can benefit from voice search optimization.

Bring a new wave of traffic to your website

As mentioned before, nearly 50% of all 2019 web traffic came via voice search. And that doesn’t account for the massive increase that took place over the 2020 pandemic.

By embracing voice search and empowering your digital experience with pro-voice search features, you can start directing that traffic to your brand. This can not only give you a boost in performance today but will continue to bring traffic to your site in the future as voice search grows in popularity.

Gain a competitive edge in the eCommerce space

Investing in voice search also strengthens your competitive edge. Why? Because despite voice search’s popularity, the number of online businesses that have truly invested in it is still pretty slim.

This means that companies who meaningfully embrace voice search optimization now can leap ahead of their rivals’ performance. Again, this is a benefit you’ll enjoy today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Improve the performance of your local business

The benefits of voice search are particularly potent for local products and services. Up to 58% of consumers use voice search to interact with and discover local businesses.

That number may sound surprising. However, according to Hubspot, 46% of internet searches have a “local intent”. That means that nearly half of all Google searches are directed towards local businesses, and even more so when it comes to voice search.

The challenges of voice search for online businesses

Implementing voice search won’t necessarily be smooth sailing, of course. Anyone who’s interacted with voice-assisted search (which is most of us, according to research) knows that it still has a long way to go.

Here are some of the challenges a voice-focused online business can expect to come across:

The usability of voice search is still in its early stages

As we just hinted at, voice search isn’t quite perfect yet. Certainly not in the same way that a graphical user interface (GUI) is.

Let’s put it this way: when you start interacting with an app on your smartphone, you don’t doubt that it’s going to work as you expect it to. But you should always be at least slightly prepared for a voice assistant to misunderstand you or fail — even as the tech is improving.

Consumers are still warming up to the idea of voice search

Because of these hiccups, voice search still has some way to go before consumers will trust it completely. Google, Amazon, and Apple are improving their assistants every year, though, and consumers are using voice search more and more as time goes on.

You could say we’re at a tipping point for this exciting innovation. The tech is getting better and customers are welcoming it into their lives.

The future’s looking big and bright for voice search… but will your business be a leader or a follower of others?

There are big challenges packed into voice search — and as big opportunities too

For many businesses, the journey to voice search is a journey into the unknown. But you don’t have to take that road alone.

Reach out to Cheesecake Labs today for expert insights, advice, and services that will help integrate voice search into your digital experience in a seamless, high-value way.

About the author

Douglas Gimli

Senior Developer & VP of Business Development at Cheesecake Labs – We turn ideas into Mobile and Web apps that impact.

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