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How Brands Should Approach a Voice-First Commerce World

Voice commerce might still be in early days but some companies already are switching up how they share product information with Amazon in order to improve discoverability on the Alexa voice assistant platform.

Transactions conducted through Alexa pull in just a subset of the available product data, editor-in-chief Bret Kinsella said at the VOICE Summit in Newark, N.J. Wednesday, compelling early adopter firms to amend the way they present that information on the e-commerce platform. “There are certain ways to lay that out to be effective,” he explained.

Brands should be thinking about the voice channel “holistically,” Kinsella added. Whereas traditional text-based searching through a web computing interface yields a scrollable list of results, “asking and listening” returns a “reduced consideration set”—because no one wants to listen to a digitized voice rattle off a dozen product descriptions. “You have to be much tighter in how you present data,” he said.

There are plenty of products unavailable for purchase via voice and it will likely be a while before these items even have audio or voice content available. However, Kinsella believes brands should begin exploring voice today even if commerce doesn’t make sense at the moment. “If you don’t have audio content, you’re not a choice for the consumer,” he said, noting that some companies will be left out simply because the right voice content isn’t available for customer interaction.

To fully capture the potential of voice, brands should address the purchase consideration aspect of the customer journey and use voice to improve the shopper’s in-store experience, Kinsella said, especially in large-format stores. Rather than typing a search on a smartphone, the shopper might prefer using voice to ask where to find a product category—and receive directions on how to navigate to the right area.

The conversational aspect of voice could help with conversion rates and basket size. If discount-focused retailers make their offers discoverable by voice, “that’s an opportunity to have [consumers] ask about the deal, be able to speak it back to them, direct them to the products, and try to get some upsell and a larger basket purchased during visit,” Kinsella explained.

Similarly, customers would probably prefer to be able to leverage voice services when comparing products, rather than poring over the eye-straining small print on labels themselves.

Kinesella sees voice-powered self checkout arriving in stores at some point, enabling an Amazon Go-style “just walk out” experience.