Voice Search – is it really the “Next Big Thing” for eCommerce?

For the past few years, voice search has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue; pipped to take the industry by storm and completely revolutionise the way consumers shop and the way brands get discovered, effectively killing SEO as we know it. But in Q3 of 2018, how much of an impact has voice search really had so far, and how relevant it is for the majority of eCommerce sites?

What is Voice Search exactly?


Voice search has actually been around for many years but its only just recently with the release of such highly sophisticated smart phones, and then the release of Amazon Echo and Google Home, that it has become a function that features heavily in day to day life. Every time you say “Ok Google”, “Hey Alexa” or “Hey Siri” you are conducting a voice search and contributing to statistics and future projections. It’s popular due to its ease of use, and users report feeling as though they are speaking to a friend when they utilise voice search.

Research indicates that currently teens use voice search more than adults, and while it is proving popular, consumers still have concerns about their voice search assistants listening in to their conversations and making purchases without their consent. 

Has anything changed yet?
 

Initially, many companies questioned its relevancy to their brand and marketing strategy; with research suggesting that most users use voice search functionality for the purpose of research and informational queries as opposed to purchasing.

However, with more and more digital home assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo being sold, and a sales total of circa 56 million projected for the whole of 2018, will consumers’ use of these tools evolve to include shopping, too?

Several large brands hinted that that voice search would have little impact on their business, but earlier this month, Argos stepped out. The brand announced that they have just launched Google voice search functionality on 20,000 products, after significant investment and expansion of their digital team to ensure they remain at the forefront.

The truth is – despite Argos taking the plunge, being the first UK retailer (other than Amazon of course) to do so, so far, little seems to have changed for the majority of other websites and large national eCommerce sites in the UK.

Voice search doesn’t seem to be disrupting the industry as much as predicted yet because brands seem to be cautious about embracing it and investing heavily in this area. After all, voice search is far less predictable than traditional search due to nuances of speech, and the ease to speak more words when compared to typing as few words as possible into a search bar. And this makes it a difficult strategy to incorporate quickly.

So, what is expected to happen next?


According to reports, currently 20% of mobile searches are conducted using voice search. This figure is expected to rise to 50% by 2020, as reported by comScore.

 In terms of eCommerce sales value, this was reported to be $0.2 billion in the UK in 2017 – but is projected to rise to $5 billion in 2022, as per stats from 0C&C.

Previously we couldn’t help but feel reluctant that voice search is truly going to significantly impact on actual eCommerce conversion; at least not right away. Information queries and local businesses should absolutely be at the forefront of your strategy when optimising for voice search. Clearly the popularity and frequency of voice search usage is going to increase – and dramatically at that. This cannot be questioned. But it’s certainly not going to happen overnight.

It might very well be time to start laying the groundwork for eCommerce but there’s time to play with as yet. It will certainly be interesting to see which major national eCommerce brand will be next to embrace voice search, if any. 

Written by Kerri Sallee, Account Manager