Voice search technology that’s truly useful is here. We’re all going to be using it sooner or later, and that definitely includes online shoppers.

You’re probably no stranger to voice-based digital assistants, even if you don’t use one yourself…yet. We don’t have to explain to you who Siri is, or what sorts of help Alexa may offer you, or what happens when you turn on your Android smartphone and say, “Hey, Google.”

On the other hand, if you’ve resisted the urge to play with voice search and have moved on, it might be time to retrace your steps.

Now Hear This: A Little Wake-up Call

General internet searches, restaurant locations and home delivery, groceries and household supplies, increasing retail access – all are within the sound of a user’s voice online, and have been for a few years. In fact, mobile-based Google voice searches have now hit 20% of total searches, and there’s every indication the trend will continue.

The tech and AI driving voice search are improving almost daily and require next to nothing from users in terms of tech knowledge and skills. It’s becoming disruptive, but in the right way.

If you can turn on your device and start talking, you’re there.

Well, almost there. The industry still has to resolve some issues and improve its offerings, but we don’t think you’re going to have to wait much longer. At the rate NLP (Natural Language Processing) is advancing, users will soon be able to search with long, natural voice commands in almost every searchable area.

If you’re an online retailer, just take a breath and think about what that might mean for your SEO, your customer engagement, and your bottom line. Google already loves long-tail keywords, natural language…

Given what’s happening, you might want to rethink your retail strategy and optimize for voice search. In fact, if you believe the research offered by Quoracreative, you won’t be surprised to learn that half of all internet searches will be voice searches by the end of this year.

Time to get ready. And don’t worry – it’ll be fun. There are some excellent reasons to climb aboard the voice search bandwagon.

Reason 1: Can We Talk? Bringing a Little Humanity into Online Transactions

Language is our shared interface for communicating with world.

Okay, that sounds a little pretentious. But it’s true.

We like talking to each other. We like asking questions, and we like getting meaningful answers even more. Voice communication always feels more natural than banging away at a keyboard, especially if we can avoid having to type on a tiny smartphone.

When we shop, we like good customer service, and we often identify it as positive, courteous, natural voice communication with salespeople and customer services representatives. It’s about that human, personal contact.

Online shopping has lacked a consistent personal touch until relatively recently, despite the vast sums of money spent by big online retailers to create selling environments that make buyers feel warm and comfortable.

Some of the bigger guys are still failing miserably at even that level, FYI. Just ask anyone who’s tried to search and buy from a poorly designed, cluttered website where finding what you want is an unpleasant chore.

But voice search technology is getting better, faster and more natural. In fact, it’s almost fun – and when you cross that particular line, there’s no telling how quickly voice technology will spread.

Some pundits have suggested the human element of voice engagement will actually help build brand trust. From your perspective as an online retailer, that’s an added win.

Reason 2: Beyond the Human Touch - Personalization

It isn’t just that voice search brings at least an element of humanity to online searches and transactions.

It’s that the increasingly human-sounding voices users hear in response will, over time, become better and better at making their shopping experiences personal based on their preferences, previous purchases, search history, and other data. Users can already inform voice assistants like Alexa of their preferences as a base for immediate recommendations.

And that’s just the beginning.

It’s about the quality of the user experience, and years of data suggest that you’d better be prepared to develop a strong voice strategy for your online business if you really care about UX.

Bonus: right now, you can use voice tech, not merely as a human advantage, but as a strategic advantage over your competition. The personal element offers a way to stand out from your competitors. Over time, that advantage will fade because voice searches and voice tech will be everywhere, but you’ll have had the advantage long enough to make something of it.

Personalization is a big deal from your users’ perspective, even if they themselves aren’t aware of it. When a user speaks – actually speaks – to an online presence, engagement and a sense of immediacy arise quickly. If the system functions well, you can have a near-immediate level of trust that takes time build in “normal” online transactions.

Reason 3: Picking up the Pace - Voice Search and Speed

Let’s talk about the speed thing for a moment. Really, how much faster could voice search make things work?

The real answer is: it depends.

It’s no secret that SEO and Google’s ranking algorithms use page loading speed as an important ranking criterion. What you might not know is that you can reduce page loading time significantly (and get other major benefits) if you implement voice search on your site and then optimize it properly.

You have to think about a few things differently to optimize voice search. These things include content strategy and keywords, mobile responsiveness (a huge deal for Google these days), changes you might have to make to basic elements of your site’s current structure and style, and more. The idea is to take advantage of existing voice tech AND to make your site ready for what’s to follow soon.

This isn’t just theory. There’s a ton of very useful advice about this on the web already. It would even be fair to say that the explosive growth of interest in adopting – and adapting – voice in search and other areas is pushing the tech, including AI applications, to adapt to natural language and respond more quickly to human requests than conventional search tech.

After all, response speed is important to users when they talk. Conversations – exactly what users feel they’re starting when they ask a question -- are supposed to run at a natural pace. Voice search optimization can help you get close to that now, and you’ll get even closer as the tech improves.

Reason 4: Cooperating with the Inevitable - You ARE Going There…

…whether you want to or not. You’re not going to escape it.

We don’t think you’ll have a choice, given the rate at which online businesses are adopting voice search as users embrace it. Online shoppers will expect it, and the day will come when they’ll look elsewhere if you can’t offer them the same level of familiarity and service as your competitors.

We can’t afford to underestimate the value that voice search and personalization bring to online transactions. We’re talking about building trust, providing immediacy, and creating relationships that are more direct and less stressful than non-voice transactions.

Online shopping is here to stay and continues to grow. So will the use of voice technology for search and other functions. You can optimize for it now, or you can wait.

We like the former option.

Final Thoughts

Let’s face it: from the online shopper’s viewpoint, voice is more human, more personal, less “tech,” and less work. It adds a human element that was missing from e-commerce for too long.

The key, of course, is human “relatability” in terms of both process and substance. There are potential pitfalls, and there are those who believe that the technology should not become “too human…”

Still, we like voice search technology, and we think you should too.

Reach out to Purple Dot

We’re believers in the whole idea of giving users more involvement, more engagement, and more control in online transactions. If you’re an online retailer, we can help your business get there through our smart discounting solution.

If you’d like to learn more, reach out to us today through our website. You can talk with us by email, phone, or live chat.