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How Voice Assistants are Shaping Customer Behavior During the Holiday Season

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With the most hectic shopping period of the year behind us, veteran marketing experts know now is not the time to rest. Now is the time to analyze the season that ended, because the experienced ones know that in order to have a bulletproof marketing strategy in place for the next year, you have to start now.

Us digital marketers are currently largely focused on one thing, and we are counting down days to the long-awaited 2020, which is predicted to be the turning point for voice search. Why? Because predictions indicate that 30% of browsing will be done screenless, and that voice will overtake 50% of all searches.

What this means for us SEOs is that more attention needs to be paid to consumers’ natural speech patterns and long-tail keywords implemented in sentence-like queries. But to be fully prepared for the vocal future, brands need to familiarize with their target customers and ensure how their every day (shopping) behavior has changed and how it will evolve.  

To get an expert opinion on the subject, we consulted with Djuradj Caranovic, an innovation expert for whom the voice search has been the area of focus for years now. He has worked on the implementation of voice technology across a variety of industries, including eCommerce, hospitality, health, and many more. Djuradj Caranovic emphasizes the fact that “touchscreens will slowly become obsolete in the next generation, with typing—much like freehand writing today—is a skill that is rarely practiced.”

Retailers, beware.

ADWeek published numbers which indicate that we are witnessing an adoption as we speak: Almost 50% of consumers use smart speakers to research a product, more than 40% create shopping lists utilizing voice technology, and over 30% compare different products and their prices.

So far, they’ve been our friendly companions in the morning when we wanted to hear about the weather while roaming through our wardrobes for the perfect work outfit, or in the evening when we need a chill tune to play in the background. Djuradj Caranovic says that “for decades, we’ve been promised voice interactions with our machines — promises that have been iconized in science fiction

So far. But times have changed.

Djuradj Caranovic further highlights the convenience factor and the fact that “people talk faster than they type” and are unlikely to go back to digital once they experience the voice.  

The effect voice has on consumer behavior

Which changes can we see in the shopping arena? Actually, Djuradj Caranovic believes these are just some of the things modern, fast-paced consumers have been longing for for years. Finally, emerging technologies allow them to “spoil” themselves a bit and enjoy the perks that come with voice search (and AI for that matter).

Consumers want a simplified and hastened search process

Today, everything’s about convenience and the ability to complete certain tasks hands-free. Although the majority of consumers get some off-work time during the holiday season, we’re all pretty busy in the days and weeks approaching, when we’re expected to complete our Christmas shopping. Considering, it is only logical that we want someone/thing listening while we recite our needs. If you think about it – we type on average up to 60 words a minute but can speak up to 150 – so it’s evident that users will utilize a voice assistant to make a purchase of any kind instead of resorting to the endless swiping experience that might not even result in the most optimal outcome (which is purchasing the highest quality product at the lowest possible price). This is precisely why Djuradj Caranovic often poses a question: “Once you start a voice conversation, why would you go back to typing?”

Consumers want to hasten their shopping process

More and more consumers are looking to evade frantic holiday shopping by getting everything they need on the go, from their home, or while on a break at the office. Furthermore, as voice speakers are overshadowing the mobile devices, 40% of consumers are more prone to using a voice assistant than a retailers mobile app or website.

Consumers want someone to tell them about the best deals

With a multitude of retailers marketing their discounts, the online world is too polluted for a traditional web searcher to discover the most attractive offer on the market. Here enters the voice assistant: you ask, “where can I buy the cheapest Ugg slippers?” and it scrapes the results to list the best options.

Are there any setbacks?

Still, Djuradj Caranovic emphasizes that we have a long way to go in terms of “real-time response, languages and accents and punctuation”. Luckily, we are slowly but surely overcoming these challenges, and are enjoying the benefits that include naturalness, user-friendliness, improved productivity, and instant response.

A piece of advice for retail brands?

Djuradj Caranovic is also aware of the current setbacks and barriers retailers face which prevent seamless voice shopping experience. What it takes is getting to know your customers, as he points out that “Where there is no customer satisfaction, there’s no customer loyalty, and where there’s no customer loyalty, there are no returning customers”.

It’s imperative to listen beyond what users are saying. For instance, if their query goes something like this: “Siri, search for Ugg slippers” – do you think they are looking to buy the slippers? Read reviews? Or are they just browsing for pictures? This is the reason why AI and digital marketing research go hand in hand with voice, as they enable brands to decode user intent by providing contextual clues, thus placing the users at the correct stage of a customer journey.

Only this specific mix of techniques will the retailer be able to build an unparallel holiday strategy that will produce satisfactory results.

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