Digital Assistants Are Changing the Way We Buy and Sell

Cassandra Shaffer

April 18, 2019

“Alexa, what dog food should I buy for Brutus?”

Whether it’s getting kibble recommendations, or reordering your favorite shampoo, digital assistants are changing the online retail game. A successful brand excels at providing product suggestions when a customer needs it most and services like the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant have opened up a world opportunity to meet your customers’ needs. And if you’re an eCommerce professional, you need to be paying attention.

What is a voice assistant?

Built using machine learning technology, a voice assistant is a digital concierge that can answer questions and perform tasks for the owner. Alerted by voice commands, a voice assistant can help users request an Uber, set timers, or even order a product. By reducing the friction between daily life and devices, digital assistants have grown in popularity - one in six people in the United States now own an activated voice assistant.

With increased adoption in households or on the go, digital assistants are the next logical step in human efficiency, media consumption, and online shopping. This is especially significant for brands. In just five years, 87 percent of consumers will expect to be able to reach their favorite brands and 72 percent of consumers will expect to purchase from their favorite brands with the help of a voice assistant, according to Bing Ads.

Digital Assistant

What are voice assistant’s shopping capabilities in reference to retail and eCommerce?

Digital assistants are already making shopping easier for consumers. The two most popular assistants, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, allow users to buy their favorite products and track those orders through Alexa or Google Assistant enabled devices.

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 2.24.24 PM

Shopping with Google Assistant

Buying products from stores like Walmart, Costco, and Target is easier than ever when a consumer uses Google’s personal shopping service, Google Express. Once payment information and a shipping address have been entered, users can activate Google’s shopping assistant by saying something as simple as “Ok Google, I need to order more shampoo.” Typical of Google’s user experience, the more a user shops, the personalized their product recommendations will be. Most merchants now offer free delivery on orders over $35.00.

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Shopping with Amazon Alexa

Alexa Voice Shopping is an Amazon service that allows users to order anything they need through Amazon. By simply telling an Alexa-enabled device what you want to buy, the shopping assistant will use a consumer’s purchase history to make recommendations.

A feature unique to Amazon’s shopping assistant is the ability to search deals. By saying, "Alexa, what are your deals?" users get access to exclusive deals through Alexa.

Although only 2% of people with Amazon-Alexa enabled devices made a purchase via voice in 2018, brands will see that figure grow as user experience and accessibility improves.

What does the future of voice assist look like for retail and eCommerce?

Smart home = smart shopping

The future is bright for online retail and voice-enabled shopping assistants, largely due to appliance brands like Whirlpool and LG creating a more connected smart-home ecosystem. Washing machines are now being created with built-in Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa integrations, which means consumers will no longer need to pull out their phone to order more detergent. At CES 2017, LG introduced an Alexa-enabled smart-fridge that suggests recipes that include the spinach that is expiring soon. And once it’s gone, will prompt you to order more.

Away from home

Voice assistants are appearing everywhere, not just at home. In the workplace, Amazon’s Alexa for Business can assist with everyday tasks at the office, such as notifying IT of an issue, ordering more office supplies, or managing your calendar. Marriott hotels will soon have Alexa-enabled rooms, letting guests do all sorts of things from closing the blinds to ordering pizza.

 

Using voice assistant

User experience and adoption

As the design for digital assistants evolve and improve, more users are likely to embrace voice-assisted shopping. All revolutionary technology is met with skepticism. Online shopping was a new, uncomfortable concept for consumers when it was first introduced in 1994, and now 96 percent of Americans shop online. The first popular voice assistant - Siri - was only introduced in 2010. Now, nearly half of Americans use a voice assistant on their smartphone. Voice assistants and online retail can now collide harmoniously as companies like Amazon and Google continue to improve their services.

How will voice impact my eCommerce business?

Now that we’ve established that voice is a big part of the future, how will it impact your business?

Text search will transition to voice

The use of voice-enabled devices has increased dramatically over the last few years, and by 2020, it is predicted that 50 percent of all searches will be voice-based. Humanizing the descriptions of product features, FAQs, and common concerns will help voice-assisted product research will flow smoothly. This will benefit brands who adopt a natural-sounding brand voice and include conversational language in their content and product pages.  

Shopping will still be visual

For higher-dollar items like electronics, clothing, and furniture, customers will continue to research products through visual mediums. Voice-enabled smart TVs and integrated video content will play a key role in attracting customers to buy more expensive items from their living room.

The rise of shopping lists

Basic digital shopping lists now live in every voice-enabled device, and it would be safe to anticipate that shopping lists will become a desirable space for advertisers. Knowing the user already plans to buy an item will allow advertisers to offer deals specific to that shopper.

Brands are already delighting and assisting customers through Alexa Skills

There are now over 30,000 “Skills” (voice-based apps) on the Amazon market. A great example of how brands engage customers is the Tide – Stain Remover skill. Consumers can use Alexa to ask Tide how to remove thousands of different stains, followed by a step-by-step guide on how (and naturally, a Tide product recommendation).

By gathering and understanding insights on customer experience, brands can find a way to bring even more utility and convenience to the voice-enabled shopping experience.

How can I prepare for the collision of voice and eCommerce?

With a handful of sound predictions and still many unknowns, brands can start preparing based on what is already working in the voice-enabled search ecosystem.

Adopt a conversational keyword strategy

The only constant in the digital space is change. Since Google is always updating its search algorithm to show users the most relevant results, brands that do business online need to continuously refresh keyword strategies to meet the demands of new search trends, in this case voice-enabled search.

Updating search phrases to be more conversational is a good place to start. For example, brands could have more success using search phrases like “What is the best brand of coffee” versus “best coffee brand”.

Make sure your website HTTPS secured

HTTPS (the “S” stands for secured) is primarily used to product online transactions like banking and online shopping forms. 70.4 percent of voice search results maintain a secured URL, which is 20 percent more than desktop results. If you’re in the online retail space, making sure your website is HTTPS secured will make it that much easier for voice-enabled shoppers to find your website.

Adapt content pages

As your brand creates and refines its product and content pages, consider how prospective customers will want their questions answered. An excellent way to start creating conversational content is through your Frequently Asked Questions page. Anticipating your customers’ questions ahead of time will help with SEO rankings and make things easier in the long run for your company’s customer service team.

Win the feature snippet space

Although Google still won’t share how to compete for what many call “position zero”, there are methods that SEO experts agree will help your chances. Maintaining SEO best practices and having a clear and informative FAQ webpage are two methods that can help you occupy the coveted feature snippet on Google.

Keep and improve on your domain authority

Domain authority is the rating that Google uses to sort which websites rank at the top of search results. How your page ranks on search engines will determine voice-enabled shoppers to find your products.

How to improve your website’s domain authority:

- Speed up loading time for web pages

- Create shareable, social media-friendly content

- Polish page SEO and readability

- Build your outbound and inbound links

- Fix 404 errors or broken links

Conclusion

It’s an exciting era to be in eCommerce, and the brands that prepare well and adapt quickly to changes will benefit from the rising popularity of voice-assisted shopping. With consumers already embracing voice assistants, voice will be a key ingredient for the future of online shopping.

Interested in learning about developing an eCommerce strategy to include voice assist? Fill out the form below to get more information.

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Sept 6, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 6th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon announces new inventory and distribution service, AWD Amazon has launched Amazon Warehousing and Distribution (AWD), providing inventory and distribution services to its sellers as a means of addressing current supply chain issues. AWD is now available for sellers using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), i.e. outsourcing their fulfilment to the platform. Amazon has plans to expand the service outside the platform in 2023. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/02/amazon-introduces-new-service-to-help-solve-supply-chain-challenges/) Amazon Web Services (AWS) launches in the UAE AWS, Amazon’s cloud-computing platform offering, has launched its second region in the Middle East and now provides its services in the UAE. The move will now allow anyone in the UAE who utilises cloud technologies to harness AWS’s advanced platforms and APIs. An estimated $11 billion USD is expected to be added to the UAE’s GDP thanks to the implementation, with an average of 6,000 external vendor jobs to be created annually. AWS is now available in 87 zones across 27 regions, with sights set on expanding further across Australia, Canada, India, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, and Switzerland. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/30/amazon-web-services-launches-region-in-uae/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Lazada to launch in Europe Alibaba-owned ecommerce platform Lazada is set to launch in Europe, marking a refreshed internationalisation push from the company. The move follows toughening economic conditions and performance in Southeast Asia, advancing the need to tap overseas markets. In Europe, Lazada will face tough competition from giants like Amazon and Zalando. Lazada’s exact entry strategy is to be confirmed and will be reliant on macroeconomic and market conditions, according to Lazada CEO James Dong. [Read more on DigitalCommerce360](https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2022/09/01/alibabas-lazada-to-take-on-amazon-zalando-in-europe-push/) Chinese ecommerce giant Pinduoduo to launch cross-border platform in the United States Pinduoduo, a Chinese ecommerce giant rivalling Alibaba and JD, has announced it will be launching a new cross-border ecommerce platform. The marketplace is set to launch in the United States next month, as part of the company’s larger push into new markets. Pinduoduo found success in China thanks to its rock-bottom price offerings and harnessing of social commerce marketing, emulating strategies similar to fast-fashion giant Shein. [Read more on Yahoo Finance](https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/pinduoduo-launch-international-e-commerce-034129263.html) Alibaba launches its biggest B2B sales event, ‘Super September’ China ecommerce giant, Alibaba, has now launched its month-long B2B sales event ‘Super September’. The event provides 40 million buyers and 200,000 suppliers with the ability to connect on the platform, showcasing a ‘virtually unlimited’ number of products. The event hopes to foster new cross-border business relationships to tackle supply chain challenges currently faced by businesses. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/01/alibaba-launches-super-september-b2b-sales-event/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Klarna’s losses quadruple in first half of 2022 BNPL provider, Klarna, has reported losses of $581 million USD for the first half of 2022. This figure is almost four times larger than a year earlier, where $129 million USD in losses were reported. The company attributes the losses to employee costs, technology investments, and rising credit losses. Klarna’s figure reporting comes amidst worsening economic conditions, fresh legal and regulatory scrutiny, and pressure from Big Tech competitors. [Read more on The Financial Times](https://www.ft.com/content/483451db-9221-4ca4-83a6-b4ddc6bfcfbb) [Read more on the Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/aug/31/klarna-losses-more-than-triple-as-consumer-spending-slows) One fifth of Snap employees to be laid off amidst poor financial performance Social media platform Snap (‘Snapchat’) has announced it will be laying off 20% of its employees and closing out a number of projects following a year of poor financial results.The move will see 1,200 employees globally lose their jobs, saving the company an estimated $500 million USD in costs. Snap is currently valued at $20 billion, an 84% decrease from its valuation of $130 billion last year. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/01/snap-to-lay-off-20-of-its-workforce-and-wind-down-a-number-of-projects/)
Aug 30, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 30th August 2022

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Aug 23, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 23rd August 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon to add mental health support to primary-care service Amazon is set to move into mental health therapy with its primary-care division, following its recent acquisition deal of One Medical. The plan is to partner with virtual behavioural therapy service, Ginger, to offer its Amazon Care users with on-demand access to mental health services, licensed therapists and psychiatrists. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/11/amazon-plans-to-add-mental-health-support-to-primary-care-service/) GMB union calls for £15 an hour minimum pay at UK Amazon warehouses Amazon recently offered its warehouse workers a 3% pay rise, which in comparison to the June inflation rate of 9.4% left employees disappointed. Following this, hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers stopped work last week, protesting against the minimal pay increase, seeking a minimum of £15 an hour. Recent protests consisting of employee walkouts and sit-ins aim to get a better offer out of Amazon. [Read more on The Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/aug/09/gmb-calls-for-15-an-hour-minimum-pay-at-amazon-warehouses-in-uk) Amazon third-party sellers have received their first-ever holiday fee hike Amazon’s third-party marketplaces account for close to half of the company’s online sales. The company introduced a 5% fuel and inflation charge to its third-party sellers earlier this year, and has now implemented another inflation increase charge. Commencing 14 October, any seller who uses Amazon’s fulfilment service is subject to the price hike, which is set to be an additional 35 cents per item for products sold in the US and Canada. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/17/amazon-third-party-sellers-have-received-their-first-ever-holiday-fee-hike/) Amazon puts a pause on UK grocery shop roll-out as the cost of living increases Amazon has slowed down on its UK roll-out of till-free Amazon Fresh grocery stores following disappointing sales and the rise in cost of living. Allegedly, the company is no longer looking for potential sites to expand and if more stores are opened, they will likely no longer use a till-free system, as consumers become more cautious about spending. [Read more on The Telegraph](https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/08/21/amazon-pauses-uk-grocery-shop-roll-out-following-disappointing/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Shopee overtakes Alibaba across international markets Shopee has surpassed Alibaba and taken the top spot for sales outside of China. Singapore-based marketplace saw a year-on-year increase of 51.4% at the end of Q2 of this year, while Alibaba saw a 3% drop during the same time period. This can be seen as a promising development for start-ups and their ability to compete with some of the largest ecommerce giants in the market. [Read more on Exchange Wire](https://www.exchangewire.com/blog/2022/08/18/shopee-surpasses-alibaba-in-international-sales-amazon-searches-for-entertainment-exec/) H&M reopens its official store to Alibaba’s Tmall ecommerce platform It has been nearly 18 months since Alibaba removed H&M from its Tmall platform, following H&M’s criticism of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. It is estimated that over a million people, predominantly minorities in the area, have been unlawfully detained in camps across the city. Brands including Nike, Adidas, Burberry and Converse were swept up in the controversy, however H&M was one of the first to be targeted for speaking out about the issue. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/16/hm-returns-to-alibabas-tmall-platform-16-months-after-xinjiang-controversy/) Klarna launches new feature allowing UK consumers to view full online order history Buy-now-pay-later company, Klarna, has launched a new feature on its shopping app, which allows UK consumers to view their full online order history, regardless of whether they purchased the product using Klarna. The feature also shows delivery tracking and aids consumers in managing their online purchases more conveniently. [Read more on The Industry](https://www.theindustry.fashion/klarna-launches-new-feature-allowing-uk-consumers-to-view-full-online-order-history/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Online marketplaces responsible for £280 billion business turnover in the UK Nearly 900,000 UK businesses are currently selling on online marketplaces, generating an estimated £282 billion worth of sales each year. This figure represents 6% of the UK’s annual business turnover, highlighting the notable contribution that marketplaces make to the UK economy, along with the potential for further growth in this area. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/09/online-marketplaces-responsible-for-280-billion-business-turnover-in-uk/)