Everything You Need to Know About Voice Search and Ecommerce


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Voice search is the phrase on everyone’s lips. More searches are conducted by spoken word than ever before, and a successful ecommerce trader will need to take this on board. The really successful ecommerce trader probably already has.

But don’t panic: if you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late. Let’s take a quick look at what’s behind the growth, what it means, and what you can do to harness the exciting possibilities that have come into being, whichever Ecommerce platforms you want to use.

Talking About a Revolution: Voice Search Is Getting Massive

It used to be the case that all a business needed to be assured of success was a bunch of good products, good staff, a good inventory management system, and a good name. Some of this remains true, to an extent. But overall, things have changed. Search techniques are a good example.

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Voice search growth is staggering. It is estimated that by 2022 voice commerce sales will reach $40 billion. You simply can’t ignore this kind of figure. But for those completely in the dark, let’s address what voice search actually involves.

Voice search utilizes spoken words to communicate with search engines. What until relatively recently was the preserve of keyboards has now opened up to the arena of the iterated word. This has happened primarily due to the advance in tech which has made voice-activated intelligent assistants quite a common feature in people’s lives. Examples such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri abound.

More and more consumers are purchasing a voice-activated speaker to take full and convenient advantage of the services these assistants can provide. 72% of people who own such speakers use these devices on a daily basis, which demonstrates their sheer practicality.

The breadth of what smart speakers can provide is enormous: you can buy your groceries, order a pizza, book a taxi, request a tune or just seek an answer to a question that’s really bugging you. So, basically, everything you can do on the internet, but instantly. You simply can’t beat voice search for ease of use.

It’s this usability that has contributed to a rise in ecommerce in general. Companies like Amazon have benefitted enormously, and if a merchant is wondering, for instance, about how to boost ebay sales, this is a key area to address.

The Rise of Voice Search

A key enabler in the rapid spread of voice commerce is the development of voice recognition technologies. In 2013, Google’s AI could recognize 77% of spoken words. By 2019, this had grown to 97%. No point relying on something for assistance when it can only understand three-quarters of what you’re saying. Reliability is of paramount importance to the consumer, as is speed.

Compared to typing, voice search is much faster. The average typing speed is around 30-35 words per minute. Spoken searches can be up to 100 words per minute. A roughly three-fold uplift is pretty remarkable.

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Importantly, voice search scores highly among those who struggle with spelling.

What else is strongly advantageous about voice search is that one can do it while engaged in another activity, such as driving or gardening, which is where cell phones would be impractical. It is now the case that 20% of mobile Google queries are voice-driven, and this looks set to skyrocket over the next few years.

So, with the growth in gadget ownership, the enhancement of relevant technology, and the obvious benefits in terms of speed and convenience, the reasons behind the rise in voice search are easy to discern.

How You Can Achieve Growth With Voice Search

Your job is to learn what the growth of voice search means for ecommerce operations and what you can do to capitalize on it.

However, just because things seem to be heading in an automated and technology-driven direction, don’t forget that it’s important to try to step into the customer’s shoes at all times. Remember that what most crave above all is something as close to human interaction as possible. There are lots of ways to pull this off while remaining efficient and productive.

Speaking Their Language: Anticipate the Format of the Search

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Voice searches tend to be phrased differently from keyed searches. Somebody using a keyboard might just type “taxis in Chicago”, whereas the same person conducting a voice search is more likely to go with “where is there a taxi rank near me?”.

The more conversational tone engendered by voice communication needs to be anticipated by your operation and dealt with accordingly.

Trigger words such as “where” and “what” need to be borne in mind when generating a keyword research strategy, giving the business more of a chance of being hit by a voice search.

Finally, location intelligence can help with geography-based idiomatic variability. The more people are speaking rather than writing, the less they will feel the need to stick to standard terms and pronunciations, and the more regional phrasing will be used.

Sensing the Tone: Tailor Your Output to the Medium

The language retailers implement with voice interaction needs to be readily comprehensible. It needs to resemble the language adopted by searchers. Crucially, it needs to be concise. 30 words is plenty. Any more words than this and it’s most definitely on the long-winded side.

As ever with commerce, try to keep uppermost in your mind the customer journey. This consideration is as important with voice search ecommerce as any other kind.

Consequently, your content needs to sound compelling. What works on the screen may well sound stilted and stuffy when spoken. Best tip? Read what you’ve written out loud and see how it sounds. Read it to others, by all means. Take a look at the content on most digital marketing channels for ideas of a suitable tone and message.

You are presenting the face of your organization and you want to sound like the kind of exciting, fresh, and engaging business a customer will want to hear more from. A piece of copy that comes across as awkward when reproduced out loud will not hit the spot. Above all, think naturalistic.

More information on this area can be found within the Google voice search guidelines.

Good Shouts: How to Talk About Your Product

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This bit requires balance. You may have a high level of product variables, hence a lot of SKUs. To score with more voice searches, it may be the case that you need to integrate contexts into your keyword strategy. So, rather than just “bird table”, a retailer may find that “best wooden bird table” gives more results in terms of keyword targeting.  

But beware: an over-reliance on long-tail keywords can damage the natural and informal tone you are aiming for. The more artificial and strained you sound, the less consumer trust you will create. Additionally, there’s nothing like complex phrasing to make buyers turn away.

Overall, you need to use enough specificity to be a good search match. But you need to couch things in a way that doesn’t sound contrived. It’s not the easiest balance to strike, but it gets easier with practice. So get going! 

While we’re on the subject of getting going: 

Speed is King

Get your site up-to-speed, literally. More than ever, fast loading is of supreme importance. In an era of such instant accessibility to the net, you don’t want to be the one stage that impedes rapid gratification. There are plenty of competitors who will be only too happy to be faster than you, so step on it.

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Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and get spending. If you need investment to enhance UX, then there are ways to secure it.

Good UX depends on fast loading times, and Google knows this. This is why it favors sites with the speediest loading times. So, if you want to keep customers happy and get further up the results page, keep things zippy. There are a number of utilities out there that can help you identify which bits of your site are slowing things down. You can also assess speed by paying attention to the information available to you from a good retail erp system.

Other routes include going to a premium hosting provider or more granular approaches like using compression on large images and paying close attention to redirects and the internal linking structure. Consider the part that automation can play in terms of streamlining your site. And don’t forget to prune the site for unnecessary and outdated content.

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s necessary to start from scratch with your site. The good news is that if you need an online store builder, there are plenty of great ones out there.

And That’s a Wrap

While it may be the case that standard ecommerce can benefit from tried and tested approaches like using discount popups, the ascent of voice search has necessitated a slew of innovative approaches.

As a successful ecommerce entrepreneur, you are in a great place. You can see the advent of something big, and you’re still in time to do something about it. As far as voice search goes, this is a loud and clear call to action.

Nick Shaw
Nick Shaw has been Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Brightpearl, the number one retail-focused digital operations platform which encompasses sales, accounting, logistics, CRM and more, since July 2019 and is responsible for EMEA Sales, Global Marketing and Alliances. Before joining Brightpearl, Nick was GM and Vice President of the EMEA Consumer business at Symantec and was responsible for a $500m revenue business.


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