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The Era of Voice-Activated Shopping Is Here for Canadian Retailers: David Ciccarelli

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By David Ciccarelli

Imagine if every Google search you ever made was read aloud. It sounds like a horrifying prospect, right? If you’re one of the 26% of Canadians who own a smart speaker, you probably only use it in your home or car. (For instance, Amazon’s Echo Auto provides users with weather and traffic information when they say, “Start my commute.”) However, the next wave of voice technology wants you to feel comfortable asking questions aloud wherever you are.

In the wake of COVID-19, hotel chains are incorporating voice tech that allows guests to check in and out without physical contact. In the food retail sector, a recent partnership between Google and French grocery chain Carrefour indicates that a voice-activated grocery shopping experience is on the horizon.

Due to the growing range of voice-activated options and a growing preference for touchless payments brought on by the pandemic, it’s not hard to fathom how the future of retail could be voice. The potential for voice technology is virtually limitless, and retailers in any industry can benefit from incorporating it. If you’re ready to gain a competitive edge, here’s how you can tap into voice-activated shopping:

1. Use virtual cashiers in self-checkout lanes.

More retailers located in Canada are turning to self-checkout lanes to serve customers better. According to Dalhousie University’s Grocery Experience National Survey Report, more than half of Canadians (54%) like self-checkout lanes, and 66% use them at least some of the time.

Self-checkout lanes allow customers to move at their own pace, but they’re not always as efficient. By incorporating voice technology, you can ensure that customers are guided through the checkout process quickly and effectively. Verbal instructions can help remind customers to swipe their rewards cards, weigh their produce, and pick up their change if they pay using cash.

2. Teach customers to tap into voice assistants.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 90% of people are familiar with voice-activated technology, and 72% have used voice assistants before. This usage, however, doesn’t mean people have mastered the devices. Most people who use voice assistants do so in private, and they tend to rely on the technology for specific tasks like cooking or driving.

This tendency to use voice assistants only under certain circumstances means that you must actively encourage adoption and experimentation if you want to gain a competitive edge. Offer discounts or rewards to customers that order your products via voice, or consider giving voice shoppers access to exclusive product releases. These upfront investments will pay off when voice technology becomes more widely implemented.

3. Develop an SEO strategy for voice.

If you own a smart speaker, you might have noticed that your queries are different than what you’d type into a search engine. You might ask an Amazon device, “Hey Alexa, what’s the weather like in Toronto tomorrow?” But on a computer, you’d probably type “Toronto weather.” The former query is more like what you’d ask a friend, and it’s a drastic change from how people have searched so far.

Because voice search is becoming more prevalent, you’ll need to develop an SEO marketing strategy that accounts for wordy search phrases. To optimize for voice queries, you’ll want to start thinking about how you would ask another person a question versus a machine. And don’t forget to account for cultural norms: Pew Research Center data indicates that about 54% of users occasionally or often say “please” to their devices when they ask for something.

Voice-activated shopping is on the rise, and it will remain popular long after the pandemic. Thanks to a growing familiarity with voice assistants and how easy they are to use, customers will eventually be ready to ask questions aloud while they shop. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you’ll want to start tapping into voice-activated technology today.

David Ciccarelli

David Ciccarelli is the founder and CEO of Voices, the largest marketplace for audio and voice-over products and services in the world with more than 1 million business and voice actor registered users. David is responsible for setting the vision, executing the growth strategy, creating a vibrant culture, and managing the company on a day-to-day basis. He is frequently published in outlets such as The Globe and Mail, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.

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