Don’t Type, Just Talk – Optimising Ecommerce for Voice Shopping

John WaldronArticle, Blog

Don’t Type, Just Talk – Optimising Ecommerce for Voice Shopping

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Over the years, chatbots have become an integral component of customer service in ecommerce and online retail. With the increasing popularity of messaging channels like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, deploying chatbots has become a quick way to streamline interactions with digital customers. In addition, they enable businesses to provide proactive 24/7 support that is cost-effective, personalised, and scalable.

Now, however, the focus is on shifting from messaging to conversations, from customer service to shopping experience, and from intelligent interactions to complex dynamic engagements. According to Capgemini, conversational commerce will be a revolution as significant as ecommerce itself.

Given the pivotal significance of conversational ecommerce, it is only logical to start with a brief primer on the capabilities and possibilities of the technologies underlying messaging chatbots and conversational systems.

Chatbots vs. Conversational Systems

The key distinctions between chatbots and intelligent conversational systems also represent an important evolutionary trajectory in the market.

For instance, most chatbots do not understand sentences and focus on keywords to trigger predetermined and automated responses to customer queries. Even though most chatbots utilise AI algorithms, they still rely on simple pattern matching techniques and rule-based models for their interactions with users and are not capable of deviating from pre-determined conversation flows.

Conversational AI, on the other hand, relies on ML, natural language processing (NLP), supervised/unsupervised learning, automatic speech recognition (ASR) and advanced dialogue management to enable free-flowing conversations. More importantly, these intelligent systems are continuously learning — and improving — from every conversation. Conversational solutions feed off multiple information sources, such as websites, databases, and APIs, and any updates or modifications to these sources are automatically applied to the conversational interface.

The rule-based versus knowledge-based approaches also translate into several other operational distinctions between chatbots and conversational systems. While chatbots can be deployed relatively quickly and easily, it does take time to train conversational systems to the unique requirements of a business. The latter, however, results in a continuously learning system, whereas any updates to chatbots may require significant reconfiguration. Additionally, conversational systems are omnichannel, easily integrated with multiple information sources, extremely scalable, and hyper-personalised.

The Value of Conversational Commerce

Conversational commerce is the next big iteration of ecommerce that enables brands to communicate with their customers via a combination of messaging apps, chatbots, AI assistants, and live representatives, and enhance customer experience by balancing personalisation and efficiency.

Conversational commerce is not just a new interface or channel, but rather an entirely new way for consumers to interact with brands and for brands to build value-based relationships with their customers.

According to a new study from Juniper Research, ecommerce transaction values via voice assistants are expected to reach nearly $20 billion by 2023, up from $4.6 billion in 2021. In 2021, 4 in 10 US smart speaker users are expected to use their devices’ voice recognition capabilities for shopping. A Voice Consumer Index 2021 study conducted across the US, UK, and Germany found that 31% of voice consumers are daily users who access the technology across multiple channels (smart speakers, web, and mobile phones), multiple locations (in and out of the home), with a majority using voice to search, consume and shop. Research also shows that voice consumers tend to browse and spend more.

A majority of brands, too, have recognised the business value of voice consumers, with one global study reporting that over two-thirds of respondents (67%) are already invested in voice assistants through mobile apps or smart speakers, while a growing number is looking at deploying voice capabilities through other smart devices, voice-enabled kiosks, and contact centres.

Three key Benefits of Conversational Ecommerce

Personalised and contextual engagement: Contextual awareness — i.e., understanding the intent behind an interaction — is a key feature of successful conversational commerce. In addition, intelligent systems can learn from past consumer interactions to create a completely personalised experience for each customer. These systems can emulate the interactions customers have with sales assistants in a physical store and make contextual suggestions and personalised recommendations to create a more customer-centric shopping experience.

Alignment with the marketing funnel: Consumers do a lot more than just shopping with their voice assistants. However, the Voice Consumer Index study found that a lot of consumers’ voice related activities aligned with the tasks in a traditional marketing funnel.

Reasons for using voice assistants (Voice Consumer Index 2021)

Voice activities align with the marketing funnel. —Source:

The study observed an association between search behaviours and specific search tasks with a clearly defined path to purchase — from awareness to consideration and on to purchase and retention — that indicated the voice process evolved along the marketing funnel even without any support from brands. There is, therefore, a huge potential for brands to create the right strategies that help their consumers across their journey.

Seamless order processing & tracking: With conversational commerce, ordering a product is as simple as chatting with a voice assistant. Similarly, tracking orders and shipment status can be obtained in a matter of seconds without having to click through multiple levels to get to the required information.

The Future Is Voice Shopping

Today’s digital customers seem primed to extend the use of voice assistants beyond routine tasks such as playing music or checking the weather to more complex activities such as researching and purchasing products online. With a majority of consumers already leveraging voice to search for product, service, business, and brand information, it is now up to ecommerce brands to upgrade and optimise their digital presence for voice shopping. In order to maximise the business value of voice, businesses also have to ensure that voice is seamlessly integrated not only with their digital marketing infrastructure but also across relevant consumer data points within their CRM and ERP systems.

Talk to us here at metasfresh about how you can get started with conversational commerce utilising the power of metasfresh Cloud.

metasfresh is a member of the Ecommerce and Cross-Channel Club Cologne (ECC Club Köln), which is managed by the Institute for Retail Research Cologne (Institut für Handelsforschung, IFH Köln). The Institute offers individual research projects with strategic consulting. It specialises in the areas of inter-company comparisons as a controlling instrument, enabling retail companies to recognise market developments, measure changes in customer behaviour, optimise sales and set the course for a successful future. The insights and knowledge provided by the Institute through market research and studies relating to cross-channel and online retail are incorporated in the development of metasfresh, meaning all of our users are always up to date on the latest ecommerce developments.

At metasfresh, our mission is to enable each and every company to access a powerful ERP system that supports digital transformation and fuels corporate growth. Get in touch today for more information and insights.

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