Customers have been accustomed to modes of communication with businesses that often require a lot of manual effort: filling a contact us form, dialing a toll free customer service number and then waiting for a customer service rep, etc. This is where voice-enabled technology can make this process frictionless. Here are three key reasons why a voice-first strategy should be a part of your business initiative: Voice is the future of search: With 25% of consumers agreeing, the future is headed to a voice-enabled world. According to research by CapTech consulting, majority of smart speaker owners are between the ages of 18-36, the second majority being 37-52, followed by 15% above the age of 53. Voice is growing rapidly, and your customers want to find you there.
It is faster and more convenient: Commerce with smart speakers need no login or downloads. All you need to do is talk to them to get things done from the comfort of your couch. Imagine a customer waking up realizing they have run out of milk, all they need to do is, tell Alexa to order milk from your store.
First mover advantage: Like any other market, first mover advantage is equal to more opportunity and sales. Voice is taking off as a way of conducting business. Think about the time when your business did not have a social presence or a mobile app. You noticed other businesses getting sales from these channels and hence went ahead and set up these channels as a source of business. With voice, you need to take the first step to be there before your competition in order to have a first mover advantage. Amazon and Google are launching voice SEO and we all know how important SEO is, to be found.
5 things to do to prep for the expansion of voice commerce:
- Establish a presence on Alexa or Google home. For example, you can use Alexa or Google home to promote content, runs contests with incentives and enable FAQ’s. This will give you a good start and also become a means of acquiring and engaging customers through voice. Voice as a channel is new and hence the step 1 is to get people to start using your voice app through promotions before actually making a purchase.
- Implement Voice SEO to drive discovery in the future. You can do that using the CanFulFill intent of Alexa.
- Keep a close eye on the current Alexa skills in order to see which are the most popular ones under each category. E.g. What type of gaming/engagement skills are doing well and what type of interactions do customers prefer: Shorter more precise ones or longer more descriptive ones.
- Ensure your product can be purchased with a simple flow and is not complicated/has obstacles. After all you adopted voice to ease your customers purchase cycle.
- Announce your skill to the world using social channels, emails, write a blog about it, talk about it on your most visited web page, add a CTA to your checkout page for getting orders via Alexa and try to get covered on the Alexa newsletter.
Setting up voice ordering
Before understanding how to set up your ecommerce business on Alexa or Google Home, let’s take a step back to understand what exactly is Alexa or Google Home and how does it work?
Alexa is Amazon’s cloud-based voice service that is powered by Alexa skills. Alexa skills are voice apps on the Alexa skill store that can be compared to mobile apps on the mobile app store. A user can give Alexa a number of commands like: “Alexa, order milk”, or “Alexa, repeat my last order from store ABC”. The capability of Alexa to process these voice commands is called “Alexa skills”. Hence for you to allow your customers to be able to place an order from your store, you need build an Alexa skill.
How to build an Alexa skill
You can then apply the same process to turn your store into a sales channel on Alexa or Google Home.
Create an Amazon Developer Account: As step 1, you need to create an Amazon developer account. Compare this to your google play or iOS developer account in the mobile apps world. Just the way all your development efforts sit inside the google play account for your android app, similarly all the development for an Alexa skill happens inside Amazon developer account. Just as the name suggests: It is a “developers account”. A developer manages their code, interactions, deployments, testing all within this developer account.
Note: While you can always create a developer account and build your own skill by writing the scripts yourself, the process of building, testing, certification of a basic skill takes up to six to eight months. The other option is to get your store on Alexa by using DIY products available off the shelf. With Saas products that help build and publish advanced skills, the time is cut down to minutes compared to months of efforts. However, you will still need to deploy the skill from your own developer account.
Amazon Pay: An Amazon Pay account is needed, as this is where you will receive your payments for the voice orders. It's a 10-15 minute process if you have the following documents in hand:
- Credit card details
- Bank account information
- Full legal company name
- Business name
- Proof of identity
When signing up, select the Amazon pay account per your region, e.g. pay.amazon.com/uk or pay.amazon.com/us and so on. Please note the following points while creating the Amazon Pay Account:
- Invocation name of your skill should be the same as the business name in your Amazon Pay account.
- Legal name of the business should be added as per legal registration. If you go wrong in entering these names, your Amazon pay account could be blocked fearing fraud.
- Your website should have your legal name added to either the About us or Contact us section.
- Note: Point 1 This is particularly true in case of EU Amazon Pay accounts as EU laws are extremely strict about verifying the Amazon Pay Account.
- You need to enter bank details and credit card information for Amazon to ensure that there is a valid credit card and bank where they can deposit the amount
- Like any other payment wallet, Amazon pay also deducts a percentage of fee for each transaction. But this is very small. Look at the screenshot below for a breakup
You: "set an alarm for 5am"
Alexa: "ok, calling mom"
You: "NO, set an alarm for 5am"
Alexa: "I'm sorry, I don't know what that means"
You: "sigh" set alarm manually
Our voices are diverse, complex and different. Voice UI is the way your voice app interacts with the user similar to how web UI defines the interactions between your user and your app/website. It is essential to follow good UI practices, otherwise voice could cause friction in conversions.
Below are key points to keep in mind while designing a voice UI:
Immediate - after a trigger (the wake word - Alexa), the skill should prompt as quickly as possible.
Brief - the interaction should be instant and brief so that it does not conflict with the users words.
Clear beginning - the user should be able to say exactly what they can do with the skill.
Consistent - the voice and interactions should also be in the same tense. Difference in sound can confuse users.
Distinct - the interactions should be distinct from the device’s normal sounds and visuals.
Prompt - If a user seems stuck or there is no response, re-prompt with suggestions.
Finally, once all of the above are done, you need to submit your Alexa skill or voice app for certification to the Alexa skill store. Amazon can take anywhere between a week or two to get back to you with their initial feedback. You will need to incorporate their feedback and re-submit the skill for certification until the skill is completely perfect and in line with their documentation.
Guest Contributor: Anmol Oberoi is the founder of Emitrr, a voice-first Saas platform.