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Hey Siri! Hey Alexa! How Voice Search Is Changing Retail |  March 22, 2017 (0 comments)


White Plains, NY--Retailers who have been diligent about their digital presence have long known they need to focus on the user experience. Understanding what shoppers expect a retail website to look like, and how it should function, has been the key to success.

This has been a dynamic process. In the earliest days of e-commerce, expectations were relatively low. As consumers became more tech-savvy and mobile usage soared, expectations increased. Web developers learned to make faster websites that worked on every device. Mobile-first sales strategies have been developed; retailers have learned to leverage multiple platforms, including social media, chatbots, and text messaging, to capture customer attention and drive sales.


Now everything you thought you knew about web design is changing. 

Voice search developed in response to the limitations of mobile devices. Have you ever tried typing “Find the closest Italian restaurant” into the search window on your smartphone? It’s absolutely possible, but it’s much, much easier to just ask Siri.

Natural language processing (NLP) is the field of computer science focused on ensuring computers understand what people say when they talk to them. Tremendous progress has been made in NLP, and this has made devices like Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa, and other smart devices, such as voice-enabled TVs, possible.

BCC Research, a leading market analysis company working in the tech space, has forecast double-digit growth of voice driven technologies, with a five-year compound annual growth rate of 12.1%. BCC indicates that as consumers use voice driven technologies in their workplace—particularly in the military, healthcare, and enterprise sectors where speed and accuracy of communicated information are the most important criteria—they will expect to have the same type of technology available to them during leisure hours, when they are engaged in activities like shopping.

Alexa is already leading the way. 

Business owners don’t necessarily know how to optimize their digital presence for voice search. Amazon realizes this, and has recently launched an Alexa hub to teach business owners how to create voice skills. Skills is Amazon’s word for apps that function on the Echo family of devices, including Alexa, below:

When business owners visit the Alexa hub, they have two choices. The first choice is to be connected with a rapidly growing group of marketers who will happily develop the skills that are relevant to your business, for a fee. The second choice is to take advantage of the several tutorials that Amazon has provided: these are simple and straight-forward enough that even non-developers should be able to build skills with relative ease.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound for an agency owner to say this, I’m going to encourage any business owner who has even the slightest amount of interest in optimizing their digital presence for voice search to watch these tutorials. Even if you never build a skill yourself, going through the tutorials will help you understand the underlying logic behind voice searches, and how that impacts your digital presence.

Voice search puts customers in charge of their user experience. 

It’s very important to understand that customers will use voice search, as well as gestures, to customize the information that is displayed to them, as well as the way that information is arranged. Traditional web design norms, such as the navigation bars we’ve all grown up with, will become less and less relevant. Chris Kirby, of, says, “Each person will have a preferred way of looking at and manipulating data, and devices and sites will allow for that level of customization.”

Alexa helps Alec Baldwin out of a variety of mishaps in the company's series of humorous commercials.

This means that in the future, two customers, sitting side by side, both shopping your website, will likely have two wholly different experiences. Making sure both of those experiences are profoundly satisfying is retail’s next biggest challenge. The time to get ready to meet that challenge is now.

Jennifer Shaheen is the Technology Therapist. For nearly 20 years, she’s been putting her digital marketing expertise and entrepreneurial acumen to work, helping retailers and brands of every size take their businesses to the next level. Jennifer is a national presenter and moderator for Entrepreneur and SCORE, the nation’s most valuable resource for small business, as well as a recurring guest on MSNBC’s Your Business and contributing author to Bank of America’s Small Business Market Place. A dynamic speaker and educator, working with the gift and jewelry industry, including appearances at Leading Jeweler’s Guild, Polygon, American Gem Society Conclave, and JCK Las Vegas. Find out more by visiting

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