Why All Marketplace & eCommerce Companies Need To Talk About Voice

Slides from Michael Wolf, Activate at WSJ’s D.LIV

20% of mobile queries were made via voice in 2016. Accuracy is now ~95%. Voice is clearly on the rise and the question remains if it will be the next platform. I am in the bull camp here and new data from WSJ’s D.LIVE today helped support that view.

Why Voice Will Be An Important Platform

Accuracy used to be an issue. However, gone are the days when Siri made accidental phone calls and only captured a fraction of what you said. As a Brit in America, I personally battled with that! We have seen accuracy improve >20% in the past 4 years, to ~95% overall this year.

Source: Mary Meeker’s 2017 Annual Internet Trends Report

Selection used to be an issue. However, Siri is now a real option for mobile users, post accuracy dramatically improving. Amazon started physical voice devices in 2014 with Alexa and then everyone else followed with Google Home, Home Pod, etc. The big question is now what will FB do in this space? Either way, the big tech companies are making their bets that this is a platform worth their time and it now presents an opportunity for brands.

Slides from Michael Wolf, Activate at WSJ’s D.LIVE

Price used to be an issue. However, the price point for digital assistants have declined from a $200 Alexa to a $50 Dot and often discounted considerably from there. The price of other devices is also coming down and as we move towards voice being a part of existing devices then the cost of accessing a device will go to $0.

Slides from Michael Wolf, Activate at WSJ’s D.LIVE

Discovery remains an issue. We are already using digital assistants for messaging, searching and weather apps and further examples in the image below. The use cases are currently limited due to discovery issues on the current platforms. However, in the same way we had the App Store for iPhones, I believe it is only time until we have a similar discovery tool for voice. In the mean time, it is through messaging by the company themselves to let their customers know this is available and how it can be used.

Slides from Michael Wolf, Activate at WSJ’s D.LIVE

What will this mean for eCommerce and marketplace brands?

Retail has moved from physical to web to mobile and now the question is where do we move next. My belief is that voice will be a part of the next stage. It is not here to compete with graphical interfaces. Instead, it is here to complement it.

I believe that voice commerce will be different to other forms of commerce and here lies the opportunity.
- Perhaps it is for a different type of customer, an example being a more transactional customer who is a young professional, living in an urban area and time strapped so has just enough time to ask their voice assistant to reorder:

“Siri, reorder my last moisturizer from Glossier”.

- Perhaps it is for the same customer but they are using voice commerce for a different purpose, so once an order is set up voice can then be used to make changes, such as:

“Echo, I’m away next week so skip my next order of Hungry Root”.

- Perhaps it is the same customer but they are using voice as their location has changed so they say:

“Alexa, order my last Seamless order from Osho Sushi to work instead of home”.

- Perhaps it is also the shopping addict who know what they want and voice commerce may drive their conversion to be much higher when they ask:

“Ok Google, order me a pair of size 8 black point Rothy’s…. and the red camo”.

There is a great opportunity for brands to be able to start thinking about voice now and be ahead of the pack. I had an interesting lunch today at WSJ with Voysis and would recommend them for companies thinking about building their voice AI platform. They ensure that the natural language processing and speech recognition works for your specific brand and has a consistent consumer experience with your online experience.

Voice can be an extra channel to capture your customers’ attention and despite it’s challenges on discovery and engagement, could one day be a core platform for Retail, and potentially one with a much higher conversion rate. Let’s start the conversation now.

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Nicole Quinn

Nicole Quinn


Investor at Lightspeed, Stanford alum, Former Consumer Analyst at Morgan Stanley and British 100m sprinter